In June 2014 I started a journey that would change my life in more ways than I ever expected. At the time I weighed over 400 pounds. My health was in jeopardy and, to make matters worse, I hated my life and myself. I was ashamed of the way I looked and I was tired of being fat. There were many factors which led up to me finally making the commitment to lose weight for good. By far the biggest factor was losing my dad due to his poor health habits resulting in him dying from cancer. I too was suffering from a number of obesity-related illnesses such as high blood pressure, sleep apnea, pre-diabetes, fungal infections, and gastric reflux to name a few.
I lived in a different world than most people when I was over 400 pounds. It was a world in which I had to always ask for a table at most restaurants because I did not fit in a booth. A world where car seat belts did not fit around my stomach and I had to use a seat belt extender. To make matters worse, I lived in a world where I knew that people misjudged me and made comments about my weight which I let affect my self-esteem. I let it affect me to the point of wanting to end my own life. On many nights I went to bed wishing I would have a heart attack in my sleep. So I decided to change all of that.
I never expected to lose the weight so quickly. In 11 months I lost over 200 pounds. I did it by logging all of the food I ate in a tracking app and gradually increasing my activity. When I first started I did not see any visible results right away. However, the more I pushed myself to keep active, the more I started to feel better mentally. Keeping my end goal in mind, I kept forging forward. Each day I got up and did my 25 minute aerobic videos by Bodies in Motion with Gilad. As I lost weight, the tracking app adjusted my caloric needs. This was key as I had no idea how much I should be eating and how to gradually decrease that as I lost weight. Over time I began to incorporate other exercises like walking and hiking.
I think the biggest factor in my success was my motivation and drive. I had associated my goal of losing all of the weight with winning the lottery. The idea behind this mental association was to drive me towards the goal. In other words, if you knew that you would win millions of dollars for losing weight, what would you be willing to do? Well for me I was willing to do anything in order to not be fat anymore. I was so driven that I pushed towards my goal relentlessly. I walked daily, sometimes for hours out in the streets or the woods, even when there was deep snow and ice. And as I began to lose weight, I was driven even more.
Mike Health Conditions
Another factor that began to drive me was the attention I was starting to get as my weight loss results became more apparent. After I had lost the first 100 pounds, people were in awe of me. Comments and attention began to come daily at work and in my personal life. People began telling me that they were being inspired by me and because of me were beginning to exercise and take charge of their own health. Hearing this inspired me even more to lose weight. I was even asked to do a talk at work on my weight loss success. I put together a motivational presentation around “Small Changes Lead to Big Results”. This phrase has also become my motto.
People I did not even know began to reach out to me as they heard from others about me. Most wanted to know “how” I was doing it, but more so to tell me how much my story was helping to motivate them. So I began to write more and started a web site, www.mikeinspiresme.com, to share my insights and for people to contact me.
After about a year and a half of continuously pushing myself I started to wear down as I hadn’t taken a break. So I decided to take a few weeks off to rest and reassess my routine. I was in a good place health-wise. And, although most of my health conditions had been reversed, I still felt dissatisfied with where I was weight-wise. I always refer to this time as my “coming in for a landing and not knowing where I should land”. You see I had never been a “normal-sized” adult, so I didn’t know where I should be. The medical “charts” said I should be a certain weight that I was still well above. However, I had gone from a 4XL shirt to a Medium and having a 60 inch waist to around a 32 inch. After doing a lot of research on others who had lost a lot of weight, I realized that I needed to slow down and incorporate balance in my life so that I could sustain a healthy lifestyle.
When I started my journey I knew that after I had lost weight I was going to need to start toning my body. I noticed that I was a bit weaker in my upper body, so I decided it was time for me to start bodybuilding. With the help of a friend of mine and a lot of research, I began to lift weights. One of the things that was hard for me was that I had to start eating more and putting on some weight in order to gain muscle. I was terrified of gaining weight. I still remember the day I was riding back home from work with my wife telling her that I was going to have to gain some weight to put on muscle mass. In my mind putting on weight was a path back to the nightmare I lived before. Over time I became comfortable with my weight gain and began to enjoy the new muscle tone I was gaining.
At one time I believed that I had “beaten” obesity. One of the things I have learned over time is that you don’t really beat it; you have to learn techniques to manage it. This is a continuous journey, not a destination. I think that this is where most people fail in losing weight – not seeing it for the long-term. We live in a world that is very focused on quick-fixes and immediate gratification. And, although my results came very quickly, I don’t think they are realistic for the majority of people. I believe that our bodies and our minds need time to adjust to change. When I first lost all of the weight I still felt like I was 400 pounds in my mind despite knowing that I was not. I have learned from others that this is common. Over time I have begun to adjust to my new self-image, learning to be satisfied and not push myself too hard.
I want to tell the world my story, not just about how I lost weight, but what led me to becoming super obese. We need to teach about prevention, so we do not create more obese children and adults. As you know, we have an obesity epidemic. Our lifestyles, the media, mental health, advertising all contribute to creating this disease. It is one that can be managed and prevented through awareness. The other part of my journey that is important for me to share is about the point at which I realized I needed to stop losing weight and maintain. I have learned so much about myself, my body, and balance in my life. It is easy to become too focused on something that is good for you and neglect other areas of your life, like connecting with others and just relaxation.
We are capable of far greater things than we think we are. If back when I was over 400 pounds I told you I was going to lose over 200 pounds in 11 months without surgery, you would have thought I was crazy. Well, perhaps I am, but I did do it. Sometimes it takes a person doing something crazy in order to change the world. Let’s get people excited about living a healthy lifestyle as it leads to greater things, not only with our physical health, but our mental health as well.
When I first started on this journey, I never knew it would lead to all of this attention and inspiring others. At the time my focus was just to be “normal” sized. Now I have seen that I can help others, which in turn helps me stay on track. I have been blessed with a new life and I love sharing with people who want to know more about my story. I receive emails from people looking for advice, especially from people who are severely obese as they feel comfortable talking with me. I can relate to their struggle as I once lived it. This is my passion now and I believe it is my destiny to help others. I have a vision of sharing my story, and the stories of others, to inspire the world to put health first in their lives. Like I have heard many people say, “If Mike can do it, so can I!”
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