Bear with me on this one. This is my over-tired (due to new baby care) attempt at soul searching & sincere self-examination. There is a lot more to the story, but I’m trying to stay on point with main things that have either directly or indirectly affected my body composition over the years.
I was always a lean & athletic guy. Growing up in a farming area, we ate pretty well (farm fresh side of beef, pig & chickens in the deep freeze, free range chicken eggs, fresh dairy, etc...) and throughout high school I did competitive Rowing, Karate, Kick boxing, Volleyball and of course all the pick up games of roller hockey, ice hockey, street hockey, football and soccer that my cousin & I could arrange! I pretty much trained all year long for rowing (dryland training) including tons of running, ergometers & weights (light circuits & heavy weights also). Therefore, I was doing a huge volume of work at this point in my life. I was 145 lbs until my senior year in high school and when I left for University I was 155 lbs.
This trend continued to University where I found competitive coed cheerleading (awesome sport for those of you who don’t know about it) & I practiced Japanese Jiu Jitsu & Capoeira. Of course, I learned some weight training from more senior guys on the Cheerleading team & started banging on those. Hitting the heavier weights, I bulked up to 175 lbs and remained here for the next decade and a half.
By the time I went to Montreal for my professional degree, I was still around 170 lbs and with some dietary manipulation & body weight training courtesy of Matt Furey (combat conditioning), I leaned down to 8% body fat. Then I started hitting the weights again, and seeing as how I was studying Human Nutrition & Dietetics I started experimenting with different strategies to add mass, as I had always been a “hard gainer”. Unfortunately, the techniques mostly involved eating higher carbohydrate, lower fat diet as a backbone, and using protein & mass gain shakes and things after my heavy weight workouts, so all of that combined with being over 30 years old at that time all lead me to increase my weight up to about 185 lbs and of course my body fat went up as well (to around 17%).
When I got into my Masters degree in Montreal, I was able to workout with and join the Cheerleading squad there, however, the team was mostly women & there were only 2 of us dudes (actually as I write that I realize, it wasn’t all that bad ;-) . It was great fun & actually with my heavier frame (190 lbs at this point) I was able to do some more advanced stunting that had escaped me at 175 lbs. My tumbling suffered a lot though. At one point at 175 lbs, I was able to do a roundoff, back handspring, back tuck fairly routinely and the same sequence with a back layout in place of the tuck with a bit more effort. However, at 190 lbs, this was much more difficult to do. I essentially, had to relearn the moves at my new heavier weight. In the end, I was able to do standing back handspring, back tucks routinely, but it did take a fair amount of effort and I’m sure my technique was sucking quite profoundly.
Next, my funding ran out for my Masters and I returned home to find work as a Registered Dietitian. I was able to find a one year mat leave for the first year, and of course had to live at home. During this time, I was able to get down to 180 lbs by participating in the Body for life challenge. I also started working in Hamilton at an Obesity clinic one day per week.
At the conclusion of that one year contract, I obtained a permanent position as a Registered Dietitian in Hamilton at a Mental Health Facility, and am still there now. In addition to completing my Masters, I was able to propose and initiate a PhD through my same University supervisor located at this hospital, but unfortunately, due to changes in drug purchasing contracts (move to generics) the funding was pulled by the drug company that had originally committed, and so I am pursuing my PhD in a topic similar but more complex & advanced of my Masters.
I should mention that during all of the above times my free time got less and less as my responsibilities increased. Additionally, I realize now in retrospect that my WHY for pretty much the bulk of my physical activity/working out thing was actually extrinsic, all about the ladies (attracting my dream girl), so to speak. I was a young guy & I loved women & wanted to meet as many as possible so I could finally meet the one.
When I started my permanent position as an RD in Hamilton, I met my (to be) wife at my orientation. We connected at a deep level immediately & she was the sexiest, most intelligent, kindest women I had ever met in my life (still is actually)! I proposed a little over 1 year after we met & we were married one year later. Interestingly, we found our dream home in a beautiful location, the unfortunate part was that it was a 1 hour drive from work. I commuted 2 hours/ day x 5 days / week for 5 years and during this time my weight skyrocketed to 225 lbs with obviously a huge shift in my body comp to fat mass (around 25%) with a waist circumference of 39.5” :-(. We were blessed as well with our first daughter during this time, and since, we’ve been blessed again. The massive increase in my body weight (& fatness) was obviously due to my decreased physical activity. Interestingly, I was actually working out pretty hard regularly for 2.5 years of our 5 with the 1 hour commute including rediscovering Japanese Jiu Jitsu (until our first daughter was born, then sleep went bye bye) but my weight still remained at best around 210 lbs. Honestly, I knew that my commute was killing me. Thankfully, my health was fine, no issues of note, but I knew that I was on the roadway to Diaobesity! My wife and I decided to move closer to work (decreased commute=more family time) & her family (greater support for our kids & connectedness with their cousins). We were expecting our second child while we listed our home (with countless open houses) & while we were searching for our new home. It was challenging & time consuming since we lived about an hour from where we were searching & we were both working full time. Additionally, I had to prepare for my PhD oral comprehensive exam right after we were slated to move into our new home. Additionally, we planned for a significant renovation on our new home once we moved in & had to start purchasing items & reviewing options after work in the months leading up to the move. Bottom line, we were living fast & hard, with very little time to dedicate to exercise/fitness. The only saving grace was that we walked daily together each evening as a family. Of course, this became harder as the Canadian Winter set in.
Now, all things considered, my experiences started to make me question all the strategies I had learned & had been taught in school. I started to hit the research & I mean individual blogs, books, etc… Then I verified what I was seeing by perusing various scientific studies using similar principles. Shockingly, at least to me, I started to discover that most of the info that I was finding on “unreliable” (at least we’d been told in school) sites were actually validated by clinical research, and that we had never been taught any of these principles. This was my discovery of the Paleo/Primal/low carb lifestyle. This fascinated me, and it definitely made logical sense. Unlike, fad diets though that can often make some logical sense on the surface, this seemed to have no downside. It baffled me why we never learned anything about this during my clinical nutrition classes & also why not one of my colleagues seemed to even know what I was talking about when I mentioned it to them. Anyway, I plowed through all the podcasts (Robb Wolf first, then Jimmy Moore, Abel James, Mark Sisson etc…) & blogs (Mark Sisson, Robb Wolf, etc…) & then books including but not limited to The Paleo Solution, The Primal Blueprint, The Paleo Diet, The Paleo Answer, and The New Evolution Diet. Not to mention countless Paleo/Primal guides.
Anyway, we are now living closer to work (20 min drive each way), the initial renovations are done, we had our second daughter & she is now about 6 weeks old and I have about 4 more months off from my PhD (paternity leave). This year, I even started attending 2 cross fit classes per week at a local box, but that was put on hold when our second daughter was born (less sleep & more to do around our new home). At this point, my wife & daughters’ happiness are far more important to me than my body composition. And then, suddenly, all at once, I realize why I’m not chomping at the bit to get back into the gym/workout/exercise whatever you want to call it. This had always been my way throughout my graduate degree, what the heck gives?
All of this is basically a cliff/coles notes (depending on where you are from) version of my weight & body comp history as it pertains to significant life events. Interestingly, there’s a critical message hidden throughout the story. Did you figure it out? It’s painfully obvious, once you see it.
At every point in my life when I was working out super hard & absolutely committed I had a compelling WHY, to attract the woman of my dreams! So once I found her, married her & we started having children, that WHY was achieved and no longer drove me. I became more focused on surviving our new hectic schedule including a then 2 hour commute, helping care for my wife & our child, as well as maintaining my job, business, studies & our home. Now that the commute has been reduced, that’s one less thing, but with a newborn in the house & a 2 year old, my WHY shifts to include helping with the care of the entire expanded family & maintaining and doing some smaller renovations to our new home. I think about working out, my wife and I discuss how to fit everything in, and at long last my wife’s agreed to come aboard the S.S. Paleo/Primal and eventually we will convert our 2 year old as well. Our hope is that once we introduce solids to our second daughter she won’t even know what a grain product is. So, in that way I was able to integrate my primary WHY for caring for my family to include a healthy diet that will help me lean out. However, the exercise thing bothers me, because I know I’m not a lazy person. So why am I not leaping back to the gym to whip myself back in shape? The short answer is that in my current life with the new set of circumstances (married to the woman of my dreams, 2 beautiful children, working full time, pursuing PhD, Blogging & starting online business), I have not taken the time to update/re-define my WHY.
I mean, think about it. At this point, I haven’t returned to working out yet, because in my mind right now, I want to spend my time with my wife & daughters, building my online business & of course (feel I have to) work since we’re currently limited to only my income. So what I need to do is layout my new WHY given my new set of life circumstances. I think it’s key to remember that a WHY that drove us phenomenally for decades might be completely powerless once circumstances change (i.e. Pursuing the woman of my dreams & then me finding her & marrying her). But as Tony Robbins says in his audio programs, I have been caught up living day to day and forgot to design my life (I’m paraphrasing, but you get the gist).
Anyway, the take away message is that for any change, lifestyle or otherwise, we need to have a clearly defined WHY, or we are doomed to not achieve our goal!
I will redefine my WHY related to exercise in my life & post it next week to show the process that I used, in case anyone wants to do it also. If you are in a similar boat, I suggest you do this too!
Together, as a community, there’s nothing that we can’t overcome!
Have a great weekend!