Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Reason to Quit

You can thank Nick Horton for motivating me to pen this, and it’s going to sound either self-deprecating or self-serving, but right off the bat I need to impress on people that I am not special. In many ways, I’m a failure. Or I was.

I’m not gifted with natural strength. I’m tall, yes, but I was never an athlete or sportsman. Genetically, I’m not exactly the most robust. I have tapered fingers, ankles and wrists, weak knees, flat feet, and I used to have a ‘bad back’ thanks to some drunken antics in my early twenties. And since I’m on the subject, thanks to this silly injury I a few years ago ‘put my back out’ by reaching down – while sitting in my office chair – to pick something up off the floor. Pretty strong huh?

In school I was a fat wimp; I sucked at anything that required coordination and was pretty reluctant to do anything you might even loosely term exercise. But this mentality changed dramatically once I’d arrived in the real world. It wasn’t right away (and not necessarily for the better, all things considered) but eventually I dragged myself off the couch.

In a minute I’m gonna fast forward to my thirtieth year to save a lot of time, except to say that I had shed some serious fat in my last year of high school and, with regular half-assed weights training, I’d maintained a decent physique for a few years. I sometimes kid myself and think I really had a shot at the Natural Physique Championships of October 2002, but in reality I was a brah trainer (or is it trainer, brah?).

But here I was at 30; completely miserable. I was working a pretty high paid office job and weighed in excess of 150 kgs (330+ lbs) – all fat. I’d lost all my muscle mass as I’d long ago abandoned my training, and since the age of sixteen I’d been a confirmed smoker. Plus I’d managed to build myself one hell of a drinking problem. By this stage I was drinking 2 bottles of wine every night, and considerably more on the weekends (when I wasn’t at work).

2010 began, and turning 30 kicked me in the ass.

Quit Smoking
The first thing I changed was the smoking. I had a lot of help and encouragement from friends and my boss at the time, who’d quit himself the year prior. People occasionally still congratulate me on kicking the smokes, and while it was not an easy thing to do, I had the necessary tools and motivation to get there.

It’s difficult to ignore the impact 15 years of smoking has on your body. Every year I would suffer some kind of smoking related illness like throat/chest infections, glandular fever, and tonsillitis. These illnesses got progressively worse as I got older, and combined with my obesity it was as plain as day to me that things had to change. So I changed things.

But compared to the demon drink, quitting smoking was a piece of cake.

Quit Drinking
For the first year and a half of my return to training I continued to be an alcoholic. I would kid myself by thinking I just needed to get more active, build more muscle mass, and the rest would take care of itself… it sorta happened that way the first time, so why not now? Well, I didn’t drink like a fish when I was 20, that’s something I chose to ignore.

I built some decent mass and dropped from over 150 kgs to 143 – and maintained that through xmas and new years, into early 2011 when I ballooned back up to 148. All it took was a hot summer to make me lazy and a string of birthday celebrations through March, and I was back drinking almost daily.

It was around this time I received an education. An unconventional one, and a story that deserves a post of it’s own.

It seems ridiculous now, but for approximately 8 years I’d been suffering a variety of ailments. I’ve mentioned the smoking related health problems, but add to this IBS, insomnia, (self-diagnosed) depression, and daily acid reflux. I was a mess, and alcohol was a major part of the cause of it all.

I say part and not whole because when I quit alcohol for good, around September 2011, I wasn’t just motivated by wanting to quit the one thing that was killing me and robbing me of gains under the iron. Alcoholic drinks were a major part of a poor diet so high in refined carbs it was making me unhealthy mentally as well as physically.

Quit Eating Crap
People get sick because they are weak, and they are weak because they get sick. It’s an abstract, stark and gloomy perspective from which to view the world. But it’s the truth. The way most people in the Western world live is harmful and remains that way because there’s profit to be made. Sunshine, fresh food and healthy activities can cure depression, drug addiction, and disease. But instead we medicate.

We suffer and are made weak by our increasingly efficient, quad-core processed and completely sedentary lifestyles. We can do so many things from the comfort of our armchair but would sooner Google a cheap cleaner than vacuum our own carpets (hopefully they can just clean around the couch while Judge Judy’s on… it’s hot outside).

The poisons in our food, and sometimes the foods themselves, are messing with our brain chemistry, our hormones and, consequently, our immune systems, metabolisms and fitness levels. Artificial sweeteners and soy lecithin are present in virtually every ‘low-fat’, ‘added protein’, and ‘diet’ food product on supermarket shelves… but we’re more concerned about getting fat from full cream milk and fresh red meat. All the nutrition advice says it’s these things that are to blame for us getting fatter. Not the half loaf of genetically mutated, refined, baked wheat paste holding our skinless chicken and salad sub together, with it's '99% fat free' dressing that is loaded with sugar, if not artificial sweetener.           

I removed all the grain, cereal, bread, pasta, rice, and potato from my diet... and cut right down on the sugar. A couple weeks later I saw no reason to ever drink alcohol again.

I’m talking a complete change of mindset. My brain chemistry was altered, and for the better. I now can thrive on 5-6 hours sleep a night when before I’d wake tired from 8-9. My digestive functions corrected themselves, my depression (if that’s what it was) evaporated. I was a new man, and stronger than the boy in his prime. And the body fat began to drop away. I’m now down to 133.5 kgs – and most of that has been lost in the last 3-4 months.

5 comments:

  1. I salute you for your gumption and discipline in taking those hard steps, and keeping to them. Most inspiring!

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  2. Thank you friends. I still have a long way to go, but there is no stopping me now.

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  3. This story is truly inspirational especially since I knew you as you were going through all these steps. I'm really proud if you and grateful to have you as a friend

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    1. Well I'm very proud of you for your achievements, Tim, and I'm very glad to have you as a friend!
      I know you've still got more in the tank brother. I will be reading of your successes in 2013!

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