Who: Matt Daubs
Occupation: Human Resources
By The Numbers: 350 pounds at my heaviest, currently 175 pounds, for a total weight loss of 175 pounds.
The Weight Gain: I had always been a big kid, who turned into a big teenager, who turned into a big man. I was considerably taller than the other kids in my class (now 6’1”) and was always considered a “big boy” — later, a “big guy”. I believe I ran with this concept and used it as a license to eat what and when I wanted. How does a person reach 350 lbs? You eat that big. For me, these behaviours were set at a young age.
While I made periodic efforts at exercising, my diet was hopeless. I had a complete lack of nutritional awareness. I considered my nightly mac and cheese to be a healthy option (“It’s just cheese and pasta, that’s pretty good, right?”). I ate like it didn’t matter.
Final Straw: I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in the summer of 2008, and what followed was immediate unemployment. On a summer day in 2008, I sat in a park giving serious thought to my situation and future. The turning point was this exact thought: “I don’t want to live the rest of my life this way. I have the ability to change this situation entirely. The only person who can stop this is me, and I won’t let that happen.” From that point on it seemed simple. It was not easy, but it was simple. I knew I had the ability and I was committed to not failing.
I wanted to lose my weight because I knew it was putting restrictions on my life, quite literally, such as the time I had to get off of a roller coaster because the bar would not close over my legs. Certain activities were simply off the table for me. I was tired of my weight and my insecurity controlling where I went and what I did.
The Plan of Attack: I bought an exercise bike via Kijij for $30 and that was the best move I ever made. At first, it was horrible; 10 minutes was excruciating and the effort seemed hopeless. I tried a number of methods to pass the time, TV, movies, etc., but it was not looking good. After about a week of struggling, I found a personal gold mine: NHL 08 on XBOX 360. I would ride the bike and play hockey games, with each game running roughly 15 minutes. I found myself playing 3 – 4 games a day, spending 45 – 60 minutes on the bike without really noticing the effort. Eventually I got to a point where I couldn’t play very well without my bike (“what do I do with my legs?”).
While changes were minimal in the first few weeks, they were still evident. This provided encouragement to press on. In weeks six to 10, I made incredible progress. I simply focused on my efforts; I rode my bike and did not worry about anything else. After about four weeks of this, suddenly I, and everyone around me, noticed an incredible change. I looked and felt like I had dropped 100 pounds in a short amount of time. I look back at those four weeks as the period when my effort broke through; after those four weeks, momentum was on my side.
In the first year I lost about 140 pounds, but I estimate 65 per cent of perceivable progress was made in the first 12 weeks. I believe it was such an abrupt change in living that led to drastic results.
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The Exercise Factor: To date, I’ve never been to a gym except for an orientation session, which was a horrifying experience. I made this effort to be active, and I would rather be active in an everyday sense, i.e. rec league sports, outdoor activities, etc.
My first attempts at anything were extremely limited; I ran 40 feet and then clutched my side for 40 minutes. Any push-up attempts were knees-down style. I started from the bottom, but it was rewarding to see my abilities improve from practically zero. When you struggle to do one legitimate push-up, doing 5, 10, 20, etc., will encourage further effort and strengthen commitment.
From the beginning I knew the scale would probably not be my friend, so I chose to focus on my clothing as a way to assess progress. It seemed like a more intuitive way to track the progress as I could feel the changes. I thought a waist of 34-36” would be relatively normal given my stature, so that was my ultimate goal. I reached that in late 2009, down from 54” in early 2008.
Finding the right activities has been very important for my consistency. I play ice hockey as a rogue backup goaltender in the Lunenburg Country Recreational Hockey League. In late 2011, I was invited to a floor hockey game and over a period of 90 minutes I worked harder, covered more distance, and had more fun than I ever had while running the roads. Like NHL 08 on my bike, this was a revelation that made everything suddenly seem easy for me.
For strength training, and calling it strength training is being incredibly generous, I have two 30-pound kettlebells, combined with bodyweight exercises, to do some sort of strength work.
The Food Element: I eliminated or drastically reduced the majority of the foods I had been eating, but the key exiles were all drinks with unnecessary calories. I knew I had been meeting the majority of my daily caloric requirements on sugary drinks alone, so just eliminating this made a huge difference in terms of net calories.
Given my complete lack of nutritional awareness, my diet improved very slowly. My first move was to replace my standard boxed hamburgers and frozen fries with hamburgers I personally made, and sweet potato fries that I hand cut. This was a small step, but even this limited move made me feel like I was making better decisions. I knew given the success I had with minimal adjustments, further efforts would produce greater results.
The fact is, food is fuel. Eating ice cream whenever you want is the antithesis of a treat. I definitely had moments where I ate awesome/terrible things, but I accepted this would happen from time to time. If you’re successful 28 of 30 days in a month, you’re bound to make progress. And if you string three of those months together, you can change your life in a short amount of time.
I identified the foods I wanted to eat, and every week I aimed to eat those foods 90 per cent of the time. This left 10 per cent of the time open to negotiation. I typically kept my diet very simple: eggs, salads, fruit, vegetables, chicken and turkey. Eating this way the majority of the time is a foolproof plan for success.
The Current Day-to-Day: Between ice hockey and floor hockey, I exercise an average of 3-4 times per week, 90 minutes per session. If you stay busy enough, “working out” seems more like a hobby.
I regret that I wasn’t more aware as a youth, and didn’t make changes earlier. That said, I’m also thankful for the experiences I had while growing up as an overweight person, it’s part of who I am and the perspective I have on life.
On the nutrition side, my advice would be this — add as many healthy elements to your life as you can, even if you do not immediately eliminate the destructive ones. Add a kale shake to your morning routine. It feels like you’re drinking a glass of pure health and it is encouragement to go forth into the day making healthy choices. Also, it will clean you out like Bernie Madoff, so there’s that.
Make decisions that reinforce a healthy lifestyle, and don’t put yourself in a position to fail. Pack hard boiled eggs when running errands so you’re not tempted to visit a drive-thru. This also keeps things in perspective: you’re hungry, and what is the goal — to ingest sustenance, or to have an indulgent sensory experience? Hard boiled eggs – they’re not exciting, but they’re effective.
The hardest adjustment I had was buying in and believing in my ability to make this happen. It seemed like such an uphill battle, it took a lot of faith to believe I could be successful. There certainly were a lot of very sad scenes on that bike in the summer of 2008. It was discouraging at times, but after a few weeks I didn’t just believe, I knew. Once I knew, everything seemed to fall into place.
There is a definite sense of freedom now. I’m free to leave the comfort of air conditioning on a hot summer day, free to ride a roller coaster, free to walk in a group at a brisk pace while carrying a conversation, etc. I am the same person I was, but the life I’m living feels entirely different.
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