Twenty Three seems to be of some significance to me of late.
When I turned 23 years old a few very important things happened to me. I’d just got married and have never looked back, I got my Bachelors Degree and graduated. It was also when I first started to think about moving to Canada from Ireland at some point in the future.
During my time at College I had access to a free Gym daily and would spend time working out and running on treadmills during my time between labwork and lectures. I weighed ~170lbs but a lot of that was muscle weight. When I left College, got a job and settled into married life I started to gain more weight. The problem was that I had increased my caloric intake over time because I had been building muscle mass. I suddenly stopped working out when I graduated as it was no longer free or convenient to go to a gym but my body was now used to the larger diet.
I wouldn’t say I ballooned over night but over the course of 3 years I believe I gained over 110lbs. The last time I weighed myself I was ~270lbs and then I just stopped weighing myself for months but I know I got a fair bit heavier. I’m going to conservatively estimate I reached 280lbs but it was probably more.
I want to be clear at this point that my weight didn’t bother me much, and I don’t look back now and think how awful it was that I let myself get that heavy. I believe that the body is a machine used to achieve the aspirations of the mind. If your aspirations don’t require you to have the body of a gorilla or a cheetah then you shouldn’t waste time trying to make it look and respond like that. It’s like buying a Ferrari just to drive to the Supermarket.
My interests back then resided in mostly sedentary endeavors. I loved to consume visual media; Games, Movies, TV. My job was sedentary but I enjoyed it. I worked on and with computers, in my spare time I would build, “tweak” and “overclock” computers and then play PC games on them.
We like to laud the thin, fast and strong and chastise the fat, slow and weak and this is unfair. A person should be viewed based on how happy they are, regardless of form or means, and back then I was happy.
Then the Financial crisis in 2008 happened. It didn’t drastically affect me, but it soured the milk enough that living in Ireland lost its appeal. My work and life felt like it was being brought to a standstill. Those ideas about moving to Canada in my early 20’s bubbled to the surface. By 2010 we’d sold off everything we owned, packed a few suitcases of clothes and myself and my wife left the Emerald Isle behind, and like many Irishmen before me over the centuries, I headed West for a different life.
I had no plans to climb Mountains in Canada. Among the possessions of importance that I brought with me were my gaming controllers as I fully expected to continue to be interested in PC’s and Gaming and sedentary pursuits. But when we settled into a little town North of Vancouver called Squamish I was surrounded by high places. If you aren’t drawn to climb mountains then I can’t explain the impulse, but I was bitten with an urge to stand on top of these peaks.
My gaming controllers never got unpacked and have a film of dust on them to this day.
I began to drag my oversized body along trails and quickly learnt what likes to go uphill and body fat definitely doesn’t. Over the course of a year I lost ~80lbs and dropped below 200lbs for the first time in years.
I feel it is very important for me to emphasise that losing weight was a byproduct of wanting to climb mountains. At no point did I have the want to lose weight for the sake of weight loss. I feel this is a fundamental flaw with, and a shallow endeavor of, a lot of diets and exercise plans.
What works for me is finding activities that make me happy that happen to also have the side effect of making me lose and keep weight off. “Mountains… have so much to give and give it so lavishly” as one quote says. Now I enjoy Rock and Ice Climbing, Skiing, Mountain Biking, Hiking and Mountaineering. The list of other possible activities that the mountains give us seems endless. In 2013 I will be adding Trail Running to that list.
Which brings me back to 23. Since 2011 my weight has fluctuated between 180lbs and back to 200lbs, I’m currently ~193lbs. Even at my lightest, 180lbs, among the people I hike and mountaineer with I’d be considered heavy. When we’re on a glacier and we need to cross a snow bridge over a crevasse we jokingly say; “It looks strong, but is it Leigh-proof”. I’m usually the one to go first as if it holds me it will probably hold everyone else in the group. More than a few times everyone in the group has crossed a snow bridge over a creek or stream only for it to collapse when I’ve put my weight on it.
My additional weight affects me in a number of other ways in the mountains. I find it harder to get my rock shoes to stick when rock climbing on friction slabs, I sink deeper in fresh snow and I’ve almost never encountered a wind crust on snow that can support my weight. I also think my heavier weight is harder on my body and joints in general. So I want to be lighter, not because I think it will make me live longer or look better but because I know it will make me enjoy the activities I love more.
So, on the 23rd of January, today, I’m giving myself the goal of losing 23lbs to get back to the weight I was when I was 23 (170lbs or lower). How am I going to do this? By doing much more of all the things I love in the mountains and training to run in the Squamish 23km trail race on the 10th of August of course, what else!
You can follow my frequent updates as I progress on our Facebook page here:
I will also be posting periodic updates to pebbleshoo.com, you can follow them by bookmarking this link:
and if you have some 2013 goals of your own, then let me know, I’d love to hear them.