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01/21 2013

About Me: My Weight Loss Journey

I can’t remember exactly when I first started loving food, but let’s say that it started when I was 8 years old. I had an Italian momma who fed me well growing up. I remember family gatherings centering around big meals. I remember seeing all my relatives working together in the kitchen to make the meal happen. I remember getting excited about prime rib or lobster.

I wasn’t a big kid, but I wasn’t one of the athletic ones. I viewed myself as fat. As I grew older, I took a paper route which afforded me luxuries like a regular slice of pizza or large bags of Lays potato chips. Fortunately my growing body did not afford me the embarrassment of being obese. Unfortunately, I was laying the groundwork for the metabolic syndrome and insulin resistance that would plague me later in life.

High school and college brought along more and more eating, but it also brought along cooking. It wasn’t long before people in college knew that I might one of the few people who could serve a decent meal that didn’t involve pasta and jarred tomato sauce. Instead of drinking late into the night, I would be the one cooking the sausage gravy. I finished school in 1994 at 190 lbs. Again, I wasn’t big, but I wasn’t exactly little either.

The big change in me started when I began working a desk job. I learned quickly that a job wasn’t fun, so I coped by eating overly satisfying meals. I married quickly after school, and took over the kitchen duties. I was in complete control of my food intake, and I quickly started adding the pounds. I remember being 220, then 240, then 260, then 275. I would try and do the gym thing. That was absolute torture. I would work out for a while, and then not see results. I would try the weight watchers thing for a while, and after some initial success I would get frustrated by the meetings, swear to do it by myself, and then quickly fall off the wagon.

My first big breakthrough happened about 7 years ago. I had reached the weight of 295, and I joined a weight loss program, now known as the Zacharias Ganey Health Institute. It was there I first learned about the role of Insulin in weight gain. By the time the program was finished, I had lost 25 lbs, and I was full of knowledge. I’d like to say that my story turned around there, but alas it didn’t.

A year later, my wife was pregnant with our first child, and I started eating what she was eating. I did my job in putting on sympathy weight and before I knew it, I was well over 300 lbs. During this time, I also started embracing being a foodie. I used every excuse to try a new restaurant. I wanted to try crazy food. I wanted to try crazy drinks. I wanted experience everything the food world had to offer. Hell, that’s one of the reasons I started to blog. I wanted share my experiences with other people.

By the beginning 2011, I had reached a new level. I food writing professionally. I had my own business doing creative dinners at local restaurants. I was being invited to soft openings and special dinners. I had also reached 330 lbs.

On April 9, 2011, while spending some time with some college buddies in the mountains of western Virginia, I noticed some pain in my arms. It felt like I had sneezed, but the pain wouldn’t leave. I waited for 10, 20, 30 minutes and the pain wouldn’t go away. My friends drove me over to the nearest hospital, and they were quickly able to stop the event, my first and hopefully only heart attack. Three catheterizations and three stents later, I was sent home to make sure that this didn’t happen again.

My first month back, I ate like an angel. I ate salads, I ate fish. I honestly was scared to eat. All my friends were scared to let me eat. I was really without direction. I had read a book by Dr. Al Sears and I was ready to start a low carb lifestyle with real food, when my cardiologist recommended that I read Dr. Esseltyn’s book on reversing heart disease. It was the worst thing I could read. Basically, it told me the only way to reverse the damage I had done to myself was to never eat fat again. I knew what this diet would do to me. I just said screw it, and I moved on with my life.

I lived the next year, still hovering at 320, trying to enjoy life with a little more self control. I was walking more. I was exercising more. I had even had done the life coaching thing. Still I wasn’t seeing any changes. It took another major life event to make change,

On July 1st, 2012, we moved to Florida from Virginia. I said goodbye to friends and family. I said goodbye to life as I knew it. On the drive down, I listened to Brooke Castillo’s book called “If I’m So Smart, Why Can’t I Lose Weight?” which was dealing with the issue of emotional eating. I also signed up for a 30 day Man Up Program that included a 7 day detox. I relearned the importance of keeping insulin under control. My next door neighbor is a doctor who has been reading and studying the low carb lifestyle, and he encouraged me to read Gary Taubes. He also found me a cardiologist that would support me in a low carb/ paleo lifestyle.

It truly was a perfect storm. Weight started dropping off me. I started reading more books. I started listening to more podcasts. I started trying new things. What surprised me most, is that I’ve noticed that my interests and priorities began to shift. I mean I still love food. I still want to dine at the best restaurants. I just don’t want to do it as much. I want to be healthy. I want to look and feel good. I want to kick heart disease to the curb. And for the first time in my life, I am confident that all of these wants will come true.

So that brings me to the new version of the The Marinara. I will still write about food, but it might now include some more health related information. You’ll notice that I won’t be writing as much about pizza, pasta, and desserts. Instead, you will see more about food quality, technique, and latest health learnings. I hope you enjoy this new stage in my weight loss and food  journey.