Why Did You Get Healthy?

EVERYONE SEEMS TO ASK WHY I DECIDED TO LOSE WEIGHT. To be fair, the question is usually “Why did you make a change now?” Or “Why did you start running?” The answer to the first question is simply that I realized I was embarrassed of the person I had become. It took me longer to find the answer to the second question, even after I started running. I sure am glad I started, though.

For several years now, essentially since I started implementing GTD as my organizational system, I’ve had a goal to lose weight. I never really did anything serious about it. It’s one of those things that I knew I needed to do, I kinda wanted to do, but I had no concrete plans on how I was going to do it or when it was going to get done. It was just there to remind me, and generally make me feel bad about not having started already. It had been eating at me more with the kids: they go full speed all the time, and I wanted to be able to keep up.

At the end of 2011 I weighed 265. This was as much as I’ve ever been, built by a sedentary job and lifestyle, years of long car commutes, and some really lousy eating habits. I can remember times when I was 220 and 230. I can remember 11 years ago when I realized I was drinking over 6 cans of Coke a day, but that bad habit was just replaced with a different one. I also remember the times I managed to drop some weight, usually when we had a fitness competition at work and I spent time walking around the lake at lunch. I was never able to make it stick.

It wasn’t a New Year’s resolution. No, seriously. The timing was just coincidence. That’s when I do a yearly GTD review, so that’s when I decided I’d had enough with carrying that particular goal around. It was time to do something about it, or stop kidding myself that it was actually a goal. So I started walking at lunch when I got back to work in January. I started tracking every single thing I ate, and keeping calories to an aggressive goal to lose 2 pounds a week. It paid off, and I started to see my weight come down pretty quickly with how much change I had made.

It wasn’t until that March that I started running. I was walking over 3 miles a day at lunch at least 3 days a week, but I couldn’t really do more without making my exercise more efficient. I tried on my own a couple days, just doing a little running in the middle of my walk, and I put myself in pain each time. So I started Couch to 5K, I took a Chi Running workshop, and I kept going. I had my sights set on the Disney Princess half-marathon the next February, since I knew some other people who were planning on that. At that point it was just good exercise: a means to the end of losing weight.

In late May I ran my first 5K, and I amazed myself by running it all the way through. I had some setbacks in my training due to being sick, and that week I hadn’t run more than 12 minutes without resting. What surprised me even more was that at the finish line, I wanted to go back and do it again. I actually liked running, and not just for the exercise. I changed up my training and refocused my goal on the Walt Disney World Marathon in January.

By October, I had lost 85 pounds. More than that, I was a different person. I ate better, I was working out five or six days a week, and I had tossed out clothes twice as I went from the upper side of XL down to M. In the meantime I had run 5Ks, 4 milers, an 8K, and a 10 miler. I took a trip to Disney World for a week, and got up extra early to run before we went to the parks. I spent the following week on a cruise ship, and one of those days I ran 38 laps around the deck of the ship one morning to get my run in. It didn’t matter if when I got up I felt like maybe I could go back to sleep. I knew that as soon as I started running I would feel so much better, and that would hold for the rest of the day.

In January, I ran the WDW Marathon. I hadn’t run for the 2 weeks before, because I had pain in my left calf. I went out a little too fast, I nearly ended my race at mile 4 with a sharp pain, and I had to walk most of the race after mile 19 because of all of that. I finished in 5:21, almost an hour slower than my goal, but I finished and I had an amazing time. That afternoon, while Marcy napped in the hotel room, I sat and thought about everything I had been through over the previous year. I read the inscription on my medal, “All our dreams can come true… if we have the courage to pursue them,” and I broke down in tears.

Todd Palino


I'm a dad, a small business owner, a systems engineer, a developer, and any number of other things.

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