By Jeremy Weber
Two double cheeseburgers, ten spicy nuggets, a large fry and a large soda. This was the typical Wendy’s order I’d shame-eat most nights when I was sitting in my car outside of my apartment. For the better part of a year this ritual was the only thing that made me happy, and I didn’t want anyone else to know about it.
Here’s the thing about binge eating, in the moment the dopamine hit I received made all of my worries go away. During my last year of college I was so unhappy with myself and the direction my life was heading that I turned to food, alcohol and drugs to numb the pain. I had hit rock bottom, and I couldn’t see a way out.
I knew I needed to make changes, and I wanted to, but I still didn’t believe I was worthy or capable of the hard work it was going to take to lose a hundred pounds. That’s a tough thing to wrap your head around but it’s the truth. I compare my obesity to being stuck at the bottom of a deep hole, I could see where I wanted to go but I felt like I had no way of getting there. I had tried diets (Nutrisystem tastes like dog food in case you’ve ever wondered) and the thought of going to the gym and people seeing me exercise terrified me, so I felt stuck.
I had gained almost 50 pounds my last year of college, so when a friend I hadn’t seen in a while came to my graduation party he was shocked to see the condition I was in. Fortunately that friend was working as a trainer at the time and offered to help me get my weight under control. I still felt self conscious going to a gym but knowing someone was going to be there with me made it a little less intimidating. He was willing to get down in that hole and help me get out, I had to make the most of this opportunity.
I still remember my first training session like it was yesterday. I walked on a treadmill, performed a few exercises on a Freemotion cable machine, and finished with bodyweight squats to a bench and step ups on an 8” box. After twenty minutes I thought I was going to pass out , but in that moment something amazing happened. I realized I was physically and mentally capable of more than I gave myself credit for. Yes 20 minutes of exercise had me sweating buckets and feeling nauseous but for the first time in many years I was proud of myself. I had gone far outside of my comfort zone and I started to believe I might be able to turn things around.
The importance of self-efficacy was the first of many lessons that the weight room taught me. My belief that I was capable of creating the behaviors necessary to lose a hundred pounds had to be stronger than any doubt I would encounter, both internal and external. As someone who had little self confidence this was incredibly difficult but crucial in the process, and the gym provided me a place to build this confidence. Twenty minute sessions turned into thirty minutes then forty and before I knew it training for an hour or more five to six days a week had become my new normal.
Now I don’t want to give the impression that this whole process was smooth sailing because it definitely wasn’t. After a year of training consistently I was only down twenty pounds due to my inability to get rid of my over eating and drinking habits. I had created discipline around exercise but I was still fighting with my inner fat guy, and he wasn’t going away quietly. It became clear that I had to give up partying all together, and to accomplish this I needed to let my friends know how important improving my physical and mental health was to me.
I already mentioned that I wasn’t very confident at this time so opening up about my struggles and being vulnerable was terrifying, but I knew it had to be done. As I expected a few drinking buddies fell by the wayside, but my closest friends couldn’t have been more supportive. My willingness to open up and stop suffering in silence paid off, and over the next eight months I was able to lose eighty pounds and accomplish the goal I had set for myself two years earlier.
The weight room had a greater impact on me than I could have imagined. It provided the opportunity to build confidence and discipline which empowered me to take control of my life, for that I am eternally grateful. And it all started because a coach wanted to help and believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.