Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Sol Orwell is 34, 5’6” tall, and currently weighs 150 pounds. In 2009, after realizing that his weight was holding him back, he was determined to get in better shape and fully experience life. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
I was always a heavy kid. I loved to play soccer and my weight was sometimes useful because I couldn’t be nudged off the ball but it also meant my conditioning was not as good as it should have been.
While most people gain the “freshman 15” when going to university, I actually lost a bit of weight as a result of being broke and being away from my mother’s delicious baking. That feeling was great. But once I started making money, the treats came back, and so did the weight. I not only regained the weight I had accidentally lost, but put on even more than I originally had.
Eventually I ended up moving to Argentina with my then-wife, and was visiting the border of Chile with her and one of my best friends. At one point the guide pointed at a mountain; he said it was Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America. I just blurted out that I was going to climb it, and both my buddy and ex-wife said that it was never gonna happen.
That’s when it really hit me; I wasn’t just a bit heavy, I was just completely out of shape. I remember going up the ski lift and running around in the snow, and becoming completed winded within 15 seconds.
I decided to start small and adopt just one healthy habit. So I went out and bought an Omron pedometer, put it on, and my goal was to simply walk 10,000 steps per day.
I didn’t know this at the time, and research has proven this to be true, but when you adopt even just one healthy habit, you automatically start to tighten the screws on everything else.
Once I lost about five to 10 pounds, I started becoming more aware of my body. I started eating healthier, drinking less alcohol, and lifting heavy weights so I got stronger while losing fat.
At the end of the day, I tried almost every single diet — paleo, Atkins, ketogenic, low-fat, you name it. I found that the one that worked best for me was a balanced diet that allowed be to develop better intuitive eating habits. I’d have steak, but also have chicken. I’d have a cookie, but also fruit. If one day I had too much steak, the next day I’d go a bit lower fat.
As for exercise, it was just lifting weights. I have a genetic condition that causes my ligaments and tendons to tear easily and I’ve had seven surgeries, so I have to be careful, and thus, adopted a more bodybuilding-style of lifting. I do three to four sets of eight to 12 reps, and focus more on the muscles than the movement.
I felt great, but I was tired. Dieting is a misnomer — to lose weight, you need to change your lifestyle. And that can be both fun (new me!) and exhausting (damn, I want cookies!)
The number one thing I did for myself was to keep anything that I would want to binge on out of the house. I only went shopping for food when full, so the urge to grab a box of cookies or a Twix bar was kept to a minimum.
My motivation was the activity in my life. I was now going hiking, canoeing, exploring, and more. My old body could not have held up to the rigor.
I’ve definitely reached a new level of confidence. I was decently successful before, but pairing it with increased confidence in your physical abilities feels great.
In itself, my life did not necessarily change, but I feel more fulfilled. I get to partake in physical activities I would not have been able to do before.
You can eat desserts and stay fit. I’ve had over 150 people send me cookies, and I remain pretty lean. You just need to find the right moderation. I eat the cookies, but I’m also eating a large amount of vegetables, lean protein, and drinking ample water.
My eating is mostly intuitive. I aim for just over 2,000 calories a day, and so when I’m eating, I’m adding sets of 100 calories in my head. I don’t beat myself up when I’m hanging with friends on a Saturday and we enjoy BBQ, but then I’ll try to tone it down a bit the following day.
As for exercise, I lift four times a week. Two of them are roughly 60 minutes, including warm-up and jogging to the gym, and the other two clock in at 90 minutes.
I eat my veggies. As long as I get fiber and protein in my diet, and I am lifting weights, my body does a great job taking care of me. I still walk 10,000 steps a day.
I am motivated by my love of travel. I was recently caving and had to go through a few squeezes (named as-such because it feels like the earth is “squeezing” you). I could not have done it at my old weight.
I still love sugary treats. You put a box of cookies in front of me, and I will destroy them. That’s my challenge, and I have not perfected a solution for it yet! But over time, I have been able to develop a balance that works for me most of the time.
You have to embrace changing your life forever, not take it as a temporary change. Don’t go gung-ho — just change one thing, let it stick, and then worry about the next step. For example, start by trying for 6,000 steps a day.
All photos courtesy of Sol Orwell.
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