I can tell you the exact day when I decided to turn my life around — St. Patrick's Day 2012, two days after my 40th birthday.
It's a moment I will never forget. I had hit rock bottom. I didn't care whether I lived or died. In fact, sometimes before bed I wished that I wouldn't wake up the next morning.
I was disgusted with myself.
It was at that particular moment, on that particular day, that I had enough. I wanted to change. I wanted to live.
Now, before you jump to conclusions, this is not a story about alcoholism or drug addiction. I hadn't lost all of my possessions. I wasn't living on the street.
I still had a lot to lose, but I didn't care if I did.
I had descended into a deep depression. And a major reason for that was being overweight. I was on an inevitable and destructive path toward 400 pounds.
But I made a life-changing decision to lose weight (a lot of weight), and I did it all on my own.
Don't get me wrong, I've tried lots of those popular fad diets — Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, L.A. Weight Loss, Atkins — even the Subway diet. I lost weight on all of them, but in most cases I put the weight right back on, sometimes even more.
My big problem was, and still is, fast food. I work afternoons and evenings, so eating a healthful, home-cooked dinner is difficult. I need to be able to eat on the run. I also don't want to eat six times a day.
Plus, I love chicken wings and beer.
So I decided to create my own weight-loss program. I call it, "The Common Sense Diet."
It's a very simple method. I eat less and exercise more. I know, I know, you've heard it all before. But it REALLY works. Trust me.
So far, I've lost more than 118 pounds and nearly 18 inches off my waist — and logged well over 600 miles. It truly has become a lifestyle change for me.
And now I love vegetables ... well ... except for cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. Blech.
It's now easier than ever to lose weight. There are so many tools out there to help you — pedometers, wrist-band monitors, shoe trackers, smartphone apps, fitness websites. There's an increasing amount of nutritional labeling on foods, restaurant menus and Web pages. And with social media, your friends can keep you accountable.
So how did I do it? I started with Jared.
When I finally decided to get in shape, I tried the Subway diet. Jared Fogle is the famous former fat guy who lost weight eating only Subway sandwiches. His diet was two sandwiches a day. For lunch, he had a 6-inch turkey sub and a small bag of baked chips or pretzels. For dinner, he had a foot-long veggie sandwich and the same chips or pretzels.
I took his plan and tweaked it. I ate a foot-long for both meals, turkey or chicken, with baked chips. It wasn't exact, but it was a lot better than what I had been eating.
After about two months, I had a physical. I weighed in at 368 pounds and was informed I was pre-diabetic. This actually was a relief, because I was afraid I already was diabetic.
My doctor also told me my severe vitamin D deficiency likely was causing my depression, so he prescribed a high dosage of vitamin D. For the next three months, I took 50,000 international units twice a week and 5,000 IUs on the other days. I still take 5,000 a day, and I swear by its effects. I noticed almost immediately this dark, gray cloud lifting.
Aside from the vitamin D, I take a daily multivitamin, vitamin C, zinc and fish oil.
After about three months of eating Subway every day, I decided to change my diet. I counted the calories from the sandwiches and realized I was eating between 1,200 and 1,500 calories a day.
So I decided to find other "fast" foods that would keep me in that range. With my handy smartphone, I was able to find nutritional information in lots of different places.
Did you know that Del Taco sells eight different tacos ranging from 130 to 220 calories? Or that the grilled chicken strips at Jack in the Box contain only 250 calories? Or that the 6-inch chicken sandwich at Togos has only 490 calories? Or that Pita Pit's chicken pita with hummus, avocado, Parmesan cheese and all of the veggies is less than 550 calories?
I was finding lots of healthy options and dropping the weight.
But the mirror told a different story.
I didn't understand. I had lost close to 30 pounds since my physical. My clothes were looser, and I had more energy.
But when I looked in the mirror or saw myself in pictures, I still looked the same.
I was frustrated, but I didn't quit. I decided to add exercise to my plan and simply started walking.
It was slow-going and short distances in the beginning. A half-mile at first until I could push myself to a mile.
When one mile became too easy, I pushed myself a half-mile farther. Then two miles. I'm now averaging four miles at a time, and sometimes twice in one day. I've since pushed myself past five and six miles on several occasions, and plan on reaching 10 miles soon.
Once I started walking, the pounds melted off. I remember the first time someone noticed — my co-worker Mandy called me skinny. I will always remember that feeling. It motivated me to continue my journey.
But do you know the best part of adding the exercise?
It's allowed me to still enjoy my chicken wings and beer, but only in moderation.
And then it's right back to work.
Dave Sager is a Mail Tribune copy editor and page designer who appears in the paper's online video series Dan & Dave Do Stuff (www.mailtribune.com/DanDaveDoStuff). Reach him at 541-776-4484 or firstname.lastname@example.org.