I have always been fat for as long as I can remember. Like so many others, I've tried many approaches to getting fit–from extreme dieting to extreme exercising, all with varying success. I've made many mistakes, and learned a lot along the way. In this series of diet chronicles, I share my story, my biggest lessons learned so far, and how I'm zeroing in on health today
As a kid, I was raised on a high-carb, low protein and moderate fat diet. Grains (mostly bread, sometimes rice) and starches (potatoes) were the main fuel source.
An average breakfast/lunch was a few slices of bread with margarine and one topping, varying from chocolate sprinkles (yes, really) to cheese or ham.
An average dinner for an adult would be boiled potatoes with a veggie and a ±100gr (3.5oz) meatball.
This is a very normal way to eat in the Netherlands.
In spite of that, I started getting chubby from a very young age, while others weren't.
My first diet experiment (as a kid): disillusion
My first "diet experiment" I ran when I was probably 8 years old. My mom had told me that I should probably eat a little less.
The idea that I was fat because I ate too much made a lot of sense to me. After all, I was always hungry–pretty much insatiable. I loved bread and I could eat it endlessly.
Especially bread with cheese.
Also, none of the other kids were fat. Not my brothers, none of my friends or classmates. It was just me.
So I tried hard to eat less for a week. But I clearly remember stepping on the scale after a week of being hungry and seeing absolutely zero difference.
I was very discouraged that that approach didn't work.
I was also immediately out of options.
I concluded that I was just going to have to be the fat kid, and put up with the bullying at school and at home forever. So I ended up embracing being "big" as part of my identity.
High school: running & starving to join the marines
When I turned 16, I got it in my head that I wanted to become an officer in the marines.
But I knew that in my current shape, I was way too fat and my endurance was way too poor to get in. So I stepped on the scale to see how bad it really was.
101kg (222lbs) at 186cm (6'1).
I decided to start running, like my dad had always done to stay fit.
Because I was so overweight and out of shape, I started very simply, literally doing intervals of 2 minutes of jogging and 1 minute of walking.
And over the time span of about 14 months, I built that up until I was running over 35 miles a week with a highlight of running a half marathon in 1h45.
At the same time, I was also starving myself. I reduced my food intake to one slice of bread for breakfast and two slices plus an apple for lunch, same dinner as before but no snacks or sweets at any point.
I lost a ton of weight doing this, over 23kg (50lbs).
Part of the reason that I was still fat is that I had also lost a lot of muscle in this process, despite doing bodyweight exercises like pushups, sit-ups and pull-ups to failure daily.
In hindsight it's no wonder why this happened. A body needs adequate protein to maintain or build muscle and I was already on a low-protein diet, but now eating even less. Plus, I was doing a ton of endurance exercise, which is notoriously catabolic (i.e. breaks down muscle).
Suffice it to say that my physical fitness (especially strength and power) was still not up to par when I got to the physical fitness test at the Marine base, so I failed to get in.