young man sitting on wall

Scholarship Entry: Healthy Routines That Changed My Life

The following is a Pretty Sweet writing scholarship entry by Thomas Robinson, Rutgers University

I was always the chubby/fat kid for as long as I can remember. I remember going to the doctors office and being told I’m 90+ percentile in weight and height for my age. I was made fun of frequently by classmates, other kids around me, and sometimes even my friends. I also had gynecomastia, which was very specifically pointed out/made fun of even by close friends and family at the time which lead to extreme self-consciousness.

This led to about 10 years of either sitting out in the heat and sweating, or wearing (and subsequently ruining) T-shirts by wearing them in the pool or waterpark or anywhere else taking off my shirt was socially encouraged.

This continued thru high school, where mental problems led to substance abuse, poor decision making, and even worse overeating. I had surrendered to the mentality that “I was always fat, and I always will be; I’ve got a slow metabolism; I just cannot lose weight no matter what I try” and although I genuinely believed this at the time, it turns out it was just not the case.

As I got into college and began slowly righting the ship that was my personal life and vices, I became frustrated by the fact that I was out of breath and breathing very heavily when walking into classes at my community college where there’s two flights of stairs to climb from the parking lot. I was around 21 years old, 6’1” male, and hovering around 220-230 pounds.

I was disgusted by myself; the fact my back and neck hurt constantly, and feeling like a 60 year old man in a 21 year old body. I knew something needed to change or else I’d be dead at a young age. Now at 23, I’m down to 160 lbs, I no longer wheeze from walking any distance or up any flights of stairs, and I’m in the best shape of my life. I can fit an adult small shirt which I couldn’t fit since middle school.

All I did was slowly adapt my portions to be closer to the recommended amount (I was vastly overeating every meal, like a whole box of pasta instead of a small fraction, with other parts of the meal).

I got a full-time job that requires me to be active and mobile (very little, if any sitting in an 8 hour shift), where I essentially get 5000-15000 steps of walking just from work, 5 days a week.

I’ve changed my eating schedule to eat a large, hearty breakfast (fresh fruit bowl, slice or two of toast with nutella and PB, and a cup of yogurt or oatmeal, typically); then I work thru the afternoon while skipping lunch entirely, then in the evenings have an equally hearty and balanced meal (usually with some source of protein).

About an hour later, I eat desert (I love to have a bowl of frozen berries with some chocolate syrup, whipped cream, and a scoop or two of ice-cream) with a short glass of 2% milk and watch Netflix/read before bed. I’ve also taken a liking to hiking in nature, and frequently will go immediately after work so I don’t have a chance to get home, get comfortable and shower, and get distracted to where I would never go back out later.

It is a simple equation of consuming more calories than you burn (baseline metabolic rate + daily exercise) means you will continue to gain weight, but flip the equation (consuming less than you burn) means you will steadily lose weight.

All it took for me was a gradual change of habits, which are now ingrained into my life, reversing 22 years of bad habits, bad portion management, and just overindulging overall. Now I am far happier overall, more social, less anxious, and living life to my fullest instead of sitting around, sulking in my own self-pity and misery.

If I can do it, you surely can too! Just get a few hours of walking/standing in per-day, consider outdoor activities like hiking, biking, running, and sports (whatever you prefer) and try to go at least x amount of times per week (however much you’d like to/can afford to).

There’s no magic pills, no magic smoothies or detox supplements that will make the weight come off. It is all a function of the will, and want to change; if you believe you can, you will! Good luck to everyone else out there looking to improve their lives!

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