Sometimes in life things seem to come together almost at random. Many people spend the days leading up to New Years telling themselves that they're going to do this or stop doing that. Most don't last and those going past a week are truly dedicated to the cause (or under doctor's orders). Why does this happen? Wrong mindset. The dedication is there, but the true gravity of their decision hasn't sunk in yet. So how does one go around changing your lifestyle for the better?
Up until February this year I was a smoker, not the pack-a-day kind of smoker, but a smoker nonetheless. I also weighed the wrong side of 110 kg (242 pounds for the non-metrics). For a very long time I wanted to quit, but nicotine addiction is a harsh thing and I failed miserably in my first attempt in 2010. So I kept going, gradually reducing my smokes a day from about twelve to a rather less unhealthy seven. I was proud of myself for achieving as much, but I knew the welcoming period for first years was upon us and that the stress it caused would ultimately lead to more smoking. Apparently mother nature had other plans. You see, that January was pretty damn hot. Standing outside for longer than required was not an option and the inherent lack of sleep made it worse. Eventually I found that when I had some time to myself, I would rather take a nap than have a smoke. This went on for a while and before I knew it, it was Thursday and I last smoked on the Tuesday. I picked up my pack and started walking towards the door when a thought hit me: I don't need this. And I quit. Just like that.
I was quite surprised by this sudden turn of events, as well as many of my friends, some of whom still thought I was smoking until a few weeks ago. I thought about it for quite some time and realised that my mindset was right, I just needed that last push or opportunity to do it. Over time, since the failed attempt at quitting in 2010, my mind subconsciously prepared itself to stop. The physical craving would still be there, but the mental fulfilment wasn't always there anymore. Eventually when the opportunity arose where my body was weak enough to stop caring for its dose of nicotine, quitting was the next logical step in the process. I'll admit that I still smoke every once in a while in social situations, but since the 9th of February 2012 I consider myself a non-smoker.
The next big step was to get my weight in check, seeing as the not-smoking-anymore led to extra cookie money. I knew that this would be a bit more painful than smoking. Not only would I have to quit eating, but actually start doing sweaty things like exercise. I wasn't amped, but at 1,78 m tall and weighing 114 kg (a BMI of 36), it was time to make a change. I learnt a lot from quitting smoking, so I knew to get myself ready for it before I could even dream of attempting it. So in April I started getting myself worked up and mentally preparing myself for cutting out junk food and sugary drinks. Another obvious reason for waiting was the fact that starting to eat healthy at home would be easier and cheaper than trying to do it at residence. In June, 5 days after arriving home, my new life began. I would cut out almost all calories from drinks, avoid junk food as much as possible, eat smaller and more balanced portions and start moving around more. The going was tough, but a reminder from the doctor at my yearly check-up that my cholesterol was bad kept me going initially.
The first month was horrible, as the only impact you see is a number on a scale, but still, seeing the number shrink every day made me feel that little bit better every time. Eventually, by the time I returned to Stellenbosch at the end of July, I went down to around 105 kg, a nine kilogram drop in five weeks. Some people already picked up that I lost weight, but I didn't really see it, so I just took their word for it. By Spring Ball at the end of August I achieved the impossible (at least, in my mind), my weight dropped below 100 kg for the first time since the eleventh grade and by end of term I weighed 98 kg, a total loss of 16 kg and two notches on my belt. Now, in November, I officially weigh 92 kg with a BMI of 29, pant size 34 and shirt size large where I used to wear a 38 and a 2XL. Technically I have gone from severely obese to overweight in 5 months and I'm not done yet. By June of next year I want to reach the 80 kg mark, finally putting me in the "normal" weight class for the first time since primary school.
Many people might be asking what my secret is, and to be honest, there is none. The best secret is written on the side of a Coke Light: only effective as part of a kilojoule controlled diet with mild increase in activity. And CLA, 3,2 grams a day. Furthermore dropping bread is one of the best options to easily cut the carbs along with standard soft drinks and fruit juices. The most important ingredient is patience though, so never get frustrated if the scale is heavier today than it was yesterday, it happens often and causes a bunch of people to quit before they really even start. Also remember that just because you cut out chocolate doesn't mean you can't have any. Keep an eye on the energy you consume per serving and you should be fine. An app such as Noom can be helpful in this sense, I would have been lost if I didn't have it and recommend it to anyone trying to lose weight.
Basically a year where I was supposed to focus on my academics and work as a HK member turned out to be a year where I bettered myself as a person on a physical level. I am quite proud by what I have achieved so far, not many people can say they have successfully done what I have in the space of less than a year. I do know this, though: if the world really does end on 21 December 2012, I'll be pretty damn pissed!