“If you don’t change your life, you will die early Matthew.” Could there be a more powerful statement in your life at age 27? My name is Matt Frates and I once heard that from my doctor after a medical scare shortly after my 27th birthday. Being forced to process my own mortality at a time when I was supposed to be in my prime was, and still is to this day, the largest pill I have ever had to swallow. I had to deal with the fact that I was not invincible, and the destructive lifestyle I unconsciously chose to live would have dire consequences on my future.
The next day I received a work email about a session of Weight Watchers starting the following week. That, my friends, was “the sign.” It was time to get my life together.
For all of you readers out there, whether you have lost weight or have yet to take that plunge, we all will have that moment where we are ready, and boy do you have to be. I marched into that WW meeting ready to take on the world, thinking about how I needed to lose this weight to be in the place I should be. I signed up, I paid, and I stepped on the scale. BAM! I was slapped in the face with the true reality. I weighed 312 pounds. Come again? I will spell it out; three hundred and twelve pounds! I was embarrassed and I was scared, but I was motivated. I wasn’t there for anyone but myself. I was ready to do whatever it took to change my life and my lifestyle, NOT to go on a diet.
That day, February 25, 2010, was the start of the rest of my new life.
Making life changes is never easy and I started by going home and throwing away all the food I had in my apartment. It was time to start fresh. I bought all new food, made menus, and stuck to the plan. The first week I lost 6.2lbs and the following week 2.9lbs. I was on a roll. I began exercising five days a week, tracking all of my food, yet still enjoying life. Throughout 2010 I lost close to 50 pounds by sticking to my points and exercising vigorously. My exercise involved massive amounts of cardio, which included the elliptical, the stationary bike, and rowing machine. I loved seeing the amount of calories burned at the end of a gym session. The day when I hit 1000 calories burned I thought was the best accomplishment of my life. I was set for life right? Or so I thought.
In mid-June of 2010 I received a phone call from a good friend asking me if I had heard of an event called the Warrior Dash. I had not, but upon checking it out, I saw that it was a 5k (3.1 miles) with obstacles. I knew I hated running but the concept sounded like so much fun. Starting in July I began to get my butt on the treadmill and attempt to run. It was ugly for sure, but I made it to the point where I could run about 2 miles of the 5K distance. The event was in Amish country Pennsylvania and it was a blast!
What is significant about this story is the fact that I finished in 49 minutes when I had expected to finish in well over an hour. I felt so good about myself and what I had done that I began to think I could do it again. You know what I found out? I actually enjoyed running! I did my first 5K on Thanksgiving of that year and then my first 10K two weeks later and it became official, I was hooked.
Since then, my journey through weight loss has taken on a completely different meaning. No longer was it just about the weight or even about the food. It became about something so much deeper. Running, not food, became my new passion, my new addiction. It filled my body, my mind, and my heart with something food never could. All the mindless eating I had done to satiate the repressed and misunderstood emotions I was carrying around could never have given me what the sport of running has over the last two years.
Over that time I have competed in 19 races, including five half marathons and a Tough Mudder. On October 7, 2012 I will run my 20th and most challenging race to date, the Chicago Marathon. The marathon and its 26.2 miles will be a microcosm of my journey through weight loss. It will be long, it will be difficult, but ultimately it will end with a feeling of satisfaction that nothing else can give. It will not be the end of this journey, just steps into another phase of it.
As I sit here writing the conclusion to my story I thought of three powerful thoughts that have kept me so successful over the years. The first tip I can give is never look at losing weight as a diet. The word diet implies deprivation and carries a negative connotation with it. Think of it as the start of the rest of your life because this is about changing your lifestyle. The second tip I can give is to always remember that satisfying your mental appetite is just as important, if not more, than satisfying your physical appetite. Weight loss is not a sprint it is a marathon. That may sound cliché but it’s true. Many of us know emotional eating all too well and it does not go away once we are ready to change our lives. Just be aware of the mental aspect of weight loss because it will be there through the bad times AND the good times. Lastly, and most importantly, never doubt yourself. If my story can teach one thing it is that ANYTHING is possible. When I started I never thought I would have become the person I am. That desire, that sense of purpose is in all of you. Some of you may have found it and for some it may be dormant, but it is there. Always believe … always. Good luck to you all on your journeys and thank you for taking the time to hear about mine.
Yours in health,