…today, I didn’t recognize myself. Well, my old self to be more specific.
I realized this as I was scrolling through Facebook and came across a photo of some husky guy standing in shorts and a t-shirt on a nice sunny, spring day in a Calgary park. It took me several seconds to realize that Mr. Husky was in fact me, just 50+ lbs. heavier.
That photo was taken 2 years ago, and Facebook was serving it up as a nice, little memory. One thing that struck me about the photo, besides the weight, was that I looked quite happy. And I was happy, in that moment. But I was also struggling. I was eating emotionally, almost every day. For me, food was my only comfort. And I was avoiding exercise at all cost, because exercise was discomfort. Food was a way to numb my feelings. Exercise was a way to make me feel things, and that scared the heck out of me.
I often joked about how out of shape I was. When my work partner suggested we take the stairs at work instead of the elevator, my response was, “umm…that’s two stories. What am I, a superhero?” When another friend told me they were going running I replied, “Ugh, I only run when I’m chased.” Humour was my go-to, but my body wasn’t laughing. It was hurting. My body ached. I would sweat if I had to stand for more than 5 minutes. At my heaviest, I weighed 279lbs. I wore a 42-inch waist pant. I could only shop at certain stores. I wore a lot of button-down shirts undone over a white t-shirt, because I couldn’t get them done up around my stomach. Wearing them undone meant that even a slight breeze would send my shirt flying
open like I was a Backstreet Boy. I would try to hold my shirt down to hide my sizeable love handles, but to little avail. I knew things weren’t going well, size wise, when the pizza delivery guy expressed concern over how much I was ordering, how often and how much weight I was gaining.
But it wasn’t vanity that made me decide to adopt a new lifestyle. The turning point for me was being diagnosed with high blood pressure and severe sleep apnea, all in my early 30’s. That was the moment for me that made me realize I was hurting myself. I had allowed my body to get to a point that had serious consequences to my health, and that was unacceptable to me. My weight was no longer just an aesthetic issue. It wasn’t just affecting my self-esteem. It was now affecting my quality of life.
So, I decided to do something about it. First, I sought help from an amazing therapist who specializes in eating and relationships with food. That got me examining my feelings and how I was using food to cope. I started eating differently. I started realizing that short-term gains (feeling good for 15 minutes while stuffing my face with pizza, chips and chocolate) were not worth the long-term losses.
After getting a good grasp on the emotional side, I knew I wanted to become more active but I didn’t know how. The gym intimidated me. Like a lot of beginners, the thought of not knowing what I was doing in the gym while surrounded by experienced, fit guys was enough to keep me away. I thought I would be judged. I decided that if I was going to do this, I wanted someone in my corner. I wanted an expert to show me the ropes, motivate me, teach me and help me accelerate my weight loss and put on muscle. And I wanted to be able to use my condo gym to do it. That’s when I Googled, “condo gym trainer” and came across Your House Fitness in Toronto. It was a perfect fit. I emailed them and heard back right away. Soon I was on a call with them and booking my first session with my trainer, Eric Zimmerman. The fitness journey had begun. I was scared. I was excited. I was nervous. It turned out that even though all those feelings were normal, I needed not worry. Eric was amazing. I explained that my main goal was weight loss, getting healthier and becoming lean. We developed a program that would help me do just that, with a focus on full-body, metabolic workouts several times a week, with minimal rest times in between sets - something that continues to keep me motivated to this day. For me, I wasn’t interested in the traditional bodybuilding approach to the gym and fitness. I wanted flexibility, movement, and to work towards overall fitness. I wanted functional, and Eric’s vision was a perfect fit for me.
Now I’m not going to lie. It hasn’t been easy. I wanted to give up several times. But Eric was there to encourage me. He still helps me realize that my body is more capable than I think it is – that I can finish that last set, even if it’s super hard because nothing bad is going to happen. I’m just going to get stronger. I can’t tell you how much that encouragement keeps me going.
It’s been 2 years on my journey to a healthier lifestyle. With the help from Eric and Your House Fitness, I have lost over 50lbs and I’m now in a 36 waist pants, belted up pretty tight, so probably headed soon to a 34. I take stairs now. I am doing intermittent fasting. I look forward to the gym. Friends, coworkers and family stop me and ask me what I did to lose the weight. I seem to get a lot more matches on Tinder. I feel more confident. But the best thing of all is that I no longer have high blood pressure. I don’t need any medication for it. My sleep apnea has improved a lot and I may be on my way to not having the condition in the future. My risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease and more, is way way down. That is incredible and makes me so happy.
I continue to work out with Eric, and to reach new levels in my fitness. I am now looking forward to putting on more muscle and continuing to lose belly fat – the thing that is the most stubborn to come off. It’s getting there though. It’s less than half the size it used to be. And those love handles, they are falling off too. I won’t miss those.
Overall I have learned that healthier eating and fitness is not about perfection. It’s about making better choices as often as possible and respecting your body. It’s about not hiding from your emotions or fears. It’s about facing them, and working through them. And it’s so worth it. That feeling after a good workout, when you are energized and feel like you can conquer the world – there is nothing better. It sure beats the sluggish, achy, depressed way I used to feel when I spent so much time on my couch, eating chips, pizza and dessert. That’s not to say I don’t sneak a mini red velvet cupcake from Prairie Girl from time to time. Man, they’re delicious. I do however log that cupcake into my food tracker and continue on with my day. And
the pizza? I banned ordering it in for myself. Instead, if I’m really craving it, I buy the ready made thin-crust dough and make it myself so I have more control of what goes onto it and into my body. I also freeze half of what I make immediately for portion control. That way I get to have my pizza, and my health too.
Tyler Schell. Toronto. 36.
Ps. This is me, today: