Feeling Great at 54

Today is my 54th birthday, and I want to reflect on how I feel and look compared to a few years ago; specifically before I began the process of undoing some unhealthy habits. So I will give a brief history of that process from roughly the beginning of 2010 until today. I won’t go into excruciating detail, but I will note the highlights, at least from my perspective.

Me with the 32kg

Snapshot of me in January 2010: All my suits were hanging unused in my closet because I couldn’t fit in the trousers; I wasn’t wearing the custom vests my wife made because I was too big in the waist; over the past couple of years I bought several pairs of dress slacks with expandable waist bands to wear to my day job in an office. Oh, and a couple of larger belts, too.

Me before

I was essentially sedentary, weighing in at 200+ pounds and about 30% body fat. These numbers are guesstimates, as I stopped weighing myself when I saw 199 on the scale for the first time in my life. To be completely honest, being sedentary wasn’t the only reason I was where I was physically; let me just say that 1) alcohol does contain a lot of empty calories and 2) you cannot exercise off or wish away a drink or two.

Snapshot of me in December, 2010: I’m skipping over how I finally felt enough shame and humiliation over how I allowed myself to get into the sad state I was in. I will say that a great part of it was realizing (thanks to my patient and understanding wife) that I was dealing with some serious family-related emotional issues (milestone one). Once I came to terms with that, I fixed myself emotionally and I was ready to fix myself physically.

I started eating better in May. I first picked up a kettlebell on June 21, 2010—an 18 kg (milestone two).

I ran a 5K in September, October, and November and a 10K in December. My times improved such that I ran the 10K with a 7:40 mile pace. An aside—when I first started to run regularly again (in August) my knees and shins hurt. I assumed it was because I hadn’t run regularly for several years. I was informed of barefoot/minimalist shoe running (by my wife) and lo and behold, no more knee or shin pain (milestone three).

By December I was feeling pretty good about myself. I shed a couple inches off my waist, about 40 pounds and was at roughly 20% body fat. My self esteem was higher than it had been in a while and my outlook on many things was much more positive (correlated to my self esteem?). Since I enjoyed training with kettlebells so much, I decided to become certified as an RKC kettlebell Instructor. (My wife and I decided to do this together; however, I’m relating this from my personal perspective.)

Snapshot of me in June, 2012: I certified as an HKC kettlebell Instructor in January, 2011. I certified as an RKC kettlebell Instructor in May, 2011 (milestone four).

Snapshot of me today, a personal revelation and summary: I have made eating well and staying fit a lifestyle and a habit. To prove my point, I want to relate this story. On June 12 of this year I had surgery to repair an inguinal hernia (men have a 1 in 4 chance of getting one, that’s just how it is). I was told not to lift anything over 10 pounds for four weeks as my recovery (that actually included our two middle-aged portly cats). I was a good boy and did what the doctor ordered.

Of course, I was back in the gym the day after my four weeks were up. I recorded my stats prior to and after the four-week period:

Before: 165.2 lbs, 10.3% body fat, 140.8 lbs muscle mass

After:     163 lbs, 7.5% body fat, 143.4 lbs muscle mass

I know this isn’t scientific, but since I had the ‘before’ data I frankly was curious to see how much my body fat and possibly weight increased. I assumed it would since I was essentially sedentary for four full weeks. I was surprised, but apparently I am doing something right as to nutrition and diet. Basically, I eat a “paleo” diet and practice intermittent fasting. Although I knew this, I have proved (to me, at least) that nutrition clearly is the most important factor in body composition.

Speaking of body composition, you can see the difference in my before (September, 2008; 200+ lbs, 30% body fat) and now (164 lbs, 8% body fat; that is a 32 kg (71 lb) kettlebell that just last week I was able to press overhead) pictures. It’s the kilt that makes me look thinner, I think.

From then until now, I have been constantly challenging myself physically and mentally and have experienced continual improvement. To all of you that have graciously taken the time to read this, I would like to say this, based on my experience:

You can get healthy and fit no matter where you are now and no matter hold old you are, and

Getting fit and healthy is a choice; staying fit and healthy is a mindset and a habit.