Thursday, May 5, 2011

Slimming Down And Getting Healthy
"HEY HEY HEY!" Those words, made famous by Bill Cosby's Fat Albert character, seemed to ring in my head constantly throughout the past year. I routinely joked about my weight, but in reality I knew I was fat. No, not just slightly overweight, I was extremely overweight (according to my doctor - borderline obese) and I needed to make some serious lifestyle changes. Sure, like others, I had lost weight before, but this time I HAD to change how I was living my life.

I love to eat. Just look at this photo (left) from last year during the start of bear season in August. It showed! I was pushing 250 lbs. and not showing any sign of slowing down. You can see my baby bump starting to push through my backpack strap. Ugh. Even last year when I saw this photo, I knew I was fat, but I didn't seem to care. What was I thinking? Then I went out deer hunting a few times with my buddy, Eric. He was scaling the mountains far better than I. I was sucking wind, feeling fatigued and just wasn't enjoying myself. I wasn't enjoying being fat.

A few months went by and I gained a few more pounds and hit a staggering 251.6 lbs. I couldn't tie my shoes without huffing and puffing. Playing with my daughter felt like a chore and not fun like it should have been. I wasn't being fair to her as a father. I was snoring like a lumberjack tearing through a forest using a Harley-Davidson chainsaw. My poor wife couldn't find ear plugs thick enough to stop the roar. It was time to stop talking about losing weight and to start doing something about it.

Being fans of country music, my wife and I were planning on going to the Stagecoach Country Music Festival. For those not out here in SoCal, Stagecoach is the country music equivalent of Coachella. Same venue, but with country music. It is an incredibly fun event with over 50,000 people each attending each day. My wife mentioned that we should both try to lose some weight before Stagecoach for a few reasons. One is the blazing temperatures. The venue is in the desert and it gets hot. Our first year there it was 110 degrees. Second, to fit into some comfortable jeans and to not look like a stuffed sausage. Our third reason was simple, we needed to be healthier and be better examples for our daughter. I also had another agenda. I wanted to be slimmer, healthier and be able to breathe well for my Colorado elk hunt in September. I knew that I could not and would not go on this trip if I was that fat because I would not be able to keep up with my friends. Plus, if I was lucky enough to arrow an elk I would have to pack it out of the backcountry.

I also had some other motivation. My wife's Mom's Club wanted to hold a "Biggest Loser" style contest to go for 8 weeks. Simple rules where the husbands could get involved, too. Lose the highest percentage of body weight and win some cash. We each had to toss in $20 and it was guys vs guys and the girls vs. girls. That way it was fair for everyone.

Setting some goals to make this worth while held me accountable. I set goals of losing 60 lbs. before my elk hunt, to get my lungs in better shape and to be able to run a 5k by November. Sure, they were lofty goals, but they were achievable and I was focused on making it happen. Instead of buying new running shoes I stuck with a newer pair of cross-trainers I owned. They were heavier, bulkier and were going to make running feel tougher, but that's what I wanted. I needed to feel the struggle of losing the weight I had so nonchalantly put on. I also hate crowds, so instead of going to the gym at a reasonable hour I went later in the day. Much later. Ok, I just went late. Most nights I would hit the gym around 11:30pm because there were no crowds and I didn't have to deal with the 20-minute time limit on the machines. This was all part of my master plan.

My focus for the first three months was strictly cardio and reducing my caloric intake. I became one with the gym because I needed to get my body in harmony with those torturous machines. My lungs needed to burn and function well at a decent pace. Counting calories was a huge help, too. I was eating anywhere from 3,000-3,500 calories per day (give or take 500 calories). That's not a great number to see when you sit at a desk all day, then come home and sit on the couch and eat right before going to bed. I reduced my intake to 2,000 calories per day. Some days I was even able to reduce that number more by working out and burning 400-500 calories at the gym. I took Sundays off and ate whatever I wanted to and in whatever quantity I wanted to shock my system. It was a good thing in that I got to eat exactly what I was craving at any given time, but if I overate something I usually felt sick and didn't want to touch the stuff for a week. Double bonus!

One added side note - I hated treadmills. I didn't like the feel of walking on them, let along running, but I knew that I needed to overcome that hate and put it to work for me. That's where I started. My first workout was a moderate 1-minute run, 2-minute walk, repeatedly for 30 minutes each day for the first week at a 2% incline. It wasn't easy, but I loved getting back into the swing of things. The first week I lost around 9 lbs. and while most of it was water weight it still felt great.

By the second and third week I was running 1-minute, resting 1-minute at a 3% incline. My legs burned, my lungs were on fire and I wanted to quit so many times. Over and over I kept thinking about how hard my wife was working at her goals and how I wanted to look good for her. After 20 minutes I started feeling great and the final 10 minutes was a breeze. Down another 5 lbs.

The fourth and fifth weeks were relatively the same, but I was having some issues with my back. I have a bulging disk in my back that has been there for years. All of the running was aggravating it, but I pushed on and ran my first 5K on the treadmill. It was a slow pace, but it felt good. Again, I posted a weight loss and this time it was around 6 lbs. for those two weeks.

Weeks six and seven were very similar. I decided to switch to the StairClimber for a few reasons. I needed to relieve the strain on my spine and I needed to train my body to climb uphill at a harder, faster pace. So, I hit the StairClimber hard and sweat buckets in the process. Down another 6 lbs.

Week number eight was a week where I went all out at the gym. I was there every day. I worked hard and stayed focused. I dropped another 5 lbs and was able to win the contest. Still, I wasn't satisfied. Sure, I won a little money, but I hadn't reached my goal of 60 lbs. and I was determined to hit that mark.

I persevered and for the next few weeks I continued to hit the gym, eat right and and focus on what I needed to do. I was feeling better each day.

Four months later, I tip the scale at 205 lbs. I have lost 46 lbs. so far. Yes, you read that right - forty-six fat-laden chubby bunny pounds. I lowered my pants size from a 42" waist to under a 36" waist. (I even bought a pair of 34" waist pants that fit comfortably. I figure they must have their measurement wrong.) I can now see my feet, 'Hello toes!' I noticed that I now have a neck and jawline, too. I am 14 lbs. from reaching my goal and I feel fan-friggin-tastic. I started hitting the weights at the gym a bit more now that the contest is over. I need to build some muscle back on to burn the calories more efficiently and to also regain some of the strength I once had in my twenties. I want to be able to pack out my elk without being exhausted the entire time! Oh yeah, I don't snore anymore either. Major bonus points with the wife for this guy!

Want to see the difference? Well, here you go. Below you will see a photo of me from October and on the right one from last week. Pretty shocking, right? It's actually very scary when I look at it as diabetes and heart disease run in my family. I vow to never go back to that guy on the left no matter what.

It's scary to think how heavy I truly was.

Remember the photo of my bear hunt up above? Below is a shot of me this past weekend at Stagecoach all geared up for some fun. We had a blast and I fit into some of the slimmest clothing I have worn in quite some time.

Stagecoach 2011
A big thank you goes out to my wife for her support. I can honestly say that I would not have made it this far without it. Watching her focus and push as hard as she does makes me want to work even harder. (By the way, she's dropped 23 lbs. so far and looks incredible!) My faith has also kept me mentally strong throughout this process, too. God has blessed me with a strong will that I pray remains as tough as it sounds. 

I'll keep everyone abreast of my progress over the next few months and I'll be sure to include a few photos along the way. I am still planning my Colorado elk hunt with Team DIY in September and to run that 5K with my wife in November. I have 4 months to get to where I want to be and while I am certain I will hit my goal of losing 60 lbs. The toughest part will be to maintain it.


  1. Albert,
    CONGRATS! What an amazing will power, faith and story you've got there! Congrats to your wife as well!!


  2. Way to go, Al! You have slimmed down quite a bit. Hitting those elk mountains in good shape is the only way to do it. I hope you smack a big 'ole bull!

  3. Congrats to you both on getting healthier!!!

    Very proud of you both because we know only too well over here the challenge you both have been facing!

    Nicely done!

  4. Thanks to all of you!

    @HLYH - Thank you! I feel great and my wife says she feels great, too. Thanks for the support!

    @Mark - I totally agree. Hitting the mountains with less spare-tire baggage around my mid-section and face will be great. Now I need to work on building that muscle and the high-altitude training. Fun stuff! *sarcasm*

    @Kari - How have you guys been doing? I know how tough it is to find the time to work out when you have little ones at home. It's a challenge, but one I am willing to take head on. Good luck with your goals, too!

  5. So proud of you - you have literally been working your a$$ off - you look great!!

  6. @kymberli q. - Thanks, babydoll. Your support through this has been a motivating factor. (You look pretty damn hot yourself!)

    @cassandra-m - Thank you! Feels different than the last time I went through this 3 years ago. Now it's here (gone?) to stay!

  7. I'm a little late on this one, but I just wanted to congratulate you on this achievement and wish you luck on the way to the rest of your goal! Keep up the good work and those mountains will seem like mole hills when you're chasing after those elk this fall..