During college, one of my favorite songs to listen to when things were going wrong in the romance department was “All My Friends” by Counting Crows. (I always thought it was a bit disingenuous for Adam Duritz to sing about being single when he was squiring around the likes of Courtney Cox and Jennifer Aniston though.) Anyhow, I must have listened to him singing the following lyrics about 1,000 times, but I never really thought about what my life would be like at 33:

Thought I might get a rocket ride
When I was a child
But it was a lie
That I told myself when I needed something good
At 17 had a better dream
Now I’m 33 and it isn’t me

Well, I just turned 33 on Tuesday, and life is much, much better than the “better dream” that I envisioned for my life when I was 17!

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My 32nd year on Earth was pretty great. I ran my first half marathon and my first full marathon, two things that I spent years 0-31 thinking that I’d never be able to do or even want to do. I was promoted to full-time status at my job with Scranton Road Ministries CDC—hurrah for health insurance!—and my community college teaching responsibilities also increased significantly. Because of this, we were able to purchase our first home!

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Anyone who has ever had a birthday knows that everyone always asks you, “So how does it feel to be (insert age here”)?”. I honestly didn’t have much of an answer this year. The day kinda crept up on me! I would have even forgot to renew my car registration if a police officer hadn’t been behind me at a red light on the day before my birthday and I began to wonder if he was running my license plate.

As I’ve thought about it, perhaps the reason why I don’t get too wrapped up in my birthday this year is because I feel like I’ve been turning back the clock over the past two years.

In 2009, I was in a horrible state of health. I attributed my total lack of interest in healthy living and exercise to the stress of law school. I have no idea how much I actually weighed at the time, but the below picture tells the whole story:

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Until 2012, food was the way in which I coped with stress. Free pizza was everywhere in law school, and I thought that washing down six pieces of pizza with a few Diet Cokes was a perfectly normal lunch. After I thought I failed a final that was supposed to be easy, I thought that consuming an entire platter of nachos at Applebee’s was a completely acceptable and normal way to deal with stress. Whenever Sheila would gently encourage me to watch my food intake, I would lash back at her with anger and we would wind up getting into huge arguments.

In 2011, I went to the Scranton Road Ministries CDC Health Fair and had my blood pressure taken. My blood pressure was the cusp of being at a pre-hypertension level. This news was a bit of a wakeup call, but I quickly hit the snooze button on it and proceeded to keep eating my way through another stressful season of life as I searched to find employment.

Fast forward to January 1, 2012, when I requested seconds (or was it thirds?) of whatever we had for breakfast that day and Sheila told me, “I thought you were going to start watching your weight this year!” Admittedly, I had uttered some cursory thoughts about losing weight when my pastor and his wife sat down with Sheila and I and he shared about his success with using MyFitnessPal to lose weight. Not wanting to start the new year with another fight, I didn’t press the issue and headed to the Browns\Steelers game with an empty stomach.

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Watching Greg Little allow the game-winning touchdown pass to slip through his hands on an empty stomach in the Cleveland cold was not a good way to start the year! (Source)

As I’ve written before, I lost a great deal of weight during the first few months of 2012. This made me feel great about myself, and I began to feel even happier after I started running. Although I was exercising more and losing weight, I still found myself cutting corners whenever I could and having no consideration for what I was putting into my body.

Throughout 2013, my interest in healthy living and healthy eating exploded. After suffering through countless runs filled with carbonation-induced side stitches, I completely gave up drinking soda cold turkey and I haven’t had a sip of Diet Coke or any other pop since June 2013. I learned how to make overnight oats and I began to make myself nutritious breakfasts. Sheila got me a single-serving blender as one of my Valentine’s Day gifts, and I can count the number of weekday mornings on which I haven’t had a green smoothie since then on one hand.

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I began making better food choices more regularly, and I also learned that portion control is not a four-letter word.

As time has gone on, I’ve felt healthier, happier, and more self-confident.

Many of the clothes that previously made up my wardrobe now literally fall off my body.

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I’ve had folks who I haven’t seen in awhile ask me, “Where did you go?” and other folks have asked Sheila, “What are you feeding him?” with mock concern because I keep getting thinner and thinner! Someone who saw my old driver’s license picture even thought that I had a fake ID because they said that the picture was completely unrecognizable.

I hadn’t been to a doctor in years, and I was curious to see what my numbers would be when I went to my doctor in June 2013. To my delight, my blood pressure and blood sugar levels turned out to be completely normal!

I work out 6 days a week, and while it’s harder to get to the gym on some days than others, I can honestly say that I’ve never regretted a workout. At this point in my life, working out is as important to my mental health as it is to my physical health. I love coming home from the gym at 10PM and feel like I’ve slept for 12 hours. I feel awful for folks who view working out is something that they “have” to do or who claim that they’re too busy to work out and exercise, because working out and exercising is far too valuable and life-giving to be viewed as a chore or box to be checked off on a schedule!

Shortly after I started running, I thought that I had broken the sound barrier when I ran a 10 minute mile for the first time, and now I’m at the point at which I can run a 9 minute mile without exerting myself in the slightest.

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An 8:32 minute\mile pace on a cold and windy day in the Rocky River Reservation? I’ll take that!

 

Most importantly, God has helped use my success in running and weight loss to help me develop the self-esteem that I lacked for the majority of my life. I’ve done things that I never, ever thought I could do and I shouldn’t waste another second defining myself as the person who got picked last for everything in gym class. Through my experiences over the past 2 years, I’ve learned that living life to the fullest is the only way in which we should live. On my birthday, a few people complimented me on my Facebook for having such passion and excitement for life. Some folks start to run out of steam as they get older, but I’m so grateful that God has me in a position where I feel that the best is yet to come.

Although the number of grey hairs on my head keep growing, I honestly feel like I’m getting younger all the time. I feel much better about my life and my health at 33 than I did when we first got married back in 2007, and I’m excited to see what the future holds. Here’s to an exciting 33rd year on Earth!