The real world attacks- A tennis player’s experience with losing and gaining weight

I weighed 195 lbs at the end of my senior year in High School and had a body fat percentage of around 28% (based on bioelectrical impedance evaluations in PE).  I was playing 2-3 hours of tennis a day 7 days a week and I still had problems losing weight.

After my first year of college, I lost 40 lbs and went the opposite direction to most of my freshman colleagues. I’d say the biggest factor for the weight loss was the fact that I had declared Nutrition as my major and was taking my first year courses.

Before I started taking those classes I couldn’t even tell you how to read a Nutrition label, let alone figure out why if I was so active, would I be so overweight.  If I could, I’d make every American enroll in one basic Nutrition class; knowledge is a great motivator, aside from being an invaluable tool.  After the introductory class, nutrition labels were transformed from ignored puzzles to prized schematics. Building a good diet and knowing what nutrients to minimize and what to stay away from became as easy as color by number.  I supplemented my new diet with frequent visits to the gym, mixing aerobics with weight training and eating smaller meals/snacks more frequently; it’s like the fat melted off.

After I graduated, I started working full-time and even though I haven’t gained too much weight (12 lbs in 2 years), I feel (and look) more out of shape and less healthy than when I was in school.  There is a stark difference between being a student, simultaneously working part-time and working a full-time job and what that does to your motivation.

Being a student while working part-time gives you more flexibility with your schedule and affords the opportunity to utilize awkwardly timed breaks for the gym or to run errands and shop for meals.  Hitting the gym for an hour was convenient and easy to do in between classes or after work or studying.  If work takes up 8-9 hours of your day, you have to find the catalyst to push yourself to exercise, to go to the store and plan out your meals with the rest of your waking hours.  If there’s a farmer’s market in your area, that’s miles better than any grocery store (maybe not in selection, but in quality and freshness).

The socializing that’s inherent in most farmers markets makes the shopping process more of an activity as opposed to a chore, and I found that it was easier to base recipes/cook meals from whatever fresh ingredients I had on hand.

My last year in college I was in the best shape of my life; I was playing tennis three to four times per week and going to the gym on my off-days (and sometimes after my hit).  My body fat went down to about 11 percent (Hydrostatic weighing and bioelectrical impedance), and I was weighing in at about 160 lbs (height-5’11″).

Most days I made all three meals for myself and when I did go out I tried my best to go with the health conscious decisions.  This was the year I won my first singles tournament.  Granted, it wasn’t a huge draw but the point remains: I was playing better than I ever had because I knew that my speed and strength outmatched my opponents’.  The confidence that emanated from my increased fitness only made my shots and decisions that much more purposeful and merciless.

I can admit at end of a long day, nothing sounds better than going home, ordering some Thai or Chinese food, sinking into the couch in front of the television and letting the stresses of the day melt from my brain.  But I’ve realized (not only in theory but also in practice) that if I can find the dedication to work out, the energy gain comes after — and it’s soooo worth it.  The ends justify the means by leaps and bounds. You might lose an hour of sleep per day to the torture chamber that is the conventional gym, but when you’re flexing your abs on the beach that hour per day will seem priceless.  You can’t let apathy for your health mix with the ease of doing nothing, it’s the recipe for Jelly rolls.  Dig deep, it’s there- the drive, the desire to live a more healthful life, I believe it’s in all of us even if it’s miniscule and the key is to find it and feed it.

Jackson