Changing my obesity mindset into one that nourishes a fit and healthy lifestyle didn’t happen overnight. I failed to shed weight more times than I can remember. I tried everything I could find. This is my journey.
I never saw myself as overweight. At 190cms (6 foot 3) and broad-shouldered, I held my bulk well. As a child, I was always large though with minimal chubbiness. So I was used to being a big kid, turned into a big adult.
Over the years I steadily built onto my fat supply but I never really thought of myself as obese. Yes, I knew I was overweight but to my eye, my natural size spread the weight evenly so I didn’t look super fat. That was the biggest lie I told myself. I compared my frame to shorter people that looked extremely fat. I didn’t look like them so I was still OK, right? I actually weighed far more than them, but my clothing and natural frame obscured the reality behind my delusions.
At the time, mechanical bathroom scales only went up to 120kg so I had no idea how heavy I actually was. Bending over to tie my shoes was like running a sprint, even walking briskly to the car caused shortness of breath. I played indoor cricket and indoor beach volleyball but took the lazy approach. Both could be played staying relatively stationary if you planned effectively. I perfected my bowling action by taking under four steps, and when batting I aimed to hit as hard as I could so I had ample time to jog to safety. For volleyball, my brutal serve allowed tallying points without moving from the spot. So my weekly exercise activities amounted to standing still half the time. Not overly effective, but I deluded myself that I was still active.
Throughout all this, I had ample knee and back pain, which in typical Aussie male fashion I ignored. My self-esteem was minimal. Being introverted to begin with I receded further into the shadows, isolating myself. I only had a handful of friends and when they went out I stayed at home. With me not drinking alcohol, their activities bored me, especially seeing how people I didn’t know were also invited. I didn’t want to meet new people and be silently judged. Going swimming was too embarrassing to go without a t-shirt on, which limited my choices as every public pool in my town doesn’t allow t-shirts in their facilities. Yet another exercise “denied” me. So the weight kept climbing as I remained stuck in my obesity mindset.
Almost by accident I discovered my true weight and felt disgusted. I worked near a scale designed to weigh cargo and on a whim stepped on. The figure of 175kg stared back at me and I quickly stepped off before anyone else could see it. It was my lowest emotional point.
I knew that someday I would lose the weight, get in shape and look good naked. Someday was never set however. Eventually, I’d get back into martial arts, which I loved since childhood watching Chuck Norris with my dad. But I told myself I had to get in decent shape before starting again, another delusion holding me back. I lied to myself saying one day I would eat proper meals and not snack every 20 minutes on junk food. This is the obesity mindset digging its claws in.
The reality was I was ashamed of myself, of how I looked. I lacked confidence and had anorexic social skills. I wanted to be worthy of love. To actually live life and not watch it happen to others. To no longer be an outcast, for people to accept me. I allowed laziness to dictate my life and my habits. Ultimately I truly wanted to be happy; something I had not experienced for years, maybe decades if I’m honest.
When researching “diets” I came up against a pile of garbage. Misleading or completely false information flood the industry. I tried diet after diet, pills, supplements, meal replacement shakes… nothing worked. I always felt hungry and almost every “system” needed a 180o shift in food choices. Until then my meals consisted primarily of takeaway such as burgers, chips, pizza and fried food, washed down with soft drinks and followed by ice-cream for dessert. Then came the chain-snacking. The constant sugar made healthy choices taste like Styrofoam.
I foolishly decided to keep eating what I normally did, just slightly smaller portions. I figured exercise would drop off the weight. However, my injuries prevented proper exercise so I couldn’t even do a single pain-free push-up. My oversized gut hindered almost every exercise considered basic. More excuses holding me back.
Something had to change.
I realised diets are a short term process to reach a quick goal. Pills and supplements have their use when you are already healthy. I finally recognised I was looking for the quick option, the one thing to consume and the weight would drop off by itself. I sought the lazy approach.
What truly held me back was my mindset. I spent 30 years making poor health choices and the bad habits piled so high they blotted out the sun. They needed to go. That was when I first started changing my obesity mindset into a healthy one.
My first step was to create a short term goal. I needed to get under 150kg to play on my shiny new Wii Fit that gathered dust the longer I exceeded the operating weight. Until that point, my only goal was to lose weight. I didn’t have any specific targets or deadlines. Setting this small goal was a giant boon. It focussed my mind into making it happen.
I educated myself on what makes food healthy and what makes it a poor choice. Adjusting meals slowly to systematically replace habits that no longer served me. I started exercises that I could actually do like walking and progressively made it more challenging. This solidified new habits and I dropped 20kgs in 5 weeks, which often happens when people have a lot of weight to shed. Finally, I had the confidence to take up martial arts again.
I plateaued at this point but through my new habits and healthy mindset, my weight remained stable. I continued this way for years, dropping a sizeable amount, putting on a few kilos then dropping even more. It took mental energy and I suffered from fatigue and emotional burnout. Self-doubt’s ugly head was ever present to tempt me back to the dark side. My friends and family supported my journey with their words, but their deeds said elsewise. Dinners were usually takeout, birthdays were junk-snack-filled extravaganzas. It was not their fault; they didn’t struggle like I did and had different goals. The positive mindset changes and my new habits helped get me through. They understood my refusal to eat wasn’t a reflection on their hospitality, and I brought my own meals so I could still enjoy the company.
By the end of my journey, I shed almost 80kg but that was only the beginning. My martial arts training surged forward and I won multiple Australian and Pan Pacific titles. I’m an important fixture at my gym, helping all students with their own journeys.
The most rewarding aspect of this entire experience is the mental transformation. I am confident. I feel significant. I am unafraid to meet new people. I can swim without a t-shirt.
Completing this journey inspired me to be more, simply by changing my obesity mindset into a healthy one. I am a certified master life coach and master hypnotist. I published several books and I’m fit and healthy. None of that would have been possible if I didn’t take that initial mental step, which followed into a massive physical one.
Most importantly, I’m happy.
AJ Watson was born and raised in the Australian gold rush town of Ballarat. He is a Life Coach specialising in Health and Wellbeing. You can discover more of his story in the About AJ page on www.ajcoaching.com.au