Last week after 18 weeks of hard work and willpower, I finally reached my goal at Weight Watchers of 164 pounds. I started out the journey at 197 lbs, for a total weight loss of 33 lbs. I haven't been 164 pounds for a VERY long time!
As a congratulations, my wife sent me one of those hilarious Someecards that said "Congratulations for losing the weight we were all pretending you didn't need to lose." After peeing myself laughing, I realized there was some truth to that. I can't count how many times I asked Sarah if she thought I was getting bigger and she'd just tell me she still thought I was as handsome as ever. Of course, I knew she was dodging the question, but it was all I needed to convince myself that nothing was wrong, that I could go on like before and nothing would happen.
Then I hit 200 lbs just before November. I started seeing my old self from high school; the awkward chunky rugby player that won MVP for being a good leader because my athletic prowess would not suffice. The popular kid who walked down the hallway everyday saying hello to his friends while deep inside fearing what everyone was thinking about him. The taunts from a couple of bullies, one who was fierce enough to call me a "fat fuck" from across the hallway. All the girls I liked who just wanted to be friends because they couldn't see past the double chin.
The real kicker came as many revelations do these days, when I was watching my boys play. As a healthcare professional I know the risks of being overweight or obese, I was just refusing to accept that the statistics would hold true in my case. But what if my reckless eating habits and inactive lifestyle meant I would be around for even 2-5 less years with my children and my beautiful wife? And what if that lifestyle meant my boys would grow up to be overweight in school just like me and I would have to have the bedtime chats with them just like mom did with me about how the girls in high school are just stupid and they don't know a good guy when they see one, about how there's absolutely nothing wrong with them even if some cruel classmates point out otherwise?
But even with all of my training and my obesity management certification, I never realized how serious obesity really is. Then I read a mind blowing study published in the medical journal, the Lancet, that attempted to quantify the health effects of being overweight and obese. It was a metaanalysis, which takes all the good quality studies done on a certain topic, in this case overweight and obesity, and lumps the results together in a summary dataset. Lumping the data like this allows for a measure of statistical power that cannot be achieved in a single study. In this case, 57 studies were included, following a total of 900 000 subjects. You basically cannot argue with the conclusions of such a study. What were the conclusions? (The following is borrowed from Yoni Freedhoff at Weighty Matters):
People with a BMI of 22.5-25 had the lowest mortality rates
For every 5-unit increase in BMI over 25 there was a:
30% higher risk of all-cause mortality (death due to any cause)
40% higher risk for death due to heart disease or stroke
60-120% increase in kidney, liver, and diabetic mortality
10% increase in risk of death due to cancer
All said, a BMI between 30-35 reduces life expectancy by 2-4 years.
The real kicker: a BMI between 40-45 reduces life expectancy by 8-10 years, a result similar to smoking!
So for a person my height (5'8") that would translate into a weight of 263 lbs or more. I never reached that level (at my largest I had a BMI of 33, and most recently at 197 lbs I was roughly a 30) but I know plenty of North Americans are well beyond that. In fact, roughly 5% of North Americans have a BMI this high, and I suspect this number is somewhat outdated.
Am I proud of achieving my goal? Absolutely. And why was that my goal? That is the upper limit of a healthy BMI of 25. So I essentially just massively cut my risk of death from multiple causes just by eating a bit less. (Honestly, it really hasn't turned out to be that difficult, which was the biggest surprise!) As long as I stay anywhere between 147 and 164 lbs for the rest of my life, I'll be a happy camper.
I remember a time when I used to scoff at the notion of BMI just because I was convinced I was not overweight and that reaching even a BMI of 25 would be unattainable. But the evidence speaks for itself. Being overweight or obese increases your risk of disease and premature death. And those numbers are based on BMI cutoff points. No more copping out with the "big-boned" defence as I used to. No more complaining that you don't have the time to achieve a healthy weight.
It's attainable and sustainable if you do it right, that is, not too fast (no more than 1-2lbs per week) and making changes that are realistic and fit into your life.
Here's to me maintaining my weight loss and here's to you achieving success (or staying where you are if you're already at a healthy BMI!)