Hello everyone, my name is Sean Willson and I’m a new writer here at the Sisterhood. While I have no formal journalistic training I have been blogging since 2000, before it was called blogging. It’s also important to mention that I’m not a sister … well, I’m an honorary sister but I’m actually a man. I know I know, you’re probably not sure how a male voice will feel around the Sisterhood among all of these other amazing women. The ladies here seem to like me, have read my blog, and feel like I can add an interesting new male perspective to the mix.
So what makes me tick and how will I fit in here? I thought I’d take a few minutes to tell you my backstory and let you decide. Ready? Grab a cup of coffee or your favorite protein shake and let’s get ready for a lengthy introduction.
The Early Years
I grew up in a small blue-collar town in Michigan, the son of an autoworker. In my family, all men (and boys) cleaned there plates and only after eating seconds. Back then home cooking meant lots crisco, deep frying, soda, and dessert with every meal. Needless to say I’ve been overweight my entire life, pretty much ever since elementary school.
My childhood was all over the place and my parents divorced early in my middle school. I certainly never learned healthy eating going back and forth between houses and I never was into working out. In high-school I was into golf, a bit of tennis, and I was also a caddie for around 6 years. You’d think that caddying would thin me up but it’s amazing what soda, pizza, fast food, and candy can do to a physique.
In college it was more of the same dietary sustenance. Add to the collegiate experience of a big ten school my sedentary degree choice of computers and you can see how by the time I ended college and started working I was over 400 pounds.
After college I found a great job in Chicago (land of deep dish pizza) that had breakfast and lunch as a perk to all employees. They didn’t want you leaving the office taking long lunches or coming in late and missing breakfast or anything silly like that.
You notice that I mentioned food in every paragraph above? I love food just like everyone else but I honestly wasn’t someone who ordered 5 hamburgers in the drive through or anything, I just ate a lot of food that was bad for me over many years. Add to that the fact that I had sedentary hobbies and a sedentary career and you have the making of a lifestyle disaster.
I remember being around 250 in middle school (1985 – 1986) and by 2000 I had peaked at 450 pounds.
“Not until we’re lost
do we begin to find ourselves”
— Henry David Thoreau
In January of 2000, at the heaviest I’d ever been, I was very unhappy with what my life had become and ready for something new. I had always wanted to see the world, get married, have kids, and live life more adventurously.
It was then that I decided to man up, face my fears, and start living life. In order for me to make that happen I had to start filling all of the gaps in my knowledge of healthy eating and figure out what those heavy weighty looking things were used for at that place called “the gym.”
After burying myself in a few books and armed with a new gym membership I lost a lot of weight quickly. As you’d guess, going from zero to anything meant my body was dropping some serious water weight and some fat to boot.
While my weight had taken years to put on I knew it wasn’t going to be coming off over night. I think the fact that I lost a lot or weight (112 lbs) so quickly (in 11 months) led to a bit of an ego problem. Add to that the fact that I wasn’t really mentally prepared for the challenges that the holidays would entail and afterward I was up 30 pounds.
From that point on I went up and down 13 times over the course of 9 years (my weight-loss timeline), yes I failed 13 times. The highest I got up to again was 405 lbs and the furthest I got down to was 338 lbs during attempt one. Along the journey I met the love of my life (Amy), started visiting the world, and slowly started figuring out (through massive trial and error) what worked and didn’t work for my body.
Of course there was one other small thing that happened in March of 2008, the birth of my daughter Abigail. During 2008, as my daughter started to get older it really started to hit me that I was 34 years old and I was still a physical disaster after trying to get fit the past 8 years. I really could die at any second and it was a medical miracle I hadn’t started to show signs of diabetes, blood pressure, or other health side effects typical of being overweight.
I wanted to live to see my daughter grow up, graduate, and have kids. I wanted to grow old with my wife, have more kids, see the world, and live life to it’s fullest. There was no way I was going to ensure I’d see or do any of those in my current state of health.
The Tipping Point
In January of 2009 that all changed … I started to really reinvent how I was going to get healthy. I’ve often likened it to a maturing of my approach to a healthy mind & body and that after years of trial and error I finally struck a balance.
So how am I doing it? Well, that is a lot of what I plan on sharing with you here at Shrinking Jeans. But I’ll give you a quick preview …
I added new and challenging exercises to my previously stale regiment. Gone were the simple weight, elliptical, and recumbent bike. In stepped a wider variety of cardio and strength training at the heart of which was a new found passion for circuit training, cycling, and running. I had never ran (in my life) until March of 2009 and I’m now planning half marathon distance runs.
Another key to my change was that my wife and I started cooking with a wider palette of foods. We not only planned our meals in advance but we actually acted on those plans, crazy ahe? We certainly have a core set of foods we regularly eat but we’re constantly trying to change things up to make them interesting.
One of the other big things, maybe one of the most important, was I stopped beating myself up when I’d “slip up” (in air quotes). The fact is, life happens and I needed to really make this a lifestyle change and not approach it like a diet. I had to allow for foods that I craved and at the same time not get consumption crazy.
I air quoted the “slip up” above because to me it wasn’t slipping up as much as it was just listening to my body. At the time I was “slipping up” I didn’t know what to call it other than that. I have however recently found a more appropriate phrase to associate with it, intuitive eating.
My body craves food and not all of the foods my body craves are the most healthy. That doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t eat them, it just means I shouldn’t eat them in excess. If I crave ice cream then I have some. Gone are the free days of old where I’d detox for days, in are the eat whatever I crave but in small portions.
So where am I now?
In March of 2010 we celebrated the birth of our second child, Bradley. This time around everything felt different and I was already well on my way mentally and physically when he arrived.
In the past I’d always been someone who externally seemed confident in everything I did but internally I was full of self doubt and honestly always felt fat. This was very self destructive and always led to an explosive endings after months and months of hard work.
After 9 years of learning things the hard way I finally realized that my self doubt and poor body image were at the heart of my failures. Add to that realization a hidden passion for activities like circuit training, running, and cycling and this latest leg of my journey has been very successful and rewarding.
I’m currently down over 200 pounds (as of 5/27/2011) and today I’m not really sure what my goals weight is. I know this may sound strange but I haven’t been this weight in over 20 years and honestly don’t know where my body will finally level out at.
In an effort to keep things active and myself accountable I’ve tried to set some aggressive fitness goals by signing up for 3 triathlons and some long challenging bike rides in 2011. While I’ve never done a triathlon in my life I’m jumping in with both feet (like most things I do) and signed up for Sprint, Olympic, and Half Ironman distances this year with aspirations for a Full Ironman in 2012.
None of this journey would have been possible without the support of my family and the love of my life, my wife Amy. She’s been with me through every single up and down and in the beginning accepted me as I was, for better or worse. She’s been there for my 5am workouts, my aggressive goal setting, and the long weekend bike rides. She’s amazing and without her love and support I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.
So there you have it, a brief look at what makes me tick. I know I can get a bit wordy at times but I’m passionate about my journey and sharing it with others. If there is anything I can say or do that can help someone else get their life on track then I want to do it. If there are things you’d like me to talk about then please drop me a line.
Thanks for reading, I hope you’ll find me a valuable and welcome addition to the Sisterhood.
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