How To Lose Weight (Like, Actually Lose It)

Getting ready to hit the gym for the first time
Getting ready to hit the gym for the first time

In February, I finish up a writing job where I manage to gain ten pounds in four months. This wouldn’t be so terrible had I not already been fifteen pounds overweight. Like a lot of men, I was relatively thin my entire life but then I graduated college and my body decided to go in a different direction. It was insidious, like some demon was sneaking into my bedroom at night and feeding me jars of Speculoos Cookie Butter as I slept. But there was no demon. There was just me, eating jars of Speculoos Cookie Butter fully conscious at 3AM.

I’ve never been to a gym before. Actually, that’s not true. My freshman year of high school I joined one but only because I was closeted and liked to look at all the naked men showering. I quit going after a year, though, because people kept giving me strange looks for hanging out in the locker room and reading Sylvia Plath instead of, you know, changing my clothes.

My best friend Clare goes to a gym about a mile from my house and tells me it’s not pretentious like Equinox, even though celebrities like Matt Bomer and Chelsea Handler are members. So, a few days after my job wraps, I go to the gym and sign a few pieces of paperwork and fork over $150. The girl at the counter is a chic lesbian who looks like Erika Christensen circa Swimfan and she asks me if I’d like to work out today. The question makes my body tense up and I scream at her, “WHAT? Um, I don’t think so. Bye!” I then scurry home and order massaman curry, feeling accomplished slash stressed out by the day’s events.

The first time I work out, ever
The first time I work out, ever

The first time I work out, I go on the elliptical and manage to move so slowly that the machine thinks I have gotten off of it. “PLEASE RESUME WORKOUT” it tells me as I try pathetically to move my legs back and forth. I attempt to go faster but my body feels like a rubberband that’s about to be ricocheted across the room. In the end, it takes me an hour to walk two and a half miles.

I start seeing a trainer once a week. He’s hot, from Ohio, and likes to eat lettuce wraps from PF Chang’s. I like him and I think we have fun productive sessions together, but I still have no idea what the hell is going on. I do weightlifting, I think? I do cardio, I think? I drink four margaritas and eat guacamole and chips after a workout? Yes, that I know.

Somehow I still manage to lose weight. Even though I’m inept at the gym, I start going six days a week and run about five miles on the elliptical. The first ten pounds come off easily. I imagine them to be like little butterballs falling off my body and squealing, “Thank Christ! We really didn’t like being attached to you but you gave us no choice, honey!” Shortly after that, I start to plateau with my weight loss. Even though I’m acting like Richard Simmons during the day, at night I’m still going HAM on…ham sandwiches. After about a month of working out every single day and seeing zero weight loss, I get so enraged that I actually start to diet.

Here's me fat
Here’s me fat

Dieting is annoying and joyless but, in my opinion, not as annoying and joyless as being overweight. Considering I ate like a human garbage can for the past twenty-seven years, adjusting to a healthier journey is difficult, to say the least. I eat lots of chicken and vegetables. I pretend carbs are that annoying drunk girl at a party and do my best to avoid them. I eat smaller portions of food. Not in an “anorexic” way but in a “Maybe I’m not going to finish everything on my plate at The Cheesecake Factory.” I make mention of eating disorders because I feel like you can’t talk about losing weight without someone rolling their eyes and saying, “Don’t go all ana on me, okaaaaayyy?”

After eating healthy for about a month, my body sends my remaining pounds an eviction notice and yells, “Don’t come back ‘round here no more!” It feels amazing. I haven’t been this weight since college and I’ve forgotten how everything is supposed to look when it’s not being suffocated by excess flesh. Before I started exercising and eating clean(ish) I never felt connected to my body. In fact, I treated it like shit and then texted it the next morning being like, “OMG, so sorry about last night. Still friends? LYLAS!” But now I can’t do that anymore. I met my body face-to-face at a Starbucks; I listened to its complaints, and resolved to change things, so now I am accountable for my actions. It can be really annoying. Ignorance was bliss, in a lot of ways. Not having to worry about what I put in my body was like a nonstop vacation for my brain, but now the vacation is over and it’s time to work.

Here's me not fat
Here’s me not fat

I understand that people are sensitive about weight but I’m talking about my experience here and the truth of it is that I’ve struggled with confidence issues my entire life. Not in terms of my personality or friendships or career but with feeling desirable. Basically I need to get to a place where I’m not so shocked every time a guy decides he wants to sleep with me. I shouldn’t want to send someone a thank you note after they stick their tongue down my throat.

Since losing the weight, I can already feel my self-esteem singing to me, “CUZ BABY YOU’RE A FIREWORRRRKKKK.” I go shopping for clothes without wanting to kill myself in a dressing room, I go to a pool party without experiencing anxiety; I kiss someone hard on the mouth without wondering why they aren’t pulling away from me. You can have this too, if you want it. Trust me, if I can do it, ANYONE can. Just take things slowly, develop a routine, don’t go overboard with anything because the minute you dip into extremes, the more likely you are to have it all fall apart. It’s about changing your lifestyle, not getting a quick fix.

LOL, I seriously can’t believe I’m typing any of this. I used to be a person who rejected any change and stood in awe over people who turned their lives around. But that’s the thing about getting older. You realize, “Fuck. I’m going to be alive for, like, potentially decades, so I guess I better make things as easy as possible for myself.” I used to want a difficult life but that was when I had no idea what difficult actually meant. Now I just want tiny muscles and a healthy heart and 2.5 glasses of wine and friendships that feel safe and to work hard so I can buy a shitty bungalow for too much money and get a dog and maybe a life partner. No more hurting myself. Life is going to hurt me enough on its own so why would I try to add to it? Thought Catalog Logo Mark

Want more Ryan O’Connell?  Check out his new book of essays available exclusively from Thought Catalog Books here.

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