Not so long ago, I was 625 pounds. I took cholesterol and blood pressure medication, walked with a cane, and hated life and myself. As many of you know, I've been on an amazing journey, a journey to take back my life. I'm not a teacher, a doctor, nor do I have a degree or any plaques on my wall. What I do have is the experience, a plan, that helped me to regain control of my life, and I want to help you to do the same. Let's do it together. Dan Hawthorne

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Simplicity: The Key to Consistency.

Happy Spring everybody! 

 I am so excited to share with all of you that for the first time in twenty plus years, I will be enjoying the season on the high side of two hundred pounds. Yup! I weighed myself a few nights ago, and I can't believe it myself, but my latest goal--of reaching the two hundred's--has been reached, and friends, we're on the home stretch now! 

Can I get a high five? How about an AMEN?  "We've come a long way baby," (Insert Elvis-like voice here).

I'm looking forward, into the future, and I see all the things I've ever wanted to do--many for the first time-- like enjoying a long bike ride, hiking, or walking more than a few feet at a time.  I see myself living an active and productive life and it excites me.  Can you tell?  However, I'd be failing miserably if I did not share with you the key to my success, so, get comfy, get a drink and fluff a pillow--we're going to talk shop.

How did I get started? This is the number one question I'm asked, and thinking back, I'm still surprised at how painless it really was.  I mean, let's face it, when food is your only friend, one tends to not want to piss that friend off by ignoring them.  I truly believed that in order to lose one simple pound, I would have to flip my whole world upside-down.  I thought-- with great dread-- that I'd never enjoy another bottle of Chocolate milk or eat another slice of pizza.  Not true!  Sure, you will have to take a break from dysfunctional friends, for just a tad while, but eventually you can slowly reintroduce yourself to them-- on your own terms.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Lets back up to where the adjustments actually started and what they really look like.

I expected my transformation to get ugly.  I thought I'd be sneaking food, even dreaming about food, but truly it was tougher to spot the necessary changes then it was making them.  We become blinded to our own habits and forget that the little changes often led to bigger ones.  I remember, it was Thomas (Berge), my friend and fitness guru at the time, who insisted that I write down everything I ate.  Then on Friday's, together, we'd go over it.  Right away, he pointed out that I was eating way too much bread. So, I cut back and switched from white to whole wheat.  Then there was the issue of soda--I was drinking it!  And because I'd been drinking a good amount of it, I cut back at first, testing my withdrawal symptoms before finally cutting it out all together.  I can honestly say that I miss soda, but now I enjoy it as a treat, and it's actually water that my body craves.  For instance, if my O2 intake is low for the day, my body will tell me in a series of intense cravings and or headaches.  I'm learning to listen to what my body needs. If I ache there's a reason.

These adjustments happened naturally, quickly, and with little effort on my part. Who would have ever thought that I'd become addicted to water? No me. But I do love it!  And not only did I change my beverages of choice but I was eating more chicken and less beef.  Instead of reaching for M&M's, I reached for unsalted almonds.  I began to live by the notion that if the food came in a bag, box or can, it was probably not good for me.  I shopped more on the outside aisle of the supermarket then the middle lanes where the processed products are stored.  I became one with broccoli and salad, never once counting calories or fat content.  

Now, there's nothing wrong with counting, especially if it helps you to cut back on your portions. Then by all means count away, but all those numbers and percentages were too much for me. I did not wish to spend my time, pen and chart in hand, writing down every single calorie I'd eaten.  No. No. No.  I wanted to keep my food journal simple, as I believed--and still do--that simplicity is the key to consistency.  When one has to tackle a mountain of changes, why make things more difficult by adding more nonsense and busy work to the task? Keep it trouble-free. Don't be afraid to keep yourself honest too by asking a friend, as I mentioned I did above, to go over your food journal with you. It helped to have a second opinion, just make sure that the person you're consulting is already living a healthy life style.  It doesn't help to ask a fellow chocolate milk junkie (my food-drug of choice) if 9 bottles of chocolate milk was a bit much last week when they're drinking 10. Make wise choices.

(By the way, I still drink chocolate milk, once in a while, and let me tell you, the pizza I shared with a group of friends last week was da-bomb baby!!!) 

What about exercise? I know you're wondering. (Man-oh-man) When you're as large as I was (625), it was a chore to get up and get moving!  My body hurt. I'd spent most of my life on the couch, and I admit it, I did very little but sit there and shove Twinkies in my mouth (RIP Twinkies).  I loved to snack and watch the idiot box (TV). For two years, I sat dormant snacking my so-called life away and growing bigger.  When the time came to make a change, I knew I would have to give up a little TV time and get off the couch--in short, move.  I had it in my mind that I would have to spend hours in the gym, killing myself. What an oxymoron, as I was already killing myself, only from a sitting position.

Anyway, as I was saying, I thought I was going to have to suffer, and like most people, dreaded the idea of going to the gym.  So I was pleasantly surprised when Thomas had me in the gym a mere three days a week.  I was too big to stand for long periods, so I sat on a stool and through a medicine ball back and forth, side to side, anything to get moving.  I worked my heart on the hand bike, and swung heavy floor ropes, but no workout lasted more than 20-25 minutes. 

Before I started to going to the gym, and before Thomas, I actually went to a local pool on Dual Highway (Hagerstown, MD) and swam. Nothing crazy, I just got in the water and moved my body.  Friends, it did me wonders!  If I spent three days in the gym then I would spend a day at the pool. But if I couldn't make the gym those three days then Id swim more. I switched it up and it didn't take long before my body began to feel younger, and with less join paint, I began to swim harder and faster. Not because I had to, not because Thomas told me too, but because I could and I wanted too.

 For every change I could see, I was that much more motivated to eat right and move more.  My body transformation actually happened faster than my ability to mentally absorb what was happening in my life. I had not been on a diet, as I'd thought, but rather I was making a permanent lifestyle change.  This was my new life and I was never going back to that couch! 

Was it easy? No, I won't lie, it's work. But it's not torturous, and I'm here to tell you, with 22 months of proof backing me up, that those small changes will give you what you need to get back your life.  For the first time in over twenty years, I am two pounds away from standing on the 200 side of the scale. So, if you're thinking this cannot be you, that you cannot regain your health by simply changing from white to wheat, drinking less soda and more water, getting up off the couch and moving a mere 20 minutes a day, then I challenge you to prove me wrong--test it. I guarantee, every little change you make will mean a world of difference. That little bit of confidence gained will take you to that next level where bigger changes lead to more success.

 Trust me: Simplicity is the key.  I've lived it. You can to.  



Monday, March 4, 2013

Revisiting That Man in the Mirror

Not so long ago, I was standing in front of the mirror and facing a six hundred and twenty five pound giant. He was an angry giant. He was also very scared and sad.  He felt he had no purpose, no value, no reason to live, and I wanted to slay him just like David slayed the giant (Goliath). 

It wasn't easy to face him. I had to gather up all my strength and courage just to look him in the eyes, and when I did, I wanted to knock him to the floor. I wanted my victory, and I knew I had it, the minute I saw the big man begin to cry.  For awhile I watched myself, crumbling before me, with an unforgiving heart. Yeah, let him cry, I thought.  He deserves to feel all the shame and hurt he's caused me.  Look at me! I'm huge! And as my anger passed to grief, exhausted, my composure returned and I looked deeper into my own eyes. I forced the giant to finally see me--the real Dan, struggling for every breath under the weight of what I'd become.  I was in there, somewhere. I had not died- not yet.

It was shame and anger that brought me to my knees that night but it was compassion and forgiveness that gave me hope. The question I asked myself was simple: How bad did I want to live? 

I didn't know if I could win the battle but I sensed I had at least one more good fight left in me. I knew this giant looking back at me well. He could change, if he could just let go of his anger and move one step forward.  If he could forgive himself as easily as he forgives others, he may even win. 

What was it that finally got me off the couch and to that mirror when nothing else could? ME! Not my family--and they did try--not my wonderful friends who loved me. Not God (So, I thought, because I didn't believe in him anymore). 

I bonded with that giant and had what I've often called my "Mirror Moment". It happened suddenly. I didn't have a plan before, nor after the mirror moment, but once the initial anger and emotion subsided, we had formed a team.  I'm not going to tell you we were a well organized team because we were a mess.  We were as low as a person can be, but with God's help (Yes, the God I didn't believe existed at the time) and some last-ditch human grit, we knew we had to try to get out of HELL--if it was the last thing we did, which was now a growing reality. 

That was 20 plus months ago but I think about it often.  In fact, last week, I was speaking in front of a crowd of Hagerstown, Maryland's, elite--the doers and the shakes of the community--and as I spoke I began to look around at not just the immediate faces seated in front of me but every face in the room. A woman, studiously performing her duties by collecting the dirty dishes, paused in her work. Arms full of table wear, she was listening. Then I glanced over to a a smartly dressed man in the front row. He was highly educated and no doubt respected by those seated around him. He was listening. All were listening, making eye contact with a one-time Giant. 

Fact is, we all know someone who is, or we are our selves, suffering from Obesity!  Take a look at the sobering numbers in America alone. 
  • 10-15% of all Americans suffer from some type of serious eating disorder.
  • 61% of American adults are either overweight or obese.
  • One out of every five US adults is classified as obese (BMI of 30 or greater).

As I spoke that afternoon, I realized how indiscriminate this was and it merely reaffirmed what I know to be true--you must fight yourself to win. In the beginning you will be your own worse enemy.  You will worry about the foods you think cannot live without. You will doubt yourself and you will talk yourself into starting "tomorrow" rather than "today".  But in the end, you will have to look you in the eye. You will have to face yourself in that mirror and slay your own beast. Until you do that, you won't have that new life that you so deserve. 

After the talk that afternoon, people came up to me. They shook my hand and I even got a few hugs. And when I got back to my room, I felt so good, I went in to the bathroom and faced that man in the mirror.  I really looked at him, just as intently as I did before.  Sure, the face of the man had changed--thinner and healthier-- but the soul was the same.  He was smiling and inside those eyes, I saw a man of value and purpose. I saw a man who was touching people.  I no longer wanted to hit him; I wanted to hug and high-five him.  I never thought I'd see the day that I could actually say that I was proud of that man in the mirror but I am.  And though the Giant is no longer around, I remember him well, and I thank him. For he helped make me the man I am today. 


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