In the summer of 2007 I weighed more than I had at any other point in my life. I couldn’t tell you exactly what that number was though because I rarely kept track of it, and really didn’t even pretended to care. I knew I was a little overweight, but come on, it’s not that bad, right? It had been that way for so long I just accepted it, that was part of who I was.
That summer I took a trip to India with my family and I remember thinking that none of the pictures of me from the trip were any good. Maybe they were all taken at a bad angle, or they didn’t catch my good side, or maybe I just wasn’t photogenic. All I knew was that I didn’t like them, and I couldn’t put my finger on it.
I couple months later while I was down in Auburn during football season, someone was playing with my iPhone and somehow snapped a picture of me inadvertently (shown at right, cropped). When I found the picture, I was floored. It was probably the worst picture of me that I’d ever seen. The fact that I was unaware it was taken didn’t help, but the image was burned into my mind because after seeing it, I couldn’t rationalize away the fact that I was fat. Not just a little over weight, but fat. It took a couple of months to process that because I didn’t gain a ton of weight all at once. Instead it was just a slow culmination of eating whatever I wanted for 20 years. Around December 2007, I stepped forward and started with an old business adage – you can only change what you can measure, and I bought a scale.
On my first weigh-in, the scale tipped 220 lbs. For context, I am 5’7″ tall. This equated to a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 34.5, and while I didn’t know it then, I was medically classified as morbidly obese. 220 scared me a little because I was always used to being in the 210 – 215 range whenever I previously got on the scale once in a blue moon. I knew it wasn’t great, but it had been consistent for a long time. Now I was on the verge of gaining even more weight, and I was already wearing pants with a waist size of 40. Any larger, and it’d be much harder to find pants at most normal stores.
I knew I had to lose weight, but I really didn’t have a clue as to how I was going to do it. Most dieting plans never seem to work, and few of them are sustainable in the long run. There are also thousands of dieting plans out there in the first place – I had no idea which one I should follow. So I did the only logical thing someone who didn’t know anything about dieting would do – I created my own.
The Stewart Grace Plan (or “The Plan” for short) was created devoid of all medical advisement to be based on one premise, and one rule. The premise is that deep down we are not morons, and that we all know what we should and should not eat, it’s just a matter of having the willpower to do it. The one rule in The Plan is that if you don’t think you should eat something, then you’re probably right. I guess it’s really a form of eating by process of elimination.
The initial purpose of The Plan was really more of a lifestyle change than a diet. When I first started, my goal was to eat healthy for a little bit and just see what happened. I didn’t want the expectations or the pressure of a full blown diet in case it didn’t work out – I didn’t want it to be a “New Year’s Resolution” that ended up with a one month shelf life. So I started making little changes in my eating habits. I switched drinking coke to coke zero, and tried drinking water whenever I ate out. I stopped eating out except for when it was for social occasions, and then actually tried eating salads every once in a while.
After seeing a little success with The Plan, I started building on it. I still didn’t know much about nutrition, but I knew that all of the labels on food were based on a 2,000 calorie diet. I figured that ultimately, losing weight is a math equation: Starting Weight + Food Consumed – Exercise = Ending Weight. Every day, this equation stays the same. So if I ate less than 2,000 calories, I’d probably lose weight. While I never religiously counted calories, I started looking at the labels of things I ate to stay informed. Just being aware of how many calories were in what types of things made choosing the right things much easier. I also never told myself that I couldn’t eat something, only that what I ate had consequences. A cheeseburger today, meant salad the rest of the week.
It was a slow process, but I kept losing roughly two pounds a week for about six months from mid December 2007 through June 2008. In total, I lost 50 lbs, six inches on my waist, an inch and a half on my neck, and dropped from an XL to a L. As you can imagine, I had to replace my entire wardrobe! I even probably weigh 20 lbs less now than I did when I graduated high school!
What I’m proud of most though is that about two years after starting to lose the weight, I’ve kept all of it off. There’s still a little more work to do, but I don’t plan on the weight ever coming back.