Eric Naiman and Paul Antonelli |
Just like the last 104 Mondays, Eric climbed onto the scale in January of 2017 and together we waited to see what the number would be.
Eric stepped off the scale. We had a moment of silence. Eric stepped back on the scale.
It had been two years since we first met early on a Monday morning and began this ritual. Almost every aspect of our daily lives had changed since then, but Eric's commitment to the plan had produced his 176-pound transformation. We took a few photos and got out the tape measure.
At 212.8 pounds, Eric had surpassed his 170
pound weight loss goal by 6 pounds.
"This isn't over. Nothing changes," I said.
"I know. This is a lifestyle," Eric responded.
As fitness professionals, we know that "maintenance" is where many clients fail. I personally had my own weight loss journey resulting in trimming down 73 pounds many years back, and every day since than I've kept in the back of my head that gaining the weight back would be the worst thing that could ever happen to me.
Why do 95 percent of people that lose the weight gain it back? That answer is simple, the program wasn't sustainable. As personal trainers, we work in and around fitness, and we live a lifestyle drastically different than our typical clients. Far too often trainers design plans for clients that too closely resemble our daily lives and not theirs. Creating a client-centric plan is key for sustainability.
When Eric and I designed his plan, I wanted something that wouldn't considerably change over time. His new lifestyle wouldn't accommodate exercising five hours a day or eating an incredibly calorie-restricted diet. Sure, he might lose the weight faster if he did those things, but as soon as he returned to his "normal" schedule he would gain the weight back. Could his calorie intake goal remain the same after he finished losing the weight? Yes, the 2500 calories daily he had been eating was comfortable for him. Could he continue to workout one hour a day -five to six times a week? Yes. Exercise had become an important part of his daily life that he enjoyed. Additionally, Eric had developed friendships through his gym. They helped keep him accountable, but also enriched his social life and I knew he wouldn't want to lose these relationships.
So, when did we transition into maintenance? Maybe we never did. Or perhaps after we completed that first week two years ago we went directly into maintenance. We created a lifestyle that he could be comfortable with from Day One. Yes, we slowly adjusted as issues arrived. Yes, as his health improved we increased the intensity of his workouts. But we never looked at it as anything other than a permanent lifestyle change: Eric's "new normal."
What did this journey teach me? Simply put there are no gimmicks, there isn't a magic pill, that the path sometimes has barriers, but if you slowly connect the dots you can build a better life.
On Sunday, January 26, 2017, two years after I began my weight loss journey, I stepped on the scale. Not only did I hit my 170 pound weight loss goal, but that I had lost an additional six pounds.
During his 176 pound weight loss journey, Eric gained not
only physical strength, but mental strength as well.
As happy as I was to surpass my goal, I had to stay focused and continue to look forward. Early on in my journey I had adopted the theory that 170 pounds was just an arbitrary number. It was a measurement that could be quantified to show what a weight loss accomplishment would look like. I often question what the difference in my appearance or my general health would be, if I had lost 160 pounds or 180 pounds? Regardless of the number, the reality always sets in that if I were to stop grinding, stop staying committed, and gain all the weight back, this journey was for nothing. I have the option of being the usual statistical failure, by stopping everything that I am doing and gaining the weight back. Or I can continue to move forward and find new motivations to reach my new fitness potential and grow as a person.
When I was at my biggest, people (and in particular women) would not even look at me, let alone talk to me. I used to have to work very hard, and in some cases go very much out of my way, to get people to realize that I was a human being and a viable option for friendship. As I lost the weight people started to root for me. They started to see me as someone who was chasing a dream and was focused and dedicated to becoming victorious. In social settings people (yes, women too) felt more comfortable approaching me, talking to me, and getting to know me.
When I was at my biggest, my fashion taste was bland and limited. Now that I have lost the weight, I feel more comfortable and enthusiastic about buying new clothes and creating a fashion style that represents who I am. Finally, I think the biggest and maybe the most important lesson I am learning as my journey is progressing, is that I am starting to open my eyes to see and understand the challenges other people face, whether it is obesity related or not. At my biggest I had an "out of sight, out of mind" mentality, so I was unable to understand why certain people acted the way they did. As I was losing the weight, I noticed that there was a lot of hurt in the world. By learning to identify and understand the challenges people face, perhaps I can be a source of inspiration and motivation. Perhaps I can help somebody learn about themselves, so they can face and overcome their challenges too.
As my life is changing for the better, I still look at the mirror and remind myself that 176 pounds is not the end game, it's just part of the journey.