A Roller Coaster Ride: My Weight

I have had a tumultuous history with my weight and fitness. Although I was fat, out of shape, and un-athetlic throughout most of my childhood and adolescence, I have swayed to both ends of the fitness spectrum multiple times over the past 6 years.

I spent the first 16 years of my life as a fat kid. It was in my genes, and I hadn't yet started to care about girls or appearance or leadership, so I had no reason not to be fat.

After a semester of cross country during Fall of 2005 of sophomore year of high school, I leaned out to 160 at a height of 5' 11". I couldn't believe how lean I was. All it took was waking up every morning at 5:30 and running 4 miles with my friends, who exerted the peer pressure that forced me to run, despite how badly I wanted to walk. Going into that season, I could barely run a 5K. By the end, I was running a 5K in 24 minutes.

The following Spring, I ran the 400M in track. Many consider it to be the second most difficult run after the 800M because you have to sprint as fast as you can for one full lap around the track. It's exhausting. And helps keep you lean. By the end of that track season, I was running a 400M in 59 seconds.

During junior of of high school, when I realized I had to catchup on academics to make it into a good college, I decided to pile on an absurd 7 AP classes. With my enormous homework load that often exceeded 40 hours a week, I quickly started skipping the gym to focus on homework. Then, as a stress-coping mechanism, I started eating uncontrollably. Unfortunately, this was also the first year I had a car, so I consumed enormous amounts of greasy fast food on a regular basis, especially Double Dave's pizza buffet and La Tapatia's greasy Mexican food, for lunch. It was the perfect storm of indulgence. Over 9 months, I ballooned from 160 to 245. I was obese, per the legal definition.

Over the following few years, I had managed to drop about 15 pounds, but it wasn't through a concerted effort. During sophomore year of college, I regained my fitness focus. During the fall, I focused on distance running. Although I started at 230 pounds, I was somehow able to run 3 miles in 21 minutes after just 4 months of training. I couldn't believe it. The following Spring, while living at Palladium (which had a gym and healthy buffet options available in my dorm building), I kicked it into high gear. My day was organized around my diet and exercise (not school), and over the course of 4 months I leaned out from 220 to 200 by May 2010.

During Summer 2010, I started finding my strength to be superfluous. Who cares if you can bench 250 or 450? I had always been fascinated with gymnastics. So I started gymnastics. I knew I was at an extreme disadvantage relative to true gymnasts, so I focused on my core asset, strength, and pursued rings. Olympic ring competitions are a test of strength more than anything else, unlike other forms of gymnastics, which require a mix of skills, all of which I lack other than strength.

I continued working out with rings and my body weight. In fact, I completely stopped lifting weights. I would only use my body weight to exercise, and would add weight to my body where appropriate. I peaked in March 2011, just before injuring my hand at Ultra Music Festival in Miami. At my peak, I was doing back levers, iron crosses, standing backflips, benching 315, doing dips with 135 pounds, planche pushups, and 1 arm pushups, 25 chin-ups, 15 pull-ups with extended legs, muscle ups, upside down pull ups, and muscle ups, power cleaning 245, deadlifting 455, and running at 5:40 mile. But the hand injury killed everything.

Just as I started recovering from my hand injury, I began working full time at VersaSuite. I was super-engaged, busting my ass well past midnight on a daily basis working with Dr. Gorin at the Jules Stein Eye Institute (JSEI) at UCLA on a project. I was probably putting in 80 hours a week for 6 months without exception. And once again, I thought my job was more important than my body, so I started skimping on the gym. Then I started eating to cope with the stress. Over the year from May 2011 through May 2012, I lost about 40% of my strength relative to my peak, and put on a total of 20 pounds. From May 2012 through December 2012, I stayed pretty stable, while rebuilding some of my lost muscle.

I started a focused diet at 228 pounds during the December 2012. As of this morning, February 2nd 2013, I'm 216 pounds. I will hit 200 this Summer.

Unlike my last 2 cutting phases, this one has been the most balanced. During both of my previous attempts, slimming down was the major focus of my life. I've known how to lose weight, but I was never able to do it as a secondary aspect of my life. Now, I work 50-60 hours per week, and I've learned to integrate a weight-loss program into my life.

First and foremost, I live and breathe on an app, Way of Life, on my iPhone. It's a simple checklist that I go through everyday of things that I need to do, and it utilizes an excellent UI and even provides graphing functions to track your progress. I absolutely love it. I have several weight loss related items on that list, including "exercise", "drink protein in the morning", "drink lots of water", "take body shots", "record food log", "weigh yourself", and "drink apple cider vinegar before sleeping." Yes, that's right. I write down everything that I eat, I take pictures of myself everyday, and I drink vinegar before sleeping. I'm crazy. But my methodology works. I use the app to force myself to do these things everyday, and doing these things keeps weight-loss on my mind all day, which makes it easier to actually lose weight. Weight-loss doesn't happen 3 days a week. It happens 24/7. When push to comes to shove and I'm crazing Doritos and cake, I need to be in a mental state where I can resist, and keeping weight-loss on my mind all day helps immensely.

Secondly, I've figured out how to love cardiovascular exercise for the first time ever. I am a super type-A personality. I love accomplishing my goals. But with long distance running, it's so easy to lose sight of the goal as boredom sets in after running for 10 minutes. I've always struggled as a distance runner, even during cross country in high school. Over the last 6 months, I've gotten back into Ultimate frisbee (UF). UF has been an essential part of my weight loss program because it acts as high intensity interval training (HIIT), which is much more effective than distance running at burning fat. But most importantly, UF provides an extremely powerful short-term goal: catch the disc, or lay out trying. I may be tired like hell, but if I don't keep sprinting, I'm not going to catch the disc and will fail my team. Fuck that. I play to win.

And lastly, cooking has helped a lot too. For years, I've been able to easily identify good foods from bad foods, but I've never been able to actually make healthy, delicious food myself. Now I can, and I'm getting better every week. I also have complete control over the food that makes it into my fridge, which has helped substantially. My apartment has no unhealthy food, period. And I will keep it that way until I die.

It's taken me about 7 weeks to lose 12 pounds. I have 16 pounds to go, so although I'm almost halfway there in terms of numerical weight loss, I know that the 2nd half will be much harder than the first half. I expect to hit 200 in May 2013, after another 3-4 months of focused cutting. Given that I'm now 6' 1" and have retained quite a bit of muscle, I'm going to be lean. It's going to be a fun Spring, and even more fun Summer.