Redefining Impossible

Guest Blogger Luis Bueno


Perhaps the word has crossed your mind when thinking about a challenge you’ve mulled over.

Can I run a marathon? No way, that’s impossible.

Can I run 10 miles? Certainly seems impossible.

I want to lose weight but it feels impossible to do so.

For years, I felt that way. Anything difficult, anything worth fighting for, seemed out of reach. Improbable to attain. Ain’t gonna happen. Downright impossible.

Mentally and physically, I was stuck. I wasn’t just in a rut but a gorge, a canyon with steep, insuperable cliffs. When I hit 30, I weighed more than 300 pounds, and any hope of changing that had vanished somewhere in my 20s. I was used to being heavy – although I ballooned beyond the dreaded 300-pound barrier only a few years before hitting 30. More than being used to it, I was comfortable. Physically of course I was not – a simple walk up a flight of stairs produced heavy panting and beads of sweat on my forehead. But mentally and emotionally, I had accepted myself and my obesity.

I wanted to change but it seemed… well, you know the tune.

However, in early 2006 something changed.

On the surface, I was okay with being obese but somewhere deep down inside, I wasn’t. Somewhere, that part of me that wanted to change, that was desperate to change, finally spoke up, finally shouted loud enough to make me listen.

My wife also heard, and in March 2006 she encouraged me to look into a personal trainer at the local gym. Our daughters were six months and two years of age at the time, and the thought of setting the wrong kind of example began to creep in. I did not want them to be raised by an overweight, timid, mentally-defeated person. They needed a strong, fit and inspiring man in their lives.

Everything combined to force a change of mentality inside of me, and in mid-March of 2006, I took the most difficult step of the entire process – I met with my trainer for the first time.

It wasn’t smooth sailing at first. When I first visited the gym, I sat in the waiting area, utterly embarrassed. I had only glanced around but I could tell that I was easily the largest person in the place. I imagined people’s thoughts about me – “What’s this fat ass doing here?” – and felt ashamed. I wanted to leave. But I’d already spent more than $1,000 so there was no turning back now.

My trainer, Patrick Thompson, greeted me with a smile and handshake. If he was thinking negative thoughts about me, he hid them well. We got to talking and Patrick asked me about my goals and what I wanted to accomplish at the gym. I gave it a thought and came up with the most pie-in-the-sky thing I could think of:

I want a one in front of my weight.

I expected a laugh from Patrick but I got an encouraging smile instead. We went over to the scale and I quickly knew what I was up against. With more feelings of self-loathing and more head shaking, I saw the scale shoot a 308.6 back at me. Patrick could have shook my hand, said “Thanks but no thanks” and sent me on my way, and I would have been fine. Instead, we went over to two machines – an elliptical and a stationary bike. I knocked out eight minutes on one, seven minutes on the other and had just exercised for the first time in…. I could not remember the last time I’d worked out.

For the next three days, I was sore.

Using the soreness as a fuel, and following Patrick’s caloric limits as well, I set off on my weight-loss journey. Twice a week, I met with Patrick for 60-minute workout sessions. I went alone to the gym for solo cardiovascular sessions, and soon the gym became a bit of a second home.

Following Patrick’s advice, I weighed myself just once per month. We went over to the scale after one month of working out and was a bit astounded to see that I had lost 10 pounds. I was under 300 pounds! Invigorated, I stuck to my routine and in Month 2 I lost another 13 pounds. For five consecutive months, I lost at least 10 pounds.

I’d been buying new clothes regularly, as I’d dropped from size 44 pants and XXL shirts to size 40 pants and XL or even L shirts. I’d gone through different belts and jackets as well.

But in November 2006, things changed. Patrick left the gym, my sessions ran out and I stopped working out. I did not work out in December or January or into February. Now, I hadn’t gained any weight but I hadn’t lost any either. In late February though I came to a realization: either I was going to go back to the gym, re-dedicate myself and lose the rest of the weight or I was going to put it all back on.

With the thought of seeing 300 on the scale once more as a prod, I went back to the gym. On my own I figured out a workout routine (resistance training, elliptical, no running because that was when I hated running), stuck to the calorie limits Patrick had set for me (1800 for three days, 2800 on the fourth) and got to work. Weight started to come off, slowly but surely. I hit a few plateaus and had to change up my workouts but once I really hit my stride, the weight slid off my body.

In October 2007, 20 months after I’d first met with Patrick, when I threw out the most ridiculous-sounding goal, that dream became reality. I weighed in at 199.

Had I pictured myself slim, weighing one-hundred-something pounds back, wearing size 34 pants in early 2006 I probably would have failed. What helped me most was not looking at the mountain I had to scale in its entirety but rather looking at the next landmark. I targeted my monthly weigh-ins and set my goals accordingly, and focused on getting the most out of each day, each trip to the gym.

It was not easy – nothing about my journey was easy – and there were setbacks and moments of despair along the way. But I had bought into my original goal (I want to have a one in front of my weight) and that was that. I was not about to derail myself. The old negative “impossible” me was silenced; with every weigh-in, he grew quieter and quieter. It’s tough to argue, after all, that it is impossible to lose weight when I was in fact losing quite a bit of it each month.

Now, of all the goals I’d set for myself, not one of them involved running. In fact, I had done hardly any running throughout my journey. Once settled in at one-hundred-something pounds, I wanted new challenges, craved new challenges.

Enter running. Not marathons of course because those are imp…. wait, wait… sorry. I’d lost 120 pounds, sure, but running 26.2 miles? Surely you jest. I should have quit while I was ahead, I know, but I indeed took up running.

And we’ll have to pick up the story from there next time.

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