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Sunday

About me: A story of weight-loss, dietary changes, and cardio

Not me (yet).
I don't want to make a habit of boring readers with personal stories.  Very seldom is it that readers visit a blog to learn about someone's personal experiences, unless the blog is written by a famous actor or actress, film writer, olympic athlete, etc, etc.  The name Steven Chaffin probably doesn't ring any bells, so it's safe to assume that no one cares about what I've been personally been through.  Therefore, let me give me e-word that very few of my blog posts will be self-centered.

However, because I have no olympic medals, no doctorate in physical fitness or nutrition, I think it is important that before I start quoting professional athletes, syndicated sports columnists, and medical specialists, I should paint at least a brief picture of who I am and why you should consider any of the advice and opinions I intend to share.  Please stick with me as I discuss some of my earlier days.

Growing up, I was always spoiled.  The latest toy, latest video-game, gadget, you name it: if I wanted it and it wasn't completely outrageous (only somewhat outrageous), I could probably make it mine.  Even now, I am typing on a new Macbook Pro with Retina display, $1,300 of which was paid entirely for me.  People have been trying to justify my parents' spoiling of me throughout the years, but I have largely ignored it.  I'm not blind: Most of the things I have, I haven't earned.

While being spoiled applied oftentimes to gadgets and toys, it also translated into another portion of my life and of my household: the kitchen.  My parents didn't often say 'no', in an attempt to be good, kind parents, and therefore I essentially ate whatever, and however much I pleased.  As a child, I had no knowledge of the dangers or addictive natures of high-fructose corn syrup, no understanding that eating a bottomless bucket of KFC would contribute to a larger, more squishy waistline.  I ate what tasted best at a cravings' notice.

Thankfully, nothing truly terrible came of this.  Ever time I gave my doctor a visit, I was told I was as healthy as can be, albeit slightly overweight.  No red flags were raised, only a small suggestion to be careful not to overeat.  And so my diet remained largely unchanged, still brimming with fried foods, fast food, and very little to no fruit or vegetable content.  An all-American diet, no doubt.

None of this concerned me in the slightest until I was fourteen and entering high school.  As usual, the new social environment I was forced to embrace at my new school was considerably more hostile and demanding than what I had ever experienced in the past.  I was never bullied or even picked up, but suddenly appearance became a whole lot more relevant and at the forefront of peoples' attentions.  This line of thought quickly broke through my shield of apathy and have pierced my thoughts ever since.  Suddenly, I could not shift my mind from the growing bulge that was my stomach, from the rolls that would manifest themselves each and every time I decided to sit down.  Truth be told, the realization that I was unattractive and overweight was a terrifying experience for me, because I had absolutely no idea how to address it.  I was dumbfounded, and quite frankly, a little depressed.

At this stage in my life, I slowly started to do research.  I would google "How can I lose weight?" over and over again, searching for some magical solution to help me shed my "baby weight" as my mother called it and get into better shape.  My sedentary habits and unhealthy diet, however, persisted.  Despite my frequent inspiration (thanks to the web) to make changes to these ways of life, I found myself unable to resist cravings and too lazy and timid to embrace the wonders of exercise.  Nevertheless, I kept trying, for two years, to change long-embedded habits that kept my belly extending further, and my weight rising higher.  In May 2011 my BMI was a healthy (but borderline overweight) 24.7.

By the time the summer of 2011 had rolled around, I had tried losing weight a number of times.  I even had a membership to a gym, where I had went occasionally with my dad.  Due to a lack of focus and knowledge, however, I rarely went and began increasingly shifting my focus towards dietary changes.  That summer I decided that, rather than completely throwing out junk food and adopting an entirely new diet I couldn't commit to, I would simply reduce portions.  I did, and my weight rapidly began to decline.  A few months later, I had gone from 160 pounds to 123 pounds, and my BMI had dropped to a borderline underweight of 18.2.  Note that I did not use any special substances of weight-loss supplements.  Nor did I implement any substantial exercise regime.  To repeat a commonly coined phrase: Losing weight is a simple matter of calories-in vs. calories-out.  I didn't have to give up junk food to lose weight, I simply had to eat less of it, and presto, the weight came, and mostly stayed, off.

But the dietary changes weren't the end of it.  Once I had lost a considerable amount of weight and had struck newfound confidence, I decided it was time to take things a step further and begin exercising.  My first attempt was through using the elliptical machine at my gym, where I would go for a mile to three miles and burn a fair amount of calories.  I timidly experimented with weight-lifting, but focused primarily on cardio, a decision I now regret (a story for later).

When I realized that the elliptical machine was both boring and somewhat unnatural, I took up walking and running.  Running was just as painful as I had remembered it from elementary school.  Even only running a mile got me out of breathe, and running two-to-three miles meant a considerable amount of walking or stopping along the way.  It was grueling; one of the primary reasons I decided to stick with it.  The harder it is, the more likely it is you need to do more of it.  I kept at it, and this week (Mon-Sun) I have run a total of 29 miles with two days off.  Six Monday and Tuesday, eight Thursday, four Friday, five Saturday.  All of those miles were run consecutively, without any walking or stopping (aside from checking to ensure I'm not about to get run over by a passing car) along the way.  That's something I could never possibly have done when I started out, a testament both to my dedication and improved physical fitness over the years.

That's the quick version.

So no, I am not a fitness or dietary expert by career or title.  I am someone who, using the web as a tool for knowledge and inspiration, went out and lost the weight he never thought he could and has been upping his physical fitness ever since.  I don't have six-pack abs to sport, and frankly I haven't visited the gym in over a week.  I've spent the last week completely focused on cardio and improving my diet, paying no attention to the obvious need to add in some resistance training if I'm going to build the physique I desire.  I am someone who had tried a number of different methods designed to help people get fit, some of which have worked well and others that have failed.  I've struggled and am still struggling to get the ideal diet.  And therefore, I can relate with the average guy or gal much more than any 200 pound bodybuilder can.

I'll try to leave out the personal mumbo-jumbo as often as possible, sticking to the experts and the facts. I look forward to continuing this long journey, and hope to be able to offer some useful, inspiring advice to my readers from time to time.

If you'd like to know more about my personal endeavors, past, workout schedule, etc., stay tuned here at The Editor's Desk or get in touch with me @steven_chaffin on Twitter.

That's me.

Steven