The numbness in my arms was the first indication something was wrong.
Throughout my life I'd find myself sleeping on my stomach, arms tucked under my body for warmth – something I no doubt learned in the Canadian winters when I was too lazy to get another blanket – but when I began to awake without being able to feel my upper limbs, I became concerned. After a few months of hoping it would go away, I finally resigned myself to seeing a doctor and got the news: my blood pressure was high and I was severely overweight.
Since I was a child I've battled with my weight. Always on the heavier side, I fluctuated between highs and lows, but I had never let it get overly bad. In fact, I thought I was doing quite well. When I had first moved back to Victoria after film school, I was the slimmest that I could recall. However, that was 5 years previous, and in the interim I had slowly piled on the pounds to finally reaching nearly 300 lbs.
In hindsight, I knew I was getting bigger. My purposefully loose clothes had gotten decidedly less loose, and I had all but stopped looking in reflective surfaces – I actively avoided the full length mirror in my room. Until the tingling started, I never let myself acknowledge the problem, and now I had to.
I bought a fitness tracker and was unsurprised to find that my daily movements were quite limited, so I got some audiobooks and started walking. Not in the daylight, mind you - no, I wouldn't let myself be seen by others. I took advantage of my nocturnal sleep schedule and started making loops in my hilly neighbourhood at 2am, astonishingly never being arrested for lurking around in a black hooded sweater during the middle of the night.
Within a few months I had dropped 20 lbs. Friends and colleges started to notice, and I began to feel good. I looked forward to my midnight walks and to the stories I'd get to enjoy in my ears. Forcing myself to only listen whilst walking was a great incentive to get out the door. But after that first 20 lbs, nothing was changing.
I tried joining a gym with a friend, but I was still too self-conscious to exercise around people, and the floor to ceiling mirrors did nothing to help matters. I resigned myself back to my midnight walks, and spent the next year completely stagnant.
Throughout this first year and a half, the one thing I never changed drastically was my diet. I am a horrible cook and terrible with ingredients, so many of the diets presented to me seemed overly complicated and too much to take on. It was only once I heard Tim Ferris speak about the 4 Hour Body on an episode of the Nerdist Podcast that I considered leaping in. It seemed simple enough, and the idea of a cheat day was very appealing.
I distinctly remember the first day I weighed in below 270 lbs. I had been on the 4HB for a over a month and hadn't seen any substantial results, at least nothing more than standard fluctuations. I was defeated; it seemed like losing the weight was going to be an insurmountable goal. However, that moment I saw 269.6 lbs on the scale I knew something was working. I knew if I stuck with this, I could lose the weight.
That was nearly two years ago. Since then I have lost a further 73 lbs – this week hitting two milestones; officially losing 100 lbs total, as well as the falling from a BMI classification of "obese" to merely "overweight".
As you can see the from the chart above, it hasn't been an uninterrupted experience. When I moved from Canada to the United Kingdom it took me a few months to get adjusted before I restarted the diet but, as you can see, I didn't actually gain any weight during that time. I attribute this to both the lack of car and also the increased knowledge and awareness of what I was putting in my body. Even if I wasn't following the diet, I was conscious of what I was eating.
The spike in the second gap is Christmas, and the most recent large spike was from my trip to Dublin during St Paddy's Day, so I fully blame the Guinness for that one.
When people find out I've been losing weight, they always ask, "What's your ultimate goal? When are you going to stop?" The answer to the first part is easy: 169 lbs. At that weight, I will drop from a BMI classification of "overweight" to "normal range" for the first time in my adult life. That is my goal. It's an illogical one, as BMI classifications aren't a good indicator of health, but it's my goal none-the-less.
The answer to the second part is, hopefully never. This is a lifetime commitment to keeping my weight in check. Some people don't struggle with their weight, and I'm envious of them, but I also suspect that there are far less of them than I used to think.
Personally, I started this for medical reasons, but continued with it because it feels good. I'm not going to lie, there is a bit of vanity in there, but it's more than just that. The increase in self confidence not just physically, but mentally is immeasurable. I doubt I would have made the move to the UK if I hadn't been on the diet; I just wouldn't have – and didn't have – the confidence to do it beforehand.
This whole weight loss thing has been a long process. If you were to tell me 4 years ago that it would take this long to lose 100 lbs, I probably would have given up because I'm impatient. However, I can't imagine where I'd be now with this.
I still do my walking under the cover of night, and the idea of going back to a gym surrounded by people freaks me out, but I'm no longer angry at the guy in the mirror, I just see him for what he is - a work in progress.