You Don’t Get Unhealthy Overnight!
My name is Tony Weaver and I live in the Merion Village area of Columbus, Ohio with my wife and partner in life, Liz. Until June 2017, I lived a pretty unhealthy life until I decided to get healthy. I’d like to tell you the story of where I came from and how I let myself get unhealthy.
Poverty Enables Obesity
I grew up in a family of 4 total people: my mom and dad, my younger brother and me.
We grew up in the Franklinton area of Columbus in the 80s and 90s before the hipsters help make it the up and coming area that it is today. It was a rough, non-glamorous neighborhood when I was growing up. It really lived up to its nickname of “The Bottoms”.
I grew up pretty poor – utility shutoffs, repossessions, multiple bankruptcies, public assistance and such. While not the most relevant story for this blog, I will just say it was a rough existence. It was made rougher when I discovered that it was a series of perpetually bad choices that led us to poverty.
Choices are powerful & we choose our own destiny!
An Unhealthy Journey Begins
As you can imagine, growing up in this kind of environment has quite an impact on a kid. It also has quite the impact on bad health and I started my journey of unhealthiness at a very early age.
First, there was a lack of exercise and physical activity. Yes, we had physical education in school and that helped. Yes, we played during recess at school and that helped. Plus, my brother and I would often play in the backyard. But, it was just us and we really didn’t have many friends. We also were never into sports as kids or teenagers, we weren’t on some team, we didn’t get together and play basketball with the other kids, and so on and so forth.
Further complicating the exercise situation growing up and beyond was the discovery that I had a passion for technology. I would spend hours as a kid learning how to write computer programs, how to setup and configure software and how to go “online” through bulletin board systems (BBS) and eventually the internet. This passion carried me through college and often led me to work around the clock building web pages and other software.
Nutrition as a kid and beyond was another challenge. When you have no money, you eat the things you can afford and that is often not very healthy. When we did have disposable income, we would order pizzas, subs, burgers or just go out to restaurants – often buffet style restaurants.
My dad was a big guy. I am guessing he was in the vicinity of 400 pounds and wore a size 60 pants. He also was never very physically active and loved watching movies and eating unhealthy snacks.
I grew oversized very young and was probably obese as early as junior high.
As far back as I can remember, I weighed significantly more than the other kids. When you grow up as the fat kid, you get picked on, bullied and looked down on the whole time. So, I never really built strong self esteem and was always looking for ways to fit in throughout my growing up. This often led me to make bad choices like skipping class to hang out in the band room or computer lab or something.
Because of my shaky foundation and bad choices, I thought I wasn’t going to make it into high school and definitely was concerned about graduating. I was on the same path as my family and was at risk for continuing the cycle of poverty.
My Poverty Turning Point
In high school I made some choices (pushed by my parents) that helped the situation a little bit. I joined the marching band and junior ROTC where I did get some physical activity, but I learned to work the system and minimize how much activity was really required.
Ultimately, junior ROTC really turned my life around and put me on a positive path. That is where I met a teacher who had a profound impact on my life. One of my high school ROTC instructors, Chief Master Sergeant Hamlett (or “chief” for short) quickly recognized my situation.
Chief took me under his wing and helped me understand the value of hard work, helped me learn to recognize and apply my talents and really helped me learn to motivate myself to accomplish my goals. Thinking back, Chief helped me build a positive momentum that carried me through the next 10 years and beyond because he taught me that I had choices and I owned my path.
I graduated with honors and went to college using scholarships and a lot of loans. In college, I learned 2 major things that had an impact on my health…
- I learned to monetize my love of technology. I ran my own freelance IT consulting business in addition to being a major contributor to building a connected college.
- I learned is that an easy way to fit in with guys (and girls) was to go to bars, to drink and to eat unhealthy food. I would often go to lunch with friends and get a triple cheeseburger and think nothing of it. Or, I would drink a lot all the time. But, I got pretty much zero exercise.
Poverty Behind Me, But was Early Death Ahead of Me?
My commitment to technology positioned me well at graduation time and I started a great job in the tech industry in 1998. My #1 priority through the years that followed was my career. I would work long hours on a frequent basis and eat delivery food or from vending machines. I would go out with coworkers or others to bars often. But, still no exercise.
I vividly remember when I went to the doctor in 2001 and he told me that I weighed 307 pounds. It was shocking, I tried to exercise for a couple of weeks, but I failed and just continued on my course.
Every day I was trying to earn a lot of money (a bad side affect of growing up so poor), I ate a lot without regard to my health and I drank a lot. I would drink multiple alcoholic drinks most nights of the week.
In 2014, my dad died at the age of 59. He went from hosting thanksgiving dinner at his house in November (albeit semi-confined to a scooter) to going into the hospital semi-non-responsive in March, to going in and out of the ICU and nursing facility through June. Then, in June, he went back to the ICU and went on life support. My brother and I (who really had no relationship and still don’t today) were in the position of having to choose whether to continue the life support or not. Eventually, in mid-July, he died naturally and we never had to execute on the choice. This is kind of a side-story to my health, but you can see that my incredibly overweight father died at 59. His mother died at age 63. So, early death runs in my family.
Situation was Reaching a Turning Point
Fast forward to 2016 and I turned 40. I had moved into a VERY high stress job in a pretty negative environment. So, I was really feeing stress and working long hours (7a to 6:30p in the office was the norm, then calls on the way home, work in the evening and weekends, etc. – over the years I have become known as the early arrived getting into the office by 7 or sometimes earlier).
I was still not paying close attention to what I was eating and was making some pretty terrible choices. I was also drinking a lot. I was having usually more than one drink every day of the week. Plus, my exercise routine was non-existent and I led a pretty sedentary lifestyle.
I was even making jokes about the severity of the situation. I would talk about the fact that my dad died at 59 and his mother at 63 and would tell Liz that she should plan for her second husband now. I would say things like, “I am overweight, eat like crap, don’t exercise, drink and have a high stress job, so I am on the right path!” It was mostly a joke, but there was some seriousness built into it for sure.
I had grown to a size 52 waist and wore a size 3XL. I was starting to find lots of 3XL clothes that weren’t fitting. I hated how I looked when I looked in the mirror and in photos. I was way too big, and I just assumed that I would be for the rest of my life. I was happy in most other aspects of my life, so I pretty much ignored my health.
Here is an example of what I saw in photos and in the mirror that I hated so much.
In short, throughout my adult life, I have been on a bad road from a health perspective. I was very possibly entering into my last 20 years on this planet. But, I never connected those dots.
My Moment: A Decision to Make a Change
It all started with one Friday night of bad decisions. I had a very draining week of job-related stress and failures. So I decided to meet Liz and some friends after work for a happy hour and I drank a lot. Nothing over-the-top but it was just too much.
The morning after this marathon drinking and eating night was terrible! I woke up with the worst hangover of my life. The hangover was far worse than anything I had ever experienced even on those rare times where I consumed way more alcohol. I don’t know if this was a side-effect of getting older, but it was bad and a bit frightening.
Making the fear factor worse was some prolonged digestive issues I had for a few days afterwards and it took a while to get back to normal. So, I decided to do something I hadn’t done since 2001, I made an appointment to see a doctor!
At my first appointment with a doctor in over 15 years, I learned a lot of bad things about the state of my health.
- I was 325 pounds! That was a shocking, disappointing and embarrassing shock right at the start of my appointment.
- My nutrition was completely irresponsible and very bad for me.
- I was working far too many hours and had an unhealthy level of stress.
- I was drinking too much: quantity and frequency.
- I wasn’t sleeping enough or getting enough water.
- I was getting a dreadfully low amount of exercise.
- My blood pressure was way high.
I walked out of the first appointment with my doctor very disappointed with myself. I was failing at my health! I was on a path towards the early death that I kept joking about. I had let myself get up to 325 pounds!
This was my moment! I needed to make a change immediately and never look back.
This is when I made the decision to take action and do something. I just needed to figure out what that something was. But I needed to lose weight, lose it now and get better.
I was making a choice, I was going to fix this and was not going to let myself fail!
How I am Wired
To help understand the impact of this choice, I want to talk for a second about how my brain works. So, I want to talk about my Gallup StrengthsFinder profile. I am a big advocate for StrenghtsFinder because I think it is a good way to assess yourself and to leverage your strengths.
In my StrengthsFinder profile, my top 5 strengths include:
- Competition: I like to keep score, I like measurable performance and to see my score get better, particularly versus others. Said differently, I am numbers driven when it comes to my performance.
- Positivity: I like to support, inspire and motivate others. Plus, negativity from people is infectious with me and quickly brings me down.
- Communication: I like to connect people to complex information by finding ways to make it more accessible and simple. Plus, I am willing to tell people my stories, my challenges and habits. As evidenced by writing a blog like this!
- Adaptability: I don’t need a pre-defined plan and am often happy just going with the flow. This is a challenge in my day job (project management) and becomes a problem in fitness because I don’t stick to complicated regiments and routines – I am very low in discipline!
- Relator: I like to connect with others by sharing my knowledge, skills or experiences that I have learned while working alone on projects. So, individual fitness accomplishments drive me to share my strategies with others and to learn from others. Plus, connecting with people on fitness could be a big boost.
I needed to figure out a way to approach this journey where I could leverage my strengths and natural wiring in order to ensure success.
I decided that the only way this journey was going to work for me was if I did it my own way and this meant setting some boundaries.
- I was NOT follow somebody else’s plan or fad diet
- I was NOT going to consider surgery
- I was NOT giving up things I enjoyed (beer, bourbon, BBQ, etc.)
- I was NOT going through this alone, I leveraged social media for motivation, accountability and to help others
I focused on the basics and turned to some things that had never let me down to guide my journey: project management and technology.
I also added in a touch of marketing by branding my journey as Operation Melt based on the comments I kept hearing that I was “just melting away!”
Obviously my story has a happy ending, so far, or else I wouldn’t be sharing it.
Plus I happily share my results and my ah-has.
Finally, I have launched this site in order to help you! My goal is to help other people achieve their goals through the support I offer on the site or through direct 1-on-1 coaching and mentoring.
I want to work together to create a world where goals don’t die of loneliness. I want to build a world where everybody is able to melt away their obstacles and achieve their biggest goals in order to lead a healthier and happier life!
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