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Monday, January 14, 2013

Mark Rucker on Getting Fit: How to do what I did and what sparked my journey to change

A couple of weeks ago I wrote about New Year’s Resolutions and the fact that I resolved not to make resolutions. The point that I wanted to make was that sometimes we get so focused on the “big” changes that we’d like to see that we lose sight of the “small” changes that we need to make to get there. I’ve had quite a few people ask me recently about the beginning of my journey and what I did to get started. Because of that I thought it would be helpful to those of you who are looking to make some changes in the New Year to share that story once again. If you have questions please feel free to reach out to me. I’m always happy to help in any way that I can.

I’ve shared the beginning of my story with you previously. How I came to be so overweight and what happened in my life to spark the journey to change. And more recently I’ve shared with you all the setback that I faced at Ironman Louisville. (I don’t want to call it the ending of my story because I know it’s not an ending) But I’ve never shared with you what happened in between. What I did to go from fat to fit. And recently I’ve had many people ask me about that in-between area. So today I want to share more of the detail with you.

When I had my “a-ha” moment in February 2011 I realized that I was not in good enough physical condition at that time to engage in much physical activity. I decided that I really needed to focus on my diet and the things that I could change to help make my body healthier. I started with my biggest weakness. Soft drinks. I was really addicted to Coke. I would drink the equivalent of a 2 liter of regular Coke, or more, each day. I wouldn’t go out and buy a 2 liter but rather I would buy a 20 ounce bottle here, or a large drink when I would order fast food. But it was a daily habit and one that added a tremendous amount of calories to my daily intake.

I decided that instead of going cold turkey I would switch to diet soda and slowly cut them out. I bought a 24 pack of Coke Zero that I kept at the office. Each day I would allow myself to have one. I made the decision that once the 24 pack was gone, I would be finished with soda. At the same time each day I focused on drinking more water. Over the 24 days I found that my craving for soda diminished and I actually started craving water. And after the last Coke Zero was gone I stuck to my commitment and quit soda.

I also knew from past “diets” that I couldn’t quit everything all at once. Although that method of change yielded successful results in the past, they were always very short-lived. And any weight loss that I managed to have would be immediately wiped out once I would self-destruct and revert back to my old habits. This time I knew that it wasn’t going to be a “diet”. This was a lifestyle change.

The next step on my journey was to cut out processed carbs. That was the single focus of the 2nd week on my journey. I knew that breads, rice and pasta were easy ways to add calories that I really didn’t need in my diet. I focused on adding fruits and vegetables to my diet to replace the processed carbs with whole ones. Instead of eating bread for lunch I would pack a salad loaded with tons of different veggies. Instead of having cereal in the morning I would eat an egg substitute omelet with sautéed veggies and a side of fruit.

Add within these first two weeks I could already tell a difference in how I felt and how I looked. I felt healthier. I had more energy. I had lost weight. My clothes fit better. And I honestly started to believe that I could do this. I could change my life by taking small steps.

Each week I would focus on making another small change to my eating habits. The week after I cut out the processed carbs I decided to focus on my snacks. I am a huge fan of almonds but for years I had been eating the roasted and salted kind, thinking that I was doing myself a favor. But unfortunately the roasting removes a lot of the nutrients and all the salt isn’t healthy for someone with high blood pressure either. So I decided to eat raw almonds each day. I remember the first time I bit into one. I thought it was spoiled. It was slightly sweet and chewy. The almonds I’d always eaten were salty and very crunchy. I threw the pack away and bought another. Again, I had the same sweet, chewy experience. Then it hit me. The almonds that I had grown accustomed to were crunchy because all the moisture had been roasted out. And the sweetness along with it. I honestly felt a little stupid when I had the realization that this is how an almond is really supposed to taste. Now I love the taste and I still each a serving of almonds every day.

The next step for me was to cut out salad dressing. I LOVE Ranch dressing. Let me say that again. I LOVE Ranch dressing. I think if you covered an old leather boot with enough Ranch dressing I could probably figure out a way to eat it. But I knew that dressing added a lot of needless calories to my diet. Now I know there are fat free dressings out there and I’m not saying they’re terrible for you, but I wanted to do as much as I could to cut out all the extra items in my diet that I could live without. I would add a little olive oil to my salad each day to add a little flavor. Eventually I even stopped adding the olive oil just to cut out the fat calories. It took some time to get used to eating raw veggies in a bowl. But now I love it. I am still amazed at how my tastebuds got so used to the taste of food being covered up with things like dressings, salt and sugar.

The next step was to cut out alcohol. Yes I know that words of this nature are blasphemous in Bourbon country, but I looked at it from a simple calorie intake perspective. Food and drink are to be enjoyed but when the calories added by those items outweigh the return then it’s time to make a change. It was tough to go out with friends and to not partake. But again, I believe that it was an essential part of my journey.

So now you know the dietary changes that I made on my journey. Everything I did was based on the concept of small steps. Just changing one small thing each week led to some huge changes over time. And just so you know, I’m not saying that I don’t eat processed carbs now, or drink beer or wine, or even the occasional Ale-8 every now and then. But they aren’t regular staples in my diet these days like they once were. And for my journey to be successful I knew that I had to prove to myself that I could reach a point where I could exercise self-control over the things that helped get me so out of shape. And now I know that I have the ability to exercise that self-control.

Take a few minutes today to think about some of the items in your diet that you can change. You don’t have to go all crazy and change everything all at once. Instead I want to challenge you to focus on just one of those items and make the decision to change it. Trust me, if I can do it, you CAN do it too.”

Mark D. Rucker is an attorney from Lexington who spent the majority of his adult life struggling with weight issues. As a result of his unhealthy lifestyle and weight, he suffered from high blood pressure, sleep apnea and was borderline diabetic. In February of 2011, at the age of 42, Rucker weighed over 365 pounds. It was then that he decided it was time to change his life. He now hopes to use his experience to help inspire and encourage others to begin their own journey to health and fitness. By focusing on his “small steps” philosophy, Rucker believes that anyone, at any age and in any physical condition, can change his or her life. Recently, he create a Facebook page called Get Moving Lexington to encourage the people of Lexington to get active.



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