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    Posted July 7, 2014 by
    San Jose, California
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Your 'Aha' weight-loss moments

    Man finds happiness in losing weight and keeping it off

    I've lost a significant amount of weight before - about five years ago, I was in terrible shape and I lost a lot of weight, ran a 26.2 mile marathon and swore to myself that I would never let my nutrition and health go. A day after completing that marathon, I went to hit some tennis balls around with a friend, got baited into a competitive match, and by the time it was over, I could barely walk. I messed up my knees because I didn't let my body properly recover. It would take almost six months to get my body right after that. In the meantime, I realized that I had put most of the emphasis on the physical training and exercise. That is, I still hate foods that were not good for me and I lost weight because I ran and worked out a lot. Once I couldn't work out regularly, the weight came back fast and I gave in too quickly.

    In March of 2013, my oldest sister was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and she died on Halloween the same year at the age of sixty. It's hard to explain the impact of losing a close sibling. I was always the one pushing boundaries with my parents. Linda was sometimes like a second mother and she was never shy about championing me or calling me out to get my stuff together and be a better person. She was an exceptional person and her life was selflessly devoted to the people around her. As I thought about my own mortality, my own family, I decided that I needed to make some dramatic changes in my life. I wanted to find a way to let some people in my life know how much they meant to me. I wanted to look people in the eye without shame or feeling judged, and I wanted my two girls to be proud of how I looked too.

    To be honest, my number one priority was not weight loss. It was about trying to find happiness, asking myself how I felt often, and participating instead of feeling like a spectator helplessly watching my life from the sidelines. Every morning, I felt like I was recovering from the eating choices that I had made the night before. Climbing the steps at work, I was wheezing and feeling weak. My wardrobe became more about hiding what I let happen to myself. Mostly, I was unhappy about where I was, how I felt most days, and where I thought I was heading if I didn't get a grip.

    When I finally made a decision and set some personal goals, I committed to myself that this wouldn't be a diet as much as a life change. I had high cholesterol levels, was close to being diabetic. I also decided to link a few goals together - to lose the weight in a year and then to keep it off for another year. I really bought into the idea of thinking a lot about what I put into my body and how it made me feel. The comedian, Jim Gaffigan has a joke that nobody ever says, "I'm really glad I ate the super sized Big Mac meal" fifteen minutes after eating it. I incorporated this thought into my plan and while it seems simple, actually thinking about how you feel, or will feel, has helped me make better decisions.

    I started running on the elliptical machine, playing basketball, jogging, and working out at the gym near my work instead of eating lunch every day. I completely stopped eating fast food, deep fried food, soda, candy... I also retrained my brain by eating healthy food that I had never tried or thought that I didn't like... I went with a 1800 calorie a day diet that allowed you all the extra green vegetables you want. I substituted unhealthy snacks with fresh fruit and vegetables. I curbed eating complex carbs after 1 PM and stopped late night snacks.

    While the weight didn't come off as fast as I wanted to and my body was not recovering as quickly as it used to when I was young, I noticed improvements in how I felt in the morning. My energy level improved by leaps and bounds, and I started waking earlier and feeling a little bounce in my step. Compared to the last time that I lost weight, this time seemed to be more of a struggle, but while I was enjoying the workouts and sometimes pushing too hard, I would get frustrated sometimes at how little return I was getting for the effort. The last twenty pounds seemed the hardest. And sometimes it seemed like noone noticed that anything had changed.

    I'm not sure what the tipping point was, but at one point, everyone started to stop me to tell me I looked great and ask what I had done - strangers at the gym, friends, coworkers... Others told me that I inspired them. Because I had gained the weight back before, I was hesitant to make any announcements, but I created the attached picture and posted it on Facebook to say if me a year ago met me a year later, this is what it would look like. The response was extremely rewarding and the best part was when my wife or kids would hug me and tell me how great I looked or how proud they were of me. All along the way, thinking of my sister, her battle and her resolve, inspired me.

    The same friend who got me to run a marathon years before contacted me and said one of their runners competing in the Golden Gate Relay was injured and would I want to participate in a 191 mile relay race from Napa to Santa Cruz. I joined a team of San Mateo police officers, trained hard for three weeks, took the hardest rated legs of the course (18.1 miles), did great, and had lots of fun.

    The day after the relay, despite telling myself not to do anything physical for a few days, I found myself on the basketball court and I injured a sciatic nerve. I was mad at myself for not learning that lesson. I've recently recovered, but I had to cut back on exercise and training. My worst fear was that I would gain the weight back, but I actually lost a few pounds.

    Next April, I will celebrate a year of staying at or below my original weight loss goal. All my physicals and blood tests have confirmed that I'm doing the right things, my doctor and wife are extremely happy. I've also found happiness in how I treat my body.
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