Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A Farewell: What I've Learned

It is a sad truth that all good things must come to an end (see: The last episode of Lost in a few weeks.) And so I would like to announce, with a pain in my gut as I type this, that this is going to be my last post with The Former Fatties.

This is a really exciting period in my life and it has been difficult enough to find the time and headspace for fitness. Finding the time to blog about it has been even more impossible. Somehow, it has seemed that when I was eating right and working out, I felt fantastic and dove into my many other endeavors. That really has been the entire purpose of the Former Fatties - to live a full and happy life, not holding one's self back out of fear or shame or whatever it is called when we just think we're too fat to enjoy ourselves. But I got so wrapped up in enjoying myself that I didn't blog. When I was struggling, I just posted mopey entries that just rambled around in circles. It was almost time for me to write my 10,000th "I-completely-screwed-up-but-I-swear-I'm-about-to-do-so-well-that-Men's-Health-and-Men's-Fitness-are-going-to-get-involved-in-a-bidding-war-to-get-me-on-their-cover" post when I realized that I've run my course with this. My decision was sealed when I realized that I didn't want some people to see this blog because I wasn't proud of my work on it. I never, ever want to be ashamed of what we've done here, so I decided to leave while I can still be proud of it.

So, I don't want this post to focus on why I'm leaving. I want to take it as an opportunity to step back and look at the big picture. That means it is going to be a long one, folks, but I'll try to break it down into easily digestible sections and then you can all be done with me.

What I've Learned
Losing weight is easy.
I have been asked so many times how I lost the weight. I always give the same answer: I stopped eating so much and I started exercising. There really is a simple truth to that. After years and years of feeling trapped or stuck in a fat person's body, once I actually stopped eating so much and started exercising I lost close to 50 pounds. Why didn't I do that years ago?

Losing weight is hard.
I really lost the weight in about 5 months. I just stretched those five months over two years. In between I mostly avoided gaining back the weight I'd lost, or at least pulled myself back on track when I started to gain a few pounds back. So that isn't really anything to be ashamed of, but its a more honest picture than the one painted by the last entry. I guess it can be summed up like this: It really is as easy as eating right and exercising, but eating right and exercising is hard.

I lose weight from eating well, not exercising.
Some of my biggest weight losses were in weeks where I was totally committed to Weight Watchers but did not exercise at all.

I feel fit from exercising, not from eating well.
During those weeks, I still felt flabby and gross. If I work out for even a day though, I feel incredible. If I work out for a week, I feel transformed.

I don't have to choose, because I'm much more likely to eat well when I exercise.
I just don't want to waste all the hard work I put in by drinking a soda or going to a fast food joint.

It seems I'm a bit of an extremist, huh?
There have been times when I terrified Katy with my unrelenting dedication. I would basically use egg whites for sustenance and drink my own sweat for hydration. There has also times when I terrified myself with my complete lack of control. I've literally had days where I woke up feeling ready to take on the world, with all of my healthy eating for the day mapped out, and somehow found myself at both Burger King and Chipotle. There is some part of me that decides that I haven't been perfect that day, so I might as well just be disgusting. As I wrap up my time with the Former Fatties, I realize one of the marks of a truly former fattie is moderation. This is not yet something I've learned. Maybe that just isn't me.

Breakfast is so important. Seriously.
It sets up my entire day. If I don't have a great breakfast, I don't have a great eating day. There are no exceptions.

Nothing is as important to success as support.
Every single time that I legitimately started making progress, I did it with someone else. This became clearer than ever this February when I snapped out of a months-long rut when Katy and Liz also became totally committed. This is one of the biggest reasons I'm apprehensive about stepping away, but I know that even if the blogging ends, the support is forever.

Nothing is as motivating to me as success.
When I start to feel like what I'm doing is working, it pushes me to make even more progress. The opposite is also true. When I'm feeling like what I'm doing isn't working, I feel like I will never have the body I want and I stop trying.

The way around this is the pre-emptive strike.
This is probably my most recently learned lesson. In February, I decided that if for some reason I was not feeling fit, I would try harder. That really was a big change for me. And it worked.

Eventually, it is easy to let success go to your head.
It happens slowly at first. You write off a sugary snack as acceptable here. You justify a missed workout there. And then its a month later and you feel fatter than you've ever been. You aren't, but that is certainly how you feel.

I really take my body as a reflection on myself.
As I've learned that my struggles with weight have less to do with anything wrong with my body and everything to do with the choices I've made, I've become a lot less forgiving of myself when it comes to fitness. As I said in the last paragraph, when I drift from fitness, even if I don't put on any significant weight, I feel just as gross and ashamed as I ever did. That is because I know that I may be thin as a result of years of work, but in that moment, I'm a fattie. I'm making just as bad choices as I ever did and it is starting to show. The good thing is that it works both ways. When I'm doing well, I feel great, and I feel like I've earned feeling great.

It is possible to get closer with even the closest of friends.
Liz and I have been friends for years. There are very few people in this world who I have had as much fun with. She is a hilarious free spirit getting an Ivy League education. And she is just freaking beautiful. I didn't know that I could love a friend more than I loved Liz, but since she joined the Former Fatties she has become even more important to me. I am so proud of her bravery. She decided to try new things and developed an addiction to competitive racing, for crying out loud. I feel bad for bringing Liz into this and then so soon after pulling out of it, but I am so glad for the time we had here together. This chapter of our friendship will leave it forever stronger.

There is someone out there who is just like me, but better.
My life was changed because Katy and I were both positive that if we were to enter into a contest of sheer determination, we would win. Positive. I literally never seriously considered losing. But you know what? I lost. Katy's will was stronger. Her blogs were funnier. Her new self is hotter. At this point, she has everything going for her. I am proud to have been a strong enough contender to have pushed her to achieve so much. I look forward to the time we get to spend now that will be less focused on what we ate that day. I also look forward to telling her everything I eat every day from now until the day when food is replaced with magic space pills.

I love celery and really intense workouts.
Who the hell knew?

That of course is not it, but I can't just keep writing in an effort to prolong my time here. Thank you so much, readers. What you lacked in quantity you made up for in quality. I wish you the best in your own fitness journeys. I get unreasonably irritated when people end blog posts by saying to follow them on Twitter, but I'm just saying no one's every gone wrong by following @bobbyrowe before.

Ok, I guess that's all. If we don't cross paths again, I'll see you on line for the buffet in heaven. I'll be the one with the abs standing between Zac Efron and Beyonce.

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