Just over a month ago, I was passing by the mirror in my apartment while getting ready for work and realized I didn’t like what I saw. The months of eating cheap Harlem food, ordering takeout nightly, and visiting street meat vendors had finally caught up with me. My stomach protruded like I was about to deliver. My chest looked like it was on its Rick Ross flow. I was the unhealthiest I had been in a long time and definitely didn’t feel like a boss. It was the antithesis of cool.
The truth is I’ve struggled with my weight (and health) a lot over the last year. I’d make a commitment to getting back in shape then fall off a soon as life picked up. Having a day job and night hustle can have that effect on you. But something was different this time. Maybe it was the fact my body ached for reasons unknown. Maybe it was the fact that the only ab work I’d gotten was from sucking my stomach in whenever I walked into a room full of people. Maybe it was the fatigue that plagued me daily. Maybe it was seeing myself in Facebook pictures and thinking to myself that I was the one that fell off. Maybe it was realizing that I’m 29 and my speedy metabolism might be preparing for a lifelong hiatus. Most likely it was a combination of all five. I’d never felt more insecure about my body in my whole life.
We always notice things about ourselves more than those around us, so I probably didn’t look as bad as I thought. But when I passed by that mirror with my shirt off, I couldn’t find the happy thoughts. And it was at that moment that I made a decision to get myself in the best shape of my life. I’ve dreamed since college of becoming a competitive athlete again. I’ve gotten call after call from home about sick family members succumbing to preventable illnesses. I’ve watched people I use to run track with continue their athletic careers and go as far as the olympics. Thoughts of my father in a wheelchair for the last seven years of his life after suffering a stroke and dealing with the complications of diabetes have haunted me over the years. I don’t want that fate. I don’t want to look back down the road and say I could’ve done better. This time I will do better. I will be the greatest shape of my life every year until my body tells me otherwise.
So a month ago I didn’t just go on a diet. I changed my lifestyle. French fries became salads. Burgers became baked chicken. Green smoothies replaced bacon, egg, and cheese for breakfast sandwiches and beer. I lost about seven pounds in the first week. Then I started working out again. Spin classes, weight lifting, and runs on the track have become part of my weekly ritual. A month later, I’m down 15 pounds — while still occasionally eating the comfort foods I love. And with that, the aches and pains have dissipated. My confidence is elevated. I’m just a happier person overall. But this hasn’t been without challenges. And surprisingly the biggest challenges haven’t come from resisting the foods I love. They’ve come from the people around me.
[Overweight man image via Shutterstock]