Double the Fun: Finding Myself Through Weight Loss and Running by Jeff Parker

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Jeff Parker is currently a Residence Director at Johnson & Wales University – Denver Campus. Originally from the great state of Minnesota, Jeff received his B.S. in English & Speech Communication from the University of Wisconsin – River Falls and his M.Ed. in College Student Affairs from the University of South Florida.  Jeff loves playing volleyball and has ran at least one race every month since December 2010.  Visit his blog at jeffyp2003.blogspot.com and find him on Twitter @jeffyp2003

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Each of us has a story to tell – one that discovers our innermost passions and desires.  One that leads us to the person we are today.

Many of us have a weight loss story.

I have two.

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The Backstory

I was an active kid who played just about every sport.  But somewhere during middle school, something changed.  I got the one thing that so many that age dread: I got fat.  The next few years were a struggle with depression, my weight, being bullied, and confidence.  The more my weight went up, the more unhappy I got.  Until I stepped on the scale one day, and the number staring back at me put me into a rage: 275.  I went to the gym a couple of hours every day.  I kept a journal of everything I ate.  I was meticulous and borderline obsessive about my every decision.  In just over a year, I dropped over 75 pounds, and for the first time I was happy with my weight.  For the first time since I became an adolescent, the first number on the scale was a 1.

I was bound to fail.  The amount of time that I spent in the gym was impossible to maintain.  The calories I was eating were on the verge of dangerously low to maintain.  When I started college, my immaculate habits slipped.  The Freshman 15 turned into a Freshman 40 (I hate that phrase by the way).  Over the next handful of years, my weight roller-coastered.  Most people gain and lose 5-10 lbs here and there.  Mine are usually 20-40 in either direction.

Until one day in grad school, the number staring at me from the scale left me numb.

The Beginnings

284.  I started sobbing.  How had I let myself slip that much?  Once again, I was unhappy, and that number sent me into a spiral.  The next day, I decided once again that I was going to do something about it, but didn’t know what.  I promised myself I wouldn’t do anything as drastic as I did in high school, which is counter-intuitive to my all-or-nothing mentality.  I needed motivation, and I found it in the form of a youtube video.  Watch it here.  So there I was, chubby guy sobbing on my couch in Florida.  I thought, “if he could do it, I can too!  I’ll never run a marathon, but I can start running.”  I laced up my shoes, grabbed my headphones, and walked out the door.  I started running.  I made it a quarter mile.  I have never felt more defeated in my life.  But I went out the next day.  And the next.  Until I could eventually run a mile.  Then 2.  Then I ran my first 5K.  I started losing weight.  I moved from Florida to Colorado.  I ran my first 10K.  I lost more weight.  I started eating right.  I did something crazy and I ran a half marathon- something I never thought I would do in a million years.  I lost more weight.

The Impossible

As I type this, I am approaching the 75-pound mark – for the second time.  This time around, it has taken a lot longer, but it has been a lot healthier.  For the first time, I have silenced my all-or-nothing mentality and have had more focus on the long-term.  I am finding a healthy lifestyle I can maintain for the rest of my life.

Doctors have always told me that I shouldn’t be a runner.  A combination of my weight, my bad knees and ankles, and just the pounding that my body takes when I work out, I have been told it’s a bad idea.  But I’m stubborn.  And I love it.  When I crossed the finish line of my first half marathon, the first words out of my mouth were “I never want to do that again.”  24 hours later I thought, “maybe I should do another one.”  48 hours later I thought, “I can do a marathon.”

I started training for my first marathon in early 2013.  I scheduled a few half marathons as tune-ups gearing up for it.  This journey has been an incredible one – pushing my body to its limits, getting faster and faster, and conquering uncharted distances – 14, 16, 18.  I have been training through Team in Training, which benefits the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  It has been amazing training with the team, hearing everyone’s stories, and seeing everyone finding success on the pavement.   By the time you read this, I will be less than a week away from calling myself something that I never thought was possible: a marathoner.

The Lessons

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Weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint:  Pun not intended.  Ok, maybe a little.  But where I failed the first go ‘round was focusing too hard on the number on the scale, and had an at-any-cost mentality to get there.  Although the weight dropped, it was unhealthy, I was HORRIBLE to myself when things wouldn’t go as planned, and the lifestyle I was subjecting myself to was impossible to maintain.  This time, it has been successful because I threw all of those ideas out the window.  I have taken my time (2+ years) to achieve the results I’ve desired.  I still have a way to go, but I will get there.  Patience is key, and celebrating the small victories is important.  Because of this shift, I’ve now found a healthy balance that I can maintain for the rest of my life.  I’ve found a love for running and healthy living.  But most of all, I am HAPPY.

 Don’t be too hard on yourself: setbacks are inevitable.  The number on the scale isn’t always going to go down.  Every run isn’t going to be great.  That’s not what is important – what’s important is how you respond.  If you eat garbage for a weekend, let that become your focus for the next week.  If your running becomes a chore, take a few days off.  If you’re constantly weighing yourself waiting for the magic number to go down, put it away for a month.  Make your happiness and whole you a priority, and take a step back from time to time, and you will get the results you want.  I promise.

 Make it publicThis one is maybe the hardest for me, but it has helped me beyond my wildest dreams.  They say if you write down your goals, it is way more likely to become a reality.  And if you tell someone your goals, the likelihood grows exponentially.  Don’t be afraid to let people in.  Call your parents.  Start a blog.  Write your senator.  Find a way to tell your story.  Share your successes.  Share your woes.  Share your joys.  Share your worries and fears.  Be real.  Before you know it, you will find people in your life who want to be by your side.  When the days get rough, you will have people there to pick you up.  When you accomplish your goals, you’ll have a team there to cheer on your victories.  More likely than not, you’ll be pleasantly surprised about how glad you are to have people to share your journey with you.  To quote one of my favorite movies Into the Wild, “Happiness only real when shared.”

 Anything is possibleThat has become my mantra – I’m not one to say, “if I can do it, anyone can,” but I hope people can take a look at my story and find something that can inspire them to find their own greatness.  My story has had ups and downs and successes and failures.  Everything has gotten me to where and who I am today.  Without my past, I am nothing.  And because of that, my future is bright.  The story I write might not be the prettiest, most graceful, or most logical.  But it is mine.

And it will be a masterpiece.

Jeff will be running the Rock n’ Roll San Diego Marathon on Sunday, June 2nd.  To support his journey and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, click here.

4 comments to Double the Fun: Finding Myself Through Weight Loss and Running by Jeff Parker

  • Gabrielle  says:

    Great story! I really enjoyed it!

  • Bill Heinrich  says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing! This is great modeling for student affairs folks everywhere.
    best of luck on your run this weekend!
    -Bill Heinrich
    TNT alum and student affairs person

  • Dim  says:

    Thank you for this.

  • Megan  says:

    Very inspiring!!! Love the last sentence ” And it will be a masterpiece”

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