The following post is written by Matt Watt, asset manager at Far West Capital.
You never know when something will change your life. The tiniest pebble, or Facebook post, starts a ripple.
“You better come to the reunion!!!” It was from Dylan, my best friend, who I hadn’t seen in years, and he was coming home to Austin. And apparently, so were a lot of people I used to know… in a different time.
High school. When I’d been an athlete, a soccer player, a football player. An AP student. Vibrant, youthful. Hell, maybe even good looking.
Now, my mirror showed someone else entirely. An unhappily married person, pushing 300 pounds, the kind of person who eats fast food meals in their car so no one could see. A high school coach, but I could barely run across the field.
How had everything changed? And what was it going to take to get back to the person I’d been?
Step 1: Be selfish.
I began my weight loss journey married, teaching AP World History, coaching both soccer and football. Every part of myself was given to someone else. My mornings and evenings were for my wife, my school days were for my students and coworkers, and my weekends were for my friends and family. I was constantly unselfish.
I missed that high school reunion. For seven months, I kept falling into a pattern: I’d work out a few times, and then I’d give up. And then we hit the holidays, and well, I wouldn’t be the first who got derailed by turkey and pie. Even worse, I wasn’t truly taking care of the people around me. So now I was failing both at being selfish and unselfish.
After school practices ended that March, I got serious… about me. I realized I would never be able to truly be there for others if I wasn’t good with myself. So I worked out, 4-6 times a week. I went on an honest-to-goodness diet. And I was selfish, for the first time in a long time.
60 pounds fell away by the end of that summer. I was playing soccer, seeing friends, getting back to the person I knew I was inside.
And then my marriage fell apart.
Step 2: Find discipline.
Nothing prepares you to see your marriage fall apart.
In the aftermath, I cut my losses and packed my bags, heading for a new job for a new school coaching girls’ soccer in Killeen. It took only two months of skipped workouts and car cheeseburgers to regain 30 pounds again.
When I looked up and realized what my lack of discipline had cost me, I decided I’d had enough. Instead of eating, I began working out whenever I felt stressed and tense, and I’d find that the frustration would leak out of me like sweat. Endorphins became my release, discipline my guide. I started noticing other side effects, too – like how a bad meal would make me feel during my workout the next day – and started dieting again.
But I didn’t really know what I was doing. I didn’t know how to eat right, I just knew to eat less. I was eating 1500 calories a day, and burning much more. Discipline became dedication became denial, and eventually my body had to send me a message.
Step 3: Learn about what you’re eating.
It took a couple fainting spells and bouts of sickness before I realized I was taking this too far. I was trying to be healthy, not look like a haunted version of myself.
I’d tried every diet, and I do mean every diet. I started by counting calories. That sucked. I tried juicing. I gave up meat. Then I gave up carbs and went paleo, gaining steak, losing bread. Then ketosis. Adkins. Whole30. Low carb. It all worked, in the sense that I was consuming fewer calories than I expended and I was losing weight, but I wasn’t gaining muscle and I was miserable. I spent six years like this.
Finally, I learned about flexible dieting, where I could better fit my eating plan to what I was actually trying to do, whether that was losing weight, maintaining muscle, or putting muscle on. I watched countless videos and read books, and started to understand macros – protein, fats, and carbohydrates – better, and how my body would react to them under different circumstances. And I came up with a more well-rounded eating plan that fit my lifestyle and my workouts.
People always ask me about the best diet. There’s no best diet. The best diet is the one you can stick to for the rest of your life, period. Dieting is a short-term fix. Eating healthy and nurturing your body is a lifestyle change, and it won’t work if it can’t be permanent.
And it won’t work if you hate it.
Step 4: Maintain positivity.
Losing weight is a terribly negative enterprise. Oh, plenty of people have tried to make it into a positive one. Every diet, every weight-loss program you’ll encounter will try to sway you toward positivity, but then you can’t eat this and you can’t eat that. First I juiced fruits and vegetables. Then I went low-carb and threw out all my bread and pasta. Whole30 had me throwing out the milk and the eggs. And on, and on, and on. For six years, I dreamed about cheeseburgers like they’d be my reward at the gates of Heaven, or the forbidden fruit offered to Eve.
It all made me hate eating, and it made me hate my body. The weight was never enough. I’d just look in the mirror and see the bad, not looking at new muscles or reduced love handles.
I had to regain control of my own narrative. I realized I wasn’t seeing myself right, so I made myself see. Starting in January this year, I started taking a picture of myself, once a week. Every time I did it, I made myself identify one positive change from the week before.
Eventually the one positive change became three, or four, and finally all I could see were the positive changes. I began to get excited to set more goals, see more changes. I’d successfully reframed the narrative.
Now, I’m excited to work out. I reintroduced my favorite foods, the ones that would always drag me back into a bad cycle – hamburgers, fries, chips, queso, candy, desserts – but as part of my eating plan, balanced by the good stuff. I’ve found my positivity. And I’d found something better.
I had my life back. I had me back. And I was ready to live.
Step 5: Enjoy Life (Smarter)
After making such drastic changes, I didn’t quite know how to get back to living. How would I balance my weight loss while still enjoying the things that life offers? I couldn’t seclude myself in my apartment. But I also didn’t want to lose the strides I had made during the spring. That was my pattern, those six years. I would lose the weight in the spring, put it back on over the summer, and then wrestle with the weight over the fall and winter, succumb to Thanksgiving and Christmas, before losing it again in the spring.
To enjoy life, the first thing I had to do was plan. I would plan for the activity or event I would attend, like a Sunday at the W Hotel in Austin. I’d estimate what I would drink and eat during that time, and tried my best to stick to it. That allowed me to understand my nutritional needs during the rest of the day.
If I didn’t plan for a random night out with friends, then I would minimally offset it the next day, but otherwise write off that night and get back to eating healthy the next day. I was living my life, just smarter.
It took all of those stages, all six years, to really absorb the impact of what I’d done, how I’d done it, and how I was going to keep it going. I finally understood what I could control, and what I could not.
I could be positive. I could treat everyone else with that same positivity and respect. And I could work, really hard.
And I’d lost 80 pounds.
The weight came back, one last time. On August 31, 2017, I wore 80 pounds for a day to remind myself where I started. I could barely brush my teeth that morning. Driving to work was a challenge. I remembered that I used to dread stairs, and I remembered why.
I remembered how I’d felt, that day I’d read Dylan’s Facebook message. The dread, the nausea, and the disbelief that I’d put myself in this situation by choice.
When I took it off again, I shed unhappiness, laziness, ignorance, negativity, and guilt. I had found my discipline and made the choice to regain myself.
All it took was one pebble to get it started.
Far West Capital is in the business of funding the goals of high-growth entrepreneurs. Know a great company in need of capital to unleash their potential? Send them here and we’ll give them a call.