Sunday, October 7, 2012

Getting My Reputation Back


It wasn't that long ago, but there was a time when I was a 240 lb. behemoth, marching the grounds of Iowa State University. At one point, that 240 lb. gorilla was a 225 lb. dude who was really into fitness and getting big and strong.

Fast forward two years, and that 240 lb. gorilla was a 180 lb. born again runner, blazing trails on the sidewalks of the Westside of Cedar Rapids, IA. That 180 lb. runner was a man with a diet and attitude that did not closely resemble anything from the days of the 240 pounder.


It was at this point I received what I considered to be a bad rap. Part of ballooning to 240 lbs. was my lack of control on snacking. My eyes would seemingly roll back into my head and I would become a mindless predator when faced with a bag of Doritos. Picture a Great White ripping into its prey, mindlessly consuming all it could fit into its gullet.

Planning to combat this, I could no longer just simply snack. All snacking had to be pre-portioned and at a scheduled time. This typically involved some disgusting protein bars that were just palatable (they were a type that was low in saturated fat, a major problem with protein supplements). I mean, these things toed the edge of being inedible. Which is why I never gorged myself on them.

All meals were planned a week in advance, and all consisted of what most would consider a very healthy array of options - light cuts of lunch meat (loaded in sodium, I'm sure), natural peanut butter (loaded with palm oil), whole grain bread (pumped up with HFCS - high fructose corn syrup), and many other "health foods" that have become a part of the American diet. An improvement for sure, but low hanging fruit at best.

I began a new job within a few months of my journey down the healthier path, and my new co-workers never knew me as the overweight zeppelin I used to be. All they knew was that my afternoon snack was a bag of carrots and I didn't partake in the Friday boxes of doughnuts, bagels, or breakfast pizza.

So I was labelled a health nut. A running-crazed, black-belt calorie counter. When I would have lunch appointments with co-workers, they would order, then comment, "You'll probably order something healthy." Although it was meant to lightly poke fun, it never sat right with me. Shouldn't I be pointing out THEIR bad eating habits? Only years later did I figure out that people lash out at the things that point out their deficiencies. Although ordering the turkey reuben didn't seem like much of an extreme.

Within a few months of starting this new, healthy life, I also tried out vegetarianism for the first time. Which did not help my case (I've since converted back to vegetarianism Back to Vegetarianism). That is something you can only keep under your hat for so long.

What is easy to forget is that over the six and a half years since I strapped the running shoes back on, I've fallen off the wagon, and hard, numerous times. My diet fell completely out of whack for what is probably a solid third of that time combined. My exercise regimen, too. Keeping that fanatic-like, laser beam focus on those kind of goals gets hard.

It is easy to be really hard on yourself when you do fall of that wagon, eating terribly and reverting back to old, bad habits. But with time to provide perspective, it is only natural. Identifying all of the cues that trigger those bad habits is hard. In the past 12 months I've slowly moved back to a more healthful lifestyle. But those cues are still out there, and addressing them as they come up (don't believe me? check out Changing Habits Beats Relying on Willpower). And happily, I've slimmed back down below 165 lbs.

Life doesn't get any easier, either, as you get older. Job responsibilities pile up, family obligations become family commitments, you get married and have to, heaven forbid, do what your spouse wants to do from time to time. Sure, those are almost entirely good things. But they do distract from focusing on your health if don't already have that automatic drive to eat healthy all of the time, which is hard in a Western society.

Back in the spring/summer I made the decision to work my way back to vegetarianism. But with a plan, which I did not have last time. Although my goal was never to get that "bad" rap back, now it doesn't seem like the scarlet letter it once was. Now it isn't something that just makes me different.

Had last "short" long run yesterday - was a huge confidence builder. Which is the goal during the taper period. 14.5 miles in just a hair over 2 hours (2:00:42). Which is good for me (8:19 per mile). Some of the fitness that has carried over from triathlon training I attribute to my newfound dedication to nutrition.

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