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Weight Loss: The Journey

As you might already know, in the last year, I have lost weight. A lot of it. Between June of last year and the present, I have lost around 90 pounds. That's an entire Calista Flockhart! (Or one-fifth of a Bruce Vilanch!)

Many have asked me: how did you do it? I've even been asked if I had lost all the weight because I was sick. Actually, I've never been healthier. I lost weight not because I was sick, but because I wanted to, and for a few different reasons. The first was pure vanity: I was tired of being fat. I would watch myself in video reviews and cringe. I would tuck or untuck my shirts in different ways to look less fat on camera, or just when walking down the street. I would never go without a shirt just when walking around the house alone because I hated seeing my flabby belly in the mirror.

Don't get me wrong--my self-esteem wasn't as low as it probably sounds. But I was becoming more aware that I didn't look the way I wanted to look. And more importantly, I didn't feel the way I wanted to feel. I was tired all the time. My stomach felt yucky, and I was getting sick a lot. I would lay awake at night, feeling aches in my chest and wondering if I had pulled a muscle, or if I had gotten so fat that I was having a heart attack. (I had frequent thoughts of the hysterical scene from The Simpsons in which Homer has a heart attack.) And (not to sound disgusting), but my bathroom habits weren't normal.

It wasn't how I wanted to live.

June, 2008

And so I took action. My first step was to join a gym. Look: I write about video games for a living. So my day is spent playing games and writing about them. Besides, I am prone to laziness. My idea of a wonderful vacation isn't to go to windsurfing or rock climbing: it's to sit on my *ss and watch American Dad reruns and eat pizza. I knew that becoming active could be the most important part of the process. And let me tell you: it was difficult at first. I went to the gym at least four times a week--and still do, except when life dictates otherwise. (For example, when I got my tattoo, I took a few weeks off to ensure I didn't mess up the ink.) I was huge--and working out with a huge body is exausting. I spent a lot of time on the elliptical because it was easier on my knees but still allowed me to shed a lot of calories in a single session. Gradually, I added other cardio workouts to my weekly routine, along with more and more weight machines, and eventually some free weights.

The process was time-consuming, and took a lot out of me at first. But along the way, something happened: I started to understand the appeal. After a few months, I stopped dreading going to the gym, and started looking forward to it. I "got" it--that adrenaline high that so many people talk about but I always assumed was hogwash. I can't pretend to know the physiology of it, but I do know that I felt good getting on those machines, drawing on the energy of the place and finding new ways to sweat.

But I wasn't just feeling better because of the workouts; I was also feeling better because I had changed my dietary habits. A lot of people have sweet tooths. Me? I have a grease and salt tooth. Chocolate and candy bars are no issue for me. I crave bacon cheeseburgers, and pepperoni pizza, and salt-and-vinegar potato chips. I rarely cooked at home. Most of my food came from restaurants, pizza places, and 7-11s. So I went shopping.

I bought lots of frozen vegetables, and fresh potatoes and onions and peppers. I bought lots of salsa, because it has lots of flavor but few calories. (Just gotta be careful with all the sodium in that stuff.) I started eating protein bars in the morning, and eating vegetables from Lee's Deli in the afternoon. At night, I would microwave a potato with vegetables, spoon on some salsa, and enjoy it with a bottle of Vitamin Water Zero.

And so my body started to change, and not just physically. I started to feel more awake. I started to enjoy the taste of these fresher foods. And at those times when I got weak and treated myself to a burger or some pizza, I felt the consequences. The day after that pizza, I felt gross, and bloated, and I would think to myself: This is what I used to feel like all the time, and had no idea how awful it really was. I thought I hated three-bean salad. As it turns out, it was kind of delicious. "Tofu" was a dirty word at one point. Now, it's a staple of my diet. I discovered that food I always assumed was just "health nut" garbage was actually really good--and it made me feel good when I ate it.

June, 2011

In time, I relaxed somewhat, and adjusted my diet. Breakfast is usually either some plain low-fat yogurt with blueberries and granola mixed in, or oatmeal with some protein powder or walnuts (and maybe some of those blueberries.) Lunch is normal-person lunch: a sandwich and chips and a Pepsi Max from the deli. Though sometimes it's veggie curry, or maybe leftovers I bring from home. (I made a vegetarian chili last week that is still feeding me!) And dinner is sometimes a salad, or maybe Thai food, or I might make some rice and tofu at home. I am not a vegetarian, but I eat more vegetarian food than I ever have before. When I go out to eat, I often go to a Vegan restaurant in the Inner Sunset, or to a vegetarian restaurant downtown. And sometimes I pig out, and order from some place or another. (I live in the Outer Sunset neighborhood of San Francisco near the beach, which is a predominantly Asian neighborhood. Thus, there are any number of amazing restaurants that deliver.)

And so I went from weighing 280 pounds to 190 pounds. Extra-large shirts were sometime too tight before; now I wear a medium in most things. My 44-inch waist is now a 34-inch waist.

And if one thing is certain, I'm never going back.