The brutal 24 hours that motivated me to start living healthy
Part of my job as a personal trainer is to motivate and empathize. That’s something I can genuinely do with most of my clients who struggle with their weight. I’ve been there.
In fact, I still struggle from time to time. But, I know what it takes and I know the frustration that you feel when the scales don’t move in your favor after all of the hard workouts. I know how hard it is to go to the gym on those days when you are sore and tired and don’t feel like working out. I know you’d rather sit in Star Bucks drinking a caramel latte with double whip than do 100 Burpees during a deck of cards workout. It’s easier to take the path of least resistance.
So, I want to share with you a story about the first 24 hours of my fitness journey which happened back in March of 2010. It was the “perfect storm” that inspired me to lose 55 lbs in 6 months. I’ve never shared this very personal story with anyone… until now.
It began when my wife Doreen and I traveled up to Purdue University to meet my daughter Kaitlin to go see a high school and college friend of mine, Jack Calhoun, speak at the Krannert School of Management. Jack is a fellow Lafayette Jefferson High School and Purdue University grad and is currently the president of Banana Republic, the famous retail clothing brand.
Before going to Jack’s presentation, Doreen, Kaitlin and I ate a horribly fattening and greasy lunch at Five Guys hamburgers just off campus. Lunch took too long and we had to quickly walk about five blocks to the building where Jack was speaking. When we arrived, I was out of breath and felt like I was going to have a heart attack. I actually had to find a restroom because I thought I was going to puke. I recovered, but barely.
I entered the lecture hall and approached Jack who had not seen me in several years. As I walked up to him, I could tell that he really didn’t recognize me. When somebody calls you by your first name and phrases it in the form of a question like, “Brian?”, then that probably isn’t a good thing. I was now the older, fatter form of the younger, much skinnier me. I think Jack was a bit startled by my weight gain. Except for a few emerging wrinkles around the eyes, Jack had not changed much over the years. He was obviously living a much healthier lifestyle out in California and looked great.
Incident #2 happened later than night when I went to bed. My wife, Doreen, put her arm around me. As she touched my stomach she said, “What is that?” I embarrassingly said, “That’s my stomach fat.” She said, “No it’s not.” I responded, “Yes it is. I’m fat and that’s my stomach.” Nothing else was said. She probably won’t remember that moment, but I ALWAYS will. It was extremely embarrassing.
That next morning, I had a follow-up appointment with my endocrinologist – incident #3. I had blood work done the week before and I was there to get the results. “Brian, you have metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes.” He might as well have hit me upside the head with a 2 x 4. I thought, “Great… two more medical problems added onto high blood pressure, sleep apnea, narcolepsy, and high cholesterol.” He continued, “If you don’t start exercising, eating right and lose about ten or 15 pounds in the next month, I’m going to prescribe insulin.” He gave me some pamphlets about diabetes, a meal plan, and a blood sugar testing kit and sent me on my way.
I was stunned. I will admit that I cried as I drove home. Diabetes? Really?
As I got closer to my home, I saw the sign for a new commercial gym that had recently opened. Something made me turn into the parking lot and go inside. I toured the gym, drove home to change clothes and then drove back to the gym to purchase a membership and try a free personal training session. The photo on the left at the top of this article is the i.d. photo they took at the gym that day.
That first session was awful. I walked on the treadmill for five minutes at 3.5 mph and I felt like I was going to pass out. Twenty minutes into the workout, I went into the bathroom and puked.
When I got home from the gym, I was getting ready to step into the shower and saw myself in the mirror. I said to myself, “Nice going, you fat ass! How the hell did you let this happen?” I didn’t have an answer. It just happened over time. The blame was on me. Now… it was time to change.
Everything that happened in that 24-hour span is what motivated me to turn my life around. An old friend didn’t recognize me. My wife didn’t recognize my body. My doctor gave me an ultimatum to change or else inject myself with insulin shots. I couldn’t walk five minutes on a treadmill or make it through a 30-minute workout without throwing up my lunch. And finally, I didn’t recognize MYSELF anymore; that person I saw in the mirror was not me.
I could either give up or make a change for the better. I signed up for several more months of sessions with a personal trainer. I started working out six days a week. I took spinning classes. I started eating healthy. I started walking… then running. My weight started dropping and I started sleeping better and becoming more active. I was happier and less stressed. No more metabolic syndrome. No more diabetes. No more sleep apnea. In a few months, the “old me” was back, and better than ever.
We are all a reflection of what we do physically, what we eat, and how we treat others. Are you happy with how you look? Are you happy with how you feel? Are you happy with your life and how you interact with those around you? If not, do something about it and start making positive changes.
Just making the decision to exercise at least 30 minutes a day and eating healthier will have a positive impact on your life in so many ways. It won’t happen overnight. It takes hard work and dedication. But a few months from now, you’ll see and feel the results. If you haven’t started, now is the time. If you’ve been at it awhile and feel frustrated, change up your program a little and recommit yourself to living healthy.
If I could do it, you can do it.
Brian Koning is an ACE-certified personal trainer, certified boot camp instructor, WKC-certified kettlebell trainer and owner of FitNow Group Fitness in Westfield, Indiana.