119: Alan Ali on The Power of a Support System (M/32)

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Some Resource links below go to their product pages on Amazon. Amazon and the Amazon logo are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc, or its affiliates. Read my Affiliate Disclosure.

“Fall down seven times, stand up eight.”

“Be careful how you speak to yourself, because you’re always listening.”

Weight Gain Background and Impact

Alan’s weight gain began when he was in 2nd-3rd grade, while his parents were going through a divorce.

Looking back, he says he was sad about the whole situation and he began to eat food to comfort himself.

“I started eating food as a remedy for what I was feeling…”

Alan recalls almost always being the biggest kid in class, if not the school. He describes feeling like an outcast and getting picked on a lot.

In high school Alan was involved in sports like football and wrestling, and while he had friends, the social aspects were still tough.

“I felt left out of a lot of things when I was growing up.”

He ended up dropping out of high school his senior year and just got his GED instead. “It took a heavy toll on me.

Alan can remember that in middle school he was so distracted by the bullying that there were simple things like rules in grammar he just didn’t learn, and ended up having to teach them to himself in college.

“I didn’t really have great self esteem.”

Even though Alan lacked confidence, at his heaviest he never really talked down to himself.

“When I looked in the mirror in the morning I didn’t like what I saw, but I also didn’t talk down to myself.”

Alan discusses that he isn’t exactly sure why he didn’t engage in negative self-talk, but he is glad that isn’t part of his personality.

The Turning Point

After college, Alan secured health insurance through his job and he got a checkup since he hadn’t had a physical exam in a long time. Test results showed that he had very high blood pressure, was pre-diabetic, and had sleep apnea. Alan describes his sleep apnea as being so bad that he could sleep 12 hours and still feel exhausted enough to fall asleep while driving.

Alan reached a peak weight of 480 pounds. (218 kg)

In 2009 during the housing bust Alan got laid off from his construction job and says—“I was at the bottom.

On a long car ride Alan had a tough conversation with himself that boiled down to: either he would do something to change his life now, or keep going as it was, and basically wait to die.

Starting The Weight Loss Journey

The next day, he started. Alan joined a gym and recalls bringing his brother-in-law along for his first day because he was too shy to go in alone.

“As far as the gym, let me tell you–it was a scary place for a long time for me.”

Alan tells how he would sit in his car in the gym parking lot for 15 minutes every visit to psyche himself up to go inside.

Alan counts his stubborn personality as one of his assets, and this quality helps him stick to his workouts. Even though he tried to go to the gym when it was pretty empty, it was a struggle to force himself to go.

“I felt uncomfortable every second I was in there. But I would just force myself to stay.”

Alan shares that, as long as you walk in through the gym doors more often than you don’t walk in, then you’re going to be okay.

Alan recommends bringing a friend or relative along to the gym if you’re shy or feel intimidated at first.

Alan also reached out and contacted a registered dietician (Ryan Sobus at www.healthydietsinc.com), and would speak to her 1-2 times each month. They discussed meal plans and macronutrients, and how to make choices at restaurants, and the like. Alan mentions how he enjoyed learning to cook.

Alan found a coach (@AMERtheHAMMER) from seeing a tweet, and now Alan has his coach (and now friend) to hold him accountable.

“I can’t change yesterday. I can only change today and tomorrow.”

Alan lost 85 pounds (38.6 kg) in the first 8-9 months of his journey, and today he weighs 345 pounds. (156.8 kg) Alan recalls that he “could barely walk” at his heaviest. He experienced numbness and pain in his legs and feet at all times.

These days, though Alan is still working towards his ultimate health & fitness goals, he is able to work out 5-6 days each week, and run races like triathlons and tough mudders.

Challenges Alan Faced Along The Way

Alan feels that “weight loss is really all mental…it’s more mental than anything else.

Alan discusses that he still has an issue with food. When he was between jobs and was stressed out, he says food was always there, like a best friend. Alan is working through why he feels about food the ways he does, and is thinking about talking with a therapist about the issue.

“I’m my biggest obstacle.”

Alan’s tactic with life in general has been to deal with one project at a time, and says he first tackled moving his lifestyle towards health, and now he is taking the step to put in the mental work of weight loss.

What Alan Learned About Food, Exercise, and Himself

Alan relies strongly on the support system he has built for himself. Initially he found those people to support him through social media—twitter, instagram, facebook—and he realized that he was absolutely not alone on his journey.

It helped him to meet people online who were going through exactly the same experiences as he was—fears of the gym, disordered eating, tracking calories, and the like. Once Alan felt comfortable with talking about his struggles online he was able to open up and share what he was going through with his close friends and family, which was a great feeling.

Alan has tried all kinds of diets, from extreme ones to more sensible. Alan feels like balance is a hard thing to find when you have issues with food. Alan still mostly cooks meals at home, but integrates going out to eat with family and co-workers into his weekly routine, emphasizing that in a lifestyle vs. a diet these are things you do.

Alan says that eating out with family or friends can still fit into his weight-loss journey and bring success, but that disordered eating still presents a problem here and there. This issue is what Alan is working to figure out next.

“I just won’t give up…that’s just how I’m wired.”

Alan emphasizes that weight loss is a journey, not a destination. He highlights that people shouldn’t focus just on the numbers, because that can be too daunting and stressful. Instead, Alan stays focused on the day-to-day activities.

Alan Going Forward

When he was first starting out, Alan spent hours at the gym.

Now, he works out regularly 5-6 days each week for about 1.5 hours per session, and takes days off when he needs them.

Alan’s next big goal is the May 2015 half ironman in Raleigh, North Carolina. Alan says this will be the biggest athletic challenge of his life. He wants to be more comfortable while running, swimming and jumping, and for that he wants to continue to lose weight.

His goal weight range is 225-250 (102.2-113.6 kg), and long term he wants to do a full ironman.

Alan’s Advice For Your Journey

“Don’t expect results from the work you didn’t put in.”

Be honest with yourself at all times, even when that’s hard. Even when you have to look at difficult problems in your own health like binge eating, be honest.

If your weigh-in doesn’t go well for the week, look at it seriously and honestly acknowledge what you did that week that wasn’t on plan.

Take things day by day.

Don’t beat yourself up too much. It’s not about being perfect, but you want to have more good than bad days.

Resources Discussed In This Podcast

On Alan’s Workout Playlist

Contacting Alan

Smile Train is a non-profit organization that helps pay for cleft lip surgery all around the world. Alan’s first triathlon was a fundraiser for this organization. Alan is now part of their half-triathlon team and is hoping to raise $2500 for the organization through his participation in the race next year. Show him your support!

You must be logged in to view comments.