Richard Green, 48, Attorney, Huntington Beach, California
How much weight have you lost? 154 pounds
Tell us what the “old you” used to be like. Some people call the collapse of the economy from 2008 to 2011 “The Great Recession”. I don’t because I was clinically depressed by it. Before I took the weight off, I was anxious, depressed, and lethargic. I had thoughts of ending my life swirling around in my head, but was too tired/unmotivated to actually carry out those plans. The year was 2011. I was entering my third year of helplessly watching economic forces beyond my control transform my law practice from a thriving business to a meager existence barely making enough money to feed myself and my family.
I treated my depression with food. Lots and lots of cheap, greasy, fast food. My four favorite words were All You Can Eat. I also drank a lot of coke and other sugary sodas. These choices were reflected on my waistline. I ballooned out to 366 lbs.
What prompted your weight loss? In August of 2011, I stumbled across this website called runDisney. I’d never done anything athletic in my life, but for some strange reason, the thought of running through Disneyland sounded like fun. As I was registering for the 2012 Tinkerbell 5k run through Disneyland, the lawyer in me made me read the fine print. It said that there was a pace requirement. I had to run a 16:00 minute/mile pace or I’d be removed from the course. While I did not know precisely what a 16:00 minute/mile pace was, I did understand the meaning of the words “removed from the course”. This meant that failure was an option, and that in order to avoid failing, I’d have to train for this event. I closed my browser window and put my credit card back in my wallet. I chose not to try rather than to try and fail.
About a week later, I stumbled across a website called Couch to 5k (C25K). It’s a training plan that conditions sedentary people to run five kilometers in a half an hour. I connected C25K with Disney, downloaded the app, registered for the Disney run, and started training.
On September 2, 2011, I ran week 1 day 1 of C25K on the treadmill in the gym at the apartment complex I was living in. I left the treadmill with a clarity of mind that I had not had in years. The fog that the depression had placed in my head was gone. I realized that I was depressed because I was reacquainted with what life was like free of the symptoms of depression.
I started to lose weight because it did not take me very long to figure out that running is hard on one’s body. It’s even harder with 170 lbs. of excess fat. If I was going to treat depression with exercise, I needed to lose weight. Exercise was not my sole form of mental health treatment. I also sought medical advice and treatment for depression.
I also contracted a case of Adult Onset Athleticism. Up to that point in my life I had avoided athletic competition out of a fear of losing or failing. After running across my first 5k finish line, I told myself that I had to do this again, and do it faster next time.
While I could not completely control the economic factors that created a demand for my services, I could control how much time it took me to get from the starting line to the finish line of a race. Those are a function of physical condition, which is something wholly within my control. This sense of desire drove me to run longer distances at faster paces. While a five-kilometer race got me into running, my current passion is the marathon.
How did you lose the weight? I downloaded a calorie counting app called Lose It! and began logging my food. I also logged exercise activities, and the app granted a caloric credit. When the green calorie number turned red, I was done eating for the day.
Slavishly logging my calories changed my perspective on food. The first change was a realization that calories are like money: a limited resource. God designed our bodies to require a certain number of calories a day. Eating more calories than one needs is like spending more money than one has in the bank. So like a financial budget, every morning I plan what I was going to eat that day, log it into the app, and then simply execute the plan for the day.
The second change was what I ate. Initially, I ate the same crap that made me fat. I just ate less of it, and the fat melted off my body. However over time, the calorie allotment number shrunk as I did. Eating less of the same foods that made me fat stopped working. I was either not losing weight or always hungry. If I wanted to avoid living in the land of perpetual hunger, I needed to pick different foods than the ones that made me fat. I found foods that would leave me feeling satisfied and within my caloric limits and chose to eat those foods.
How long did it take? My weight loss came in two distinct phases: From September of 2011 to November of 2013 my weight went from a morbidly obese 366 lbs. to a healthy 222 lbs. From November of 2013 to May of 2016 my weight loss leveled out. Although I did not gain it all back, my weight ranged between 225 lbs. and 245 lbs. My weight was healthy, but not athletic.
In June of 2016, I was introduced to this mad woman named Fitz Koehler. She had this crazy idea: Stop eating the exercise calories. Previously, my calorie counting app granted me calorie credits for exercise, which I gleefully ate. After all ,,, I ran 3 miles and I “earned” those cookies. When I ceased to log or eat the exercise calories, I was forced to find foods that were more satisfying with fewer calories than what I’d been eating. It also made the scale start moving downwards again.
What was the hardest part? The hardest part of losing weight was (and to some extent still is) changing the way I perceive myself. I am my own worst critic, and do not think very highly of myself, my work, or of my abilities. If left to my own devices, my self-image will devolve back into my former worthless self that was mired in the symptoms of depression.
Most fun part of your weight loss? The most fun part of losing weight is stepping in the car of Space Mountain at Disneyland, sitting down, pulling the lap bar down, and riding the ride. It’s a simple joy that hasn’t always been available to me.
Most rewarding experience? The most rewarding part of losing weight is the fact that other people noticed my changed lifestyle and emulated it. I am an introvert. When I started, I did not announce to the world that I was losing weight. I just went out and did it. My siblings and a couple of friends noticed my change and put the fork down. My brother has lost over 100 lbs. My sister lost 50 lbs. A friend from the neighborhood I grew up in lost 80 lbs. When asked why they lost weight they said that they saw me put the fork down and told themselves, “I can do that too.”
Who/what inspires you when you feel like quitting? In 1519, Captain Hernán Cortés arrived in Vera Cruz to conquer the New World. Upon his arrival, he ordered his men to burn the ships that took them across the ocean. He wanted to tell his men that there is no going back. What keeps me moving forward is the fact that as I lost the weight, I threw out all my ill-fitting clothes. Going back will require going clothing shopping.
How has this weight loss changed your life? I am free from the clutches of depression. I have a different perspective on life, and I’ve had some business opportunities presented to me as a thin person that I was passed over for as a fat person.
Have any advice for others who’d like to lose weight? I have three pieces of advice:
- Don’t try this alone. Find a group of people who share common interest and make friends. They will be a lifeline when things get rough. For me this is my friends at A Snail’s Pace Running Club.
- Patience is a virtue. I didn’t get fat overnight. The weight did not come off overnight. The process of losing weight is a long and life-changing affair.
- Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I regularly ask myself why I do what I do, especially if something is habitual or done without thinking. If something I do no longer makes sense or does not meet my goals or objectives, I change it to something that does.
Your must-have fitness equipment. A pair of running shoes, a GPS running watch, and the asphalt path that parallels the Pacific Ocean at Huntington City and State Beach.
Favorite training song: My favorite workout song is the one in my head. I do not listen to music while training or working out. Running is my alone time. I contemplate life. The creative juices flow with the sweat. Often times I’ll compose a legal brief or think up a new argument to assert in a client’s matter while out running.
Favorite not-so-healthy food: Shakey’s Mojo Potatoes. It’s a potato wedge dipped in fried chicken batter and deep fried. Except for the taste, there is nothing virtuous about this food.
Funniest /weirdest/most awkward experience during your weight loss journey. I’ve got two awkward moments:
- When I started the weight loss journey, I didn’t actually know what I weighed. My bathroom scale at home stopped at 250 lbs. My weight exceeded the mechanical limitations of the scale, so I logged on to Amazon.com and ordered the XL-550 scale. The new scale topped out at 550 lbs. I instructed Amazon to deliver it to the office. Instead of putting the scale in a larger Amazon box, Amazon just slapped a shipping label on the outside of the retail packaging and shipped me the scale. When my XL-550 scale box arrived at the office, the managing partner of the law firm I was working for grabbed the box from the receptionist desk, walked back to my office, dropped the box on my desk, and asked me, “Why do you need a scale that goes up to 550 lbs.? You’re not that heavy, are you?” Awkward!
- After losing 120 lbs. I encountered difficulty with the TSA at Boston’s Logan Airport. They did not want to let me board my flight back to Los Angeles because I didn’t look like the guy on my driver’s license. I got back home by talking my way onto the plane. I’d originally planned to change my driver’s license when I hit goal weight. The day after I got home I went to the DMV and got a new license.
Future goals: I want to qualify for and run the Boston Marathon.
Congratulations on the life-changing makeover, Richard! You’re the perfect example of making good choices and sticking with them. I love seeing you at races, and hope to welcome you through many more finish lines in the future! Love, Fitz