I’m a 21 year old senior in college at a respectable, East Coast university. I have an awesome social life, academic life, and everything that comes with the “grade A” college experience. I could not say the same about myself when I was a freshman. Between my sophomore year and the beginning of my junior year of college, I lost 100 pounds, going from 272 to 162. I went through the journey by myself and with my own rules. Here are a few things I learned along the way:
Change is not only physical
When you exercise your body, you exercise your mind. I achieved 95% of my weight loss by running. Training myself to run on a consistent schedule required a lot of mental coaching. It wasn’t easy–and maintaining my results is still not easy, but let’s face it–I’d rather be in the position I’m in now (health-wise), than where I was before.
Keep your friends close and your acquaintances closer
During my freshman year, I was known as the “nice kid from Atlanta.” That was nice to hear during, maybe, the first two weeks of school? It got old really quick. I realized that I was the person that everyone came to with problems, i.e. I was the shoulder that everyone cried on and the one that everyone vented their problems out to; but, no one was ever including me in their plans. Over time, as the weight began to come off, I noticed my social life picking up but the majority of the people who started inviting me places and hanging out with me turned out to be old acquaintances. Don’t get me wrong, I’m still friends with a few people who were my “friends” freshman year; however, some of those acquaintances have turned out to be some of my best friends to this day.
Bullying doesn’t stop in high school
I’ll admit that I’ve lead a very blessed and rather sheltered life in some aspects. I have a great family, great social life, and a strong network in general; but I was certainly not prepared for the bullying, jealousy, and ignorance some people had to offer me during my college experience. I’ve heard everything from “Oh, I bet he got his stomach stapled or something” to “He thinks he’s the hot shit because he lost weight.” I learned a valuable lesson: Even nice people will treat you with disrespect–it’s all about how you respond. You can either respond on their (basic) level, or you can fly above the haters.
I’ll have my cake and eat it too
For some reason, a lot of people in my social network have this misconception that I am an exercise/dietary junkie. Do I enjoy running/working out? Sure! Do I feel better when I make wise nutritional choices? Absolutely! But do I still enjoy a large scoop of vanilla bean ice cream topped with a Nutella-chocolate chip cookie sandwich, drizzled with hot fudge? YOU BETTER BELIEVE IT! It’s my body and I’ll navigate it as I see fit so if I want to eat healthy, then good for me, and if I want to splurge a little, then that’s my choice too.
People will bring up your weight loss often
I have lost count of how many times friends or acquaintances have mentioned my weight loss success in social situations. Don’t get me wrong I’m certainly not complaining; however, when they do it unexpectedly it can catch me off guard, and it used to embarrass me. Over time I learned to just acknowledge the subject when they bring it up and then casually switch the topic of conversation. I’m the type of person that doesn’t necessarily enjoy the spotlight, but when it decides to shine on me, I have to remember to put my hypothetical shades on and keep on moving.
Holding others to a ‘higher standard’ becomes a thing
Because I have gone through a lot of transformation throughout the past couple of years, I have developed a certain respect for myself. I try not judge others immediately when I know little to nothing about them, because I know the extent to which people have judged me in the past and continue to judge me until this day. Everyone has a past. Everyone has gone through hard times. Everyone has had to deal with things that they could’ve gone without. It is not my place to judge them for that. We all have a past, but we also have a present and future to improve.
My weight loss does not define me
Over time a lot of people in my social network have come to know me as “the guy who lost so much weight.” Yes, I am that guy who improved his well-being. Yes, I am that guy who runs all of the time. That stuff is nice and all, but I was a human being before my weight loss, and after my weight loss. I have other goals and interests in life. I am a double major in HR and Employment Relations. I enjoy bike riding, fishing, reading, and cooking, just to name a few. I would like to publish a book one day. I would like to continue my higher education one day. I would like to work in Corporate America one day. I have a personality. I have feelings. I have faults. I AM A HUMAN.
People will come seeking advice
I am definitely surprised (and honored) every time someone comes and asks me for advice. A lot of people contact me for exercise tips or nutritional tips, or even just to hear first-hand what my experience was like, losing weight. This catches me off-guard, even until this day. It’s certainly a warming feeling to have when people feel that you are an approachable individual.
There is nothing glamorous about losing weight
There are a lot of people who think that I get way too much attention, because of my weight loss. They think that I am on a high horse, or something. There is NOTHING glamorous about losing weight. My options were either lose weight or develop diabetes, high blood pressure, have a stroke/heart attack, etc. My journey did not just end with losing weight. I am on a life-long journey to try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, and that requires discipline and motivation every day.
I have no regrets
I don’t ever regret being large. I don’t ever regret being over-weight. If I had never been overweight, then I would have never had a lot of experiences that I have had over the past couple of years. I would never have had to lose weight, and if I never had to lose weight, I probably would not have met a lot of the people that I know today. I probably would have never learned a good amount of lessons that I know today. I am a huge supporter of the cliché that ‘everything happens for a reason.’ Almost nothing in life is a coincidence.