In this past year, I have lost over 100 lbs. I didn’t have my stomach stapled or get a gastric band or anything like that. I dropped the weight the good (hard) old-fashioned way — diet and exercise. I’m still a bit away from being considered “normal” according to my BMI, but I still find it kind of unbelievable that I’ve lost that much. It’s like having an entire person just fall off of me.
Many people I know are trying to shed the pounds right now, and so I write this to inform those who are in this same boat with me (the S.S. Less Fat). When you are medically obese, losing weight is good for you on almost all accounts, but there are some things you should be prepared for. Things that no one will tell you about, save for me right now. For example,…
6. Lose inches off your waistline… and wallet.
Before I took the plunge into a healthier lifestyle, I had to attend a funeral. I didn’t have a proper formal suit, so I got myself fitted for one. A month or two after the funeral I started this weight-loss regimen and a few months after that, I had a business meeting to attend. I tried on the suit knowing I’d need it for the meeting and wouldn’t you know, it didn’t fit anymore. I went in to get it altered to bring it down to my size only for the clerk to laugh and say, “It’d be easier and cheaper if you just bought another suit.”
I had dropped six sizes. Six entire suit sizes in a matter of months, and this isn’t an isolated instance. My pants have accidentally fallen down just walking around the apartment. I’ve notched several holes in belts simply to hold those (now clown-like) pants up. My T-shirts look like I’m wearing tarps and are completely unfit to wear anywhere outside of a tire fire or dog fight.
It’s sometimes embarrassing, but I put off the inevitable — buying an entirely new wardrobe — because it’s so expensive. I also don’t want to buy new clothes because I know I’m only going to get smaller, meaning even those replacement clothes won’t fit in a few months. It adds up to a lot of money spent in a relatively short amount of time.
Not only that, but since I have a new diet, my girlfriend and I don’t share as much food. Most of what she eats and drinks, I can’t partake in, and she doesn’t want any of my food. Sure, we don’t eat out as much (few restaurants even serve food I can eat), but our grocery bill now more than makes up the difference. Protein shakes, fistfuls of vitamins, and meal replacement bars aren’t cheap.
I also find myself buying things I never thought I’d buy just to support this new lifestyle. Gym memberships, cross trainers, workout gloves. I even bought spandex compression clothes, for crying out loud.
Why would someone as big as me buy compression clothes, you ask? Because…
5. Your body is now a carnival of horrors.
Let’s do a little experiment. Take two brand new, fresh-out-of-the-pack balloons. Fill one entirely with water, seal it off and then leave it for several days. Now drain all the water out, let it dry and then compare it to the other, untouched balloon. Notice a difference? The one that was untouched still looks like a cute little mouse ear while the former-water balloon looks like Fat Bastard at the end of Austin Powers 3.
Doctor’s call the floppy, stretched-out result of severe weight loss redundant skin, and I would NOT click on that link if you’ve been eating. That person had lost over 400 lbs. before going in for surgery to have his excess skin removed, and it ain’t pretty.
Now remember the first sentence in this article: “In the last year, I have lost over 100 lbs.” I’m nowhere near as severe as that example patient was, but the same thing that he experienced is happening to me, as it will happen to every other obese person who loses weight. Right now I probably have about 20 to 30 lbs. of loose skin just hanging on me like a sweater made of flesh.
I’ve been doing strength training for my exercise, so the added muscle helps tighten the skin, but I still experience problems. Gross, personal problems. I probably shouldn’t get into this for fear of losing what few readers I have, but let’s just say the compression clothes help alleviate some of my troubles.
The point is, I, and every other person who loses hundreds of pounds of weight, will eventually have to get the skin surgically removed. And again, it’s another expense I wouldn’t have thought about prior to this endeavor.
Strength training combined with the redundant skin creates an odd disconnect between my body and my perceived body image. I work all of these muscles everyday and I feel like that’s the real me and that I’m literally wearing an ill-fitting fat suit that just gets in the way. Which reminds me…
4. You will feel like you are becoming the Hulk.
FUN FACT: The most effective way to lose weight and to keep it off is to build muscle. Your basal metabolic rate (BMR) is your metabolism when you are completely at rest. A beating heart, breathing lungs, and all other vital organ functions burn calories even when you’re asleep, and it’s the largest part of your daily calorie expenditure. Your BMR increases with more muscle mass — the more muscle you have, the more calories you burn.
I mentioned that I’ve been strength training, and I can’t speak on behalf of those people who simply have surgery for their weight loss, but for those who work out to lose weight, you’re going to see some radical changes. First of all, you’ll notice getting muscles you never knew you had. I didn’t even know what the latissimus dorsi were, but now I can flex them as easily as a bicep. It all started small, but as I worked out more, I noticed something else about myself as I came to realize the “new me.”
A side effect of all that new muscle mass is my body is now pumping way more testosterone than it did before. As such, I found myself flexing my muscles as I drove into work in the morning and feeling a little invincible. I would size guys up, thinking about if I could kick their ass or not. The “old me” never thought that,… but then again, he was a soft, fat, wimpy marshmallow man.
As a result from all of this added testosterone, I became more aggressive and “alpha male,” so to speak. The good thing is that once I realized what was going on, I was able to control it. The same can’t be said of the next point…
3. You will feel like you are in The Twilight Zone.
A sad fact is that we unconsciously treat attractive people better than everyone else. Many studies have proved this time and time again. What is unusual is to experience and recognize this difference in preferential treatment first hand.
My favorite part of the film Shallow Hal isn’t even in the actual movie. One of the special features on the DVD is a behind-the-scenes look at the suit and makeup Gwyneth Paltrow wore to give herself the appearance of being over 300 lbs. They tested out the prosthetics by having the crew follow her with hidden cameras while she walked around in public in full costume. What happened was amazing.
This extremely recognizable Hollywood actress was rendered virtually invisible with only a foam fat suit and some makeup. After her short trip, she came back to her hotel room literally in tears. She said of the experience,…
“I realized immediately that no one was making eye contact with me, or would even look in my direction. No one wanted to connect with me. It was a profound, very sad and startling experience.”
I would still be considered overweight by most people, but since starting this program, I am more V-shaped, my face has thinned out, and my arms and legs have a lot more muscle tone. That said, many things about me are still the same as when I was obese; same-looking clothes, same haircut, same apartment, same demeanor, and the same loving girlfriend. Overall, I still see myself as the same person, but strangers view and treat me differently. Now people are nicer to me, they make eye contact more often, they are more willing to help me when they see I am having trouble, and a couple of times, women have openly flirted with me, which has never happened before.
When all of this attention first starts happening — and it will happen — it’s a shock, and nothing can really prepare you for it. It’s a huge shift from what you’re used to and you’ll notice it. Granted, this isn’t so much a “harsh reality” as it is an odd, semi-positive side effect to weight loss, but the same can’t be said of #2.
2. You WILL fall off the wagon.
Perhaps the hardest aspect to face in trying to lose weight is knowing how close you are to losing it all, which is to say gaining it all back. I’ve done diets in the past and then gained the weight I lost back, however the difference between then and now is my support system. I have more people cheering me on and actively helping me do this. But even with all of this help, I’ve had moments of weakness.
A few months ago, I tore my pectoral muscle while working out. The doctor (more expenses) made me do physical therapy (even more expenses) and told me what I was and wasn’t allowed to do until I was back to normal. For future reference, here’s the list of strength training exercises you can do with a torn pectoral muscle: legs, nothing, and nothing.
Needless to say, not only did I not lose weight, but I actually regressed. I only gained a couple pounds, but it was still devastating to have that happen given all that I worked for.
Right before my injury, I saw a documentary about diets and weight loss where someone said something that stuck with me: “When you fall off the wagon, just realize that the wagon is still there and then get back on it.” That may sound kind of hokey, but when you’re staring into the abyss of a peanut butter cup-induced shame spiral, a trite quote can snap you back to reality.
Weight loss is a multi-year journey, and you can’t plan every detail that far in advance. You will hit snags, you will fall off the wagon and you will have a really bad month or two. Just keep at it and don’t ever quit what’s working, because…
1. This is all worth it.
“You will lose weight like it’s a matter of life and death, because it is. This fat is killing you. Literally.”
That’s one of the first things a friend — who happens to be a certified personal trainer — said to me when I started this journey. My asshole puckered when he said it. It was chilling, scary and worst of all, true. Obesity is the leading cause of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, hypertension — the list of maladies goes on and on. What he said to me was just what I needed to hear to get me motivated.
Since that first day, I have counted my calories, watched what I ate, worked out an hour a day minimum for six days a week with only injury or illness ever keeping me from that routine. I push myself every time I go to the gym and I get stronger with every visit. In the beginning, the strenuousness of my workouts caused me to puke, but I kept going and now my body is used to it… the weightlifting, not the puking.
It’s all scary at first because you are essentially changing every aspect of your life, and your mind and body will work together to fight you. Your body’s become acclimated to whatever routine you’ve had for these past many years that got you to where you are now, and now you are telling it, “No.” It thinks it knows better, but it doesn’t. It thinks you should skip that workout, but you can’t. It thinks you should eat that candy bar, but you won’t.
This isn’t a diet anymore; this is your life, and it’s what’s at stake here. Every day you work out and train is a day spent extending your life. Once you realize that, you’re ahead of the game.
This post wasn’t created to scare you, but to hopefully help and inspire you. If you are obese and actively trying to lose weight, good for you — keep it up. This journey you’re on will be the toughest thing that you ever do, so don’t be afraid to reach out. Know that there are others experiencing — or have already experienced — everything you’re going through right now and they can help. If you are feeling like everything is coming down on you and you can’t do this, visualize whatever it is that gives your life meaning and remember that’s why you’re doing this.
And if you are obese and not trying to lose weight, it’s not too late to start.