More than dieting: Taking the first steps of a lifestyle transformation

Published: Tuesday, July 10 2012 4:09 p.m. MDT

A year ago, I conquered the toughest physical and mental challenge of my life.

For 16 hours, 36 minutes and 4 seconds, I swam, cycled, walked and waddled my way through Coeur D'Alene, Idaho, traversing 140.6 miles to reach the glorious finish line.

My feet were severely blistered. My muscles achy. My body and mind tested like never before. But despite being 70 pounds overweight, I plodded, pushed and persevered.

I couldn't have been prouder to earn the title of "Ironman."

I felt as cool as Robert Downey Jr., even without a cool high-tech, flying suit.

Weighing 140 pounds less than my high of 371, this achievement was supposed to propel me into a healthy and thin lifestyle.

After the finish line, however, my inspiring story took a big, fat detour.

To the fridge.

To the couch.

To unhealthy food at restaurants and bad choices at parties, work, Costco sample booths, drive-thrus and gas stations.

To 11 lazy and overindulging months of a diet-restarts-Monday mentality that resulted in a 70-pound weight gain.

Seeing the big 3-0-0 on the scale after being in the 200s for six years — even in the 190s for three weeks in 2009! — was tougher to swallow than juiced wheatgrass.

After my weight soared out of control up to 301.8, a doctor suggested I try medication for depression at a June 1 checkup. That came days after I had to patch the crotch of my split pants with duct tape at a family get-together.

Rock, meet my bottom.

Friends, family members and those who have followed my weight-loss struggles in my "Losing It!" columns might expect me to lighten this up with some jokes.

But, honestly, my funny fat man routine has worn old. I've used that type of humor to hide the hurt for decades, and that's not working anymore.

My life has been unraveling.

Everything has seemed to be swirling down the drain with my deteriorating health: my family and social life; my faith, spirituality and sense of self-worth; my finances and work satisfaction.

I'm 41 years old going on 82. I can barely walk up a flight of stairs without being winded. Body parts are sore. I can't move like I used to (just last year!). My cholesterol is going up. My lifestyle paved the way for a long and excruciating bout of gout. I'm not fun anymore. I'm not the dad my three (soon-to-be four) children deserve. I'm not the happy-go-lucky husband my wife signed up for.

Sure, I smile and laugh a lot, but it's often just a mask. Inside I've been miserable, seeing dreams slip away because of my insatiable appetite for instant gratification.

I know how to diet. I'm great at it. Heck, just three years ago I got down to 198.2 pounds. I was the centerfold success story in Weight Watchers' magazine.

But previous successes and painful wake-up calls — like my dad dying at age 57 because of weight-related diseases and me needing a stress test because of chest pains, etc. — haven't helped me both lose the weight and keep it off.

I need to fix the root of the problem. I need to make a lifestyle change that lasts — a complete transformation, if you will.

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