60 pounds in 90 days

About 90 days ago I weighed 240 pounds. Today I weigh 185 pounds.

Today I reached a pretty big milestone day in terms of the health journey that I have been on for the last 3 months and so I decided it was time to write, reflect, and hopefully inspire. Way back when, 3 months ago, my BMI was 32.5 which was a step beyond the overweight category, sitting firmly in the obese range. Today, when I took my weight, my BMI clocked in at 25, which is considered in the healthy/normal weight range.

It’s pretty baffling to me how I was able to lose so much weight in such a little amount of time — I could be on the cover of the magazines that are like “new super easy diet will lose you 50 pounds in 50 days!”. However, I think that the things that I did to get to a healthy lifestyle are easily replicable. I hope that by writing this, some people will be inspired to pursue their own health and fitness goals because if I could do it, anyone can.

Step 1: The plan

Going into this past summer, I didn’t particularly decide that I was going to get into shape and slim down a bunch. At least not in the beginning. Gary, Sunny, and I just got a three month gym membership and planned to go to the gym a bunch over the summer. However, over the first month of gymming, I didn’t actually lose any real weight. We did weights and light cardio routinely 4–5 times a week, so clearly I was putting in the hours in the gym. However, the one thing I wasn’t doing was putting in the hours at the kitchen.

Without a good plan for eating healthy, nutritious food, I was just eating what I would always eat; the same food that got me to the ridiculously high weight in the first place. This stuff includes lots of meat (because gotta get that protein, right bro?), snacks, eating out a bunch, and of course tons of sweet foods.

However, one month into the summer I went on a college touring trip with my family (for my senior brothers) and during that trip I read a book that spoke to the health benefits of a nutritious, unprocessed, vegan diet (not diet in the sense of eating less food, but diet in the sense of what food you do and don’t eat). Since I read the book I decided might as well give it a go, and the rest, as they say, is history.

So my plan for getting into shape isn’t exactly a revolutionary one: exercise lots and eat healthy. However, it is one that people don’t seem to believe. I always see people doing one or the other. Either I am going to starve myself to death or exercise myself to death. Whenever people notice I lost weight, In their minds it’s always because either I started dieting or started exercising. The truth of the matter is that you need to do both if you want to see any meaningful return on investment.

Step 2: The gym

The key to the gym isn’t to run yourself to the ground or break your back doing squats everyday. I think what led to my success was two things: consistency and goals.

Because Sunny, Gary, and I would go to the gym together everyday after our internships, we were able to keep each other in check and go almost everyday. There were lots of times when one of us was getting lazy or not feeling it, but the other two would push him to come. This led to extreme consistency in terms of exercising and that just built a very good habit for me. Now, if I don’t work up a sweat during the day I start feeling antsy and then just go on a run to get it out of my system.

The second key is making each workout meaningful by setting goals and striving/pushing for them. This summer the first big goal I had was to run my first 5K (3.1 miles). Rachel asked if I wanted to do the San Francisco Marathon 5k with her and after agreeing to do it, I was able to start running with some purpose. I downloaded the Nike running app to keep track of my progress (I am the type of person that loves seeing the total miles run accumulate) and kept pushing myself to run farther than before every few runs.

I started the summer being able to run maybe half a mile before losing my breath and having to stop. Since then, I have ran over 100 miles and now can comfortably run 4–5 miles. I am currently training for a 10K (6.2 miles) later this semester.

Running is not easy; I used to hate running. But I truly believe that if I could become a consistent runner, than anyone can work their way into it as well. All that it took was consistency, patience, and hard work. And the bottom line is that running is the best form of cardio — elliptical, bike machines, and stair steppers be damned — so if you want to lose some serious weight, you should commit to doing some serious running

I also believe that doing weights and having a workout plan for all your muscles is very important. It just leads to better health/strength overall and when you have more muscle, you use more energy doing everyday things as well as cardio, and so you actually burn more calories! And for all you women, doing weights is not going to turn you into the female hulk.

The last thing I’ll say about exercising is that don’t just hit the gym everyday because that probably will get boring. On days that I didn’t go for a run, or go do weights, I would be playing basketball, tennis, biking, or hiking. It turns out that getting food isn’t the only way to hang out with your friends and some alternatives are super healthy.

Step 3: The food

This is the part that people found the most intriguing: “How the hell are you vegan??? Is there anything you can even eat with other than grass???”.

Yes, I’ve been vegan for about 3 months now, and yes, I think it has helped me get healthy. However, you don’t have to be vegan to have a healthy diet. The real key that I always try to explain to people is that I don’t eat much processed food and try to make sure the things I am eating have a lot of nutrition in them.

Committing to being vegan just happens to make these goals a lot easier. The restriction on dairy, first of all, prevents you from eating a bunch of unhealthy things such as cakes, cookies, and other sugary, milky things. The restriction on no meat, on the other hand, is a good thing because it turns out that most of the meat that we eat contains large amounts of unhealthy preservatives and chemicals that generally aren’t that good for your health.

I won’t try to convince all you carnivores out there that meat is not very healthy; you can read up on that on your own time. However, the bottom line is that even a vegetarian or omnivore diet can be mostly healthy if you just don’t give in to your desires. The flip side of this is also true: any diet, even vegan, can be very unhealthy if you don’t do it right. However, if you eat healthy, organic, and extremely tasty food, you will not only feel healthier, but you will also eat less food and not feel the need to gorge on other things.