How I Lost 41 Pounds

by Brick O’Neil

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Friday January 2, 2009

In January 2007, my waist was 42 inches and I weighed 197 pounds. I was huge, I was miserable and I couldn't walk very far. So, I decided to start taking care of myself: Fast forward to December. I decided to buy a new pair of jeans, because the 36 inch waist jeans were falling off my hips. The 34 inch jeans were too big, same for 33 inch and 32 inch. Imagine my surprise and excitement when I found out I could now wear jeans with a 30 inch waist!

How much did I lose? I lost 41 pounds and six sizes. That feels great! How did I do it? The short and sweet answer is, diet and exercise. The reality is much more complex than that. The weight loss took a lot of work, dedication and willpower.

In 2003 I received a kidney transplant (still going strong) and knew I had to start taking better care of myself if I wanted to keep it (and prevent a heart attack or stroke). The year before in 2006 I lost significant weight but, life threw some wrenches in my path, and I began to eat to comfort myself. In 2007, I took a look at myself in the mirror; I looked 9 months pregnant. I looked down and realized I couldn't see my feet. That got me, and realized I needed to do something.

That 'something' began in my mind. I knew I needed to wrap my mind around wanting to lose weight, tone up and exercise, or it would never happen. If my mind wasn't behind me, the plan would fail. That was the problem the first time. My mind wasn't ready and I was uncommitted. Weight loss begins with the mind. If you can wrap your mind around it, it'll happen, which can be said of anything in life.

Next was food and exercise. I never had had a weight problem before. Growing up, I was always the skinny family member, eat anything I wanted and never gain an ounce. I know. My family hated me too. Once, a cashier asked if I was with my mom and brother, because they were 'hefty' and had piled fattening foods on their plate. Here I was, skin and bones, with low fat foods. When I was on dialysis, food had lost its flavor and appeal. After my transplant, I discovered "Hey, food really does taste good!" And I tasted. And tasted. When I made up my mind to eat better, I began buying and studying low-fat and vegetarian cookbooks. I thought there had to be a better way to prepare vegetables than steaming lumps of goo. My cooking has vastly improved (just ask my dad) and I'm enjoying a wide variety of vegetables prepared many different ways. My favorite recipe is "Ratatouille".

One rule I made was to never deny myself anything. If I cut anything out completely, I would crave that thing until it would be all I could think about. Then I would gorge myself. Allowing myself a small portion of whatever food(s) a few times a year won't hurt. I had to learn how to eat, all over again. Eating slowly, enjoying and savoring each bite. What was the texture? Was it sweet? Salty? Is the food dense? Light? There was so much to learn about eating.

Exercise. That was a four-letter word to me. Walking was always enjoyable, so I started walking around my neighborhood where I lived. That first walk was less than one hundred feet. I was gasping for breath, clutching my chest and my legs felt like jello. After a time, I was making the 1.25 mile walk in 20 to 30 minutes. Now, I can walk for hours without feeling pain or shortness of breath. I've even included reverse sit-ups and lifts, to start toning my body. I may join a gym to start some strength training.

It's been a long year, but the time has flown by. I've enjoyed preparing and eating a wide variety of foods I would have never attempted before. I've seen the beauty of nature and cityscapes through meandering, walking and hiking. There was so much I was missing before and I didn't even realize it. One thing I don't miss is those 41 pounds. Yes, I include the one pound. That's the emotional and psychological one.

And these jeans with the 30 inch waist feel pretty darn good, too.

Brick is an Health & Fitness contributer.