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How Mega Weight Gain Happens (Part 1)

How Mega Weight Gain Happens (Part 1)

This is the story of how I became obese and stayed obese the majority of my nearly 40 years.

I topped out at 500 lbs. I’m sure there were days I was a few pounds over but that was the highest I ever saw on a scale. As I am currently in a period of deep focus and intentional action to reclaim my health, I have spent a good deal of time reflecting on what got me to where I was. And I believe I now have some significant insight on how an otherwise healthy and happy person can compromise their lifespan and ability to function in life with the over consumption of food.

I was always chubby. I was not abnormally large at birth but I got chubby as soon as I figured out how to get nutrition into my mouth. I now know (thanks to some medical tests) that my genes have imbued me with an incredibly slow metabolism. I can’t say for sure if it was my slow metabolism, my parents overwhelming desire to make me happy with food, or some psychological aspect I can’t explain, that got the ball rolling. But any picture of me beyond 6 months, you will see at least some fat beyond what could be categorized as ‘baby fat.’

One of my earliest memories is an extremely faded impression of my aunt preparing my king costume. I was in a baby pageant. I went on to win the title of ‘Supreme Prince’ for the overall pageant prize. I also had the distinct honor of winning the ‘Champion Chubby’ title. Thankfully my parents only put me into one pageant. But my Mom still has the trophies.

My heritage is deeply entrenched in food as an expression of love. Whenever my mother cooked for my Dad and I it was an extension of her love for us, if not necessarily “healthy.” She came from a large family of poor but hard working farmers where one of the few joys they could share was food. So in the house I grew up in there was always delicious food easily within reach. And I reached for it.

I was always happy. For a number of reasons. I had 2 great parents that loved me more than I could ever ask for. We were lower middle class. As an only child I was spoiled with attention and love. And my parents always managed to keep me occupied with toys and recreational activities. I lived in a neighborhood full of kids close to my age with lots of woods and creeks to explore.

I was active as a child. Far more active than what appears to be happening in neighborhoods today. We rode bicycles, chased after each other, played in the streets and explored all woods, creeks and storm drains within a mile radius. It was pretty idyllic. I don’t think I could have asked for better. But there are handful of memories that stand out in which I’m ridiculed for my weight by other kids. I was very meek and sensitive as a child. I still am in a lot of ways, I suppose. But it always hurt and sometimes ended in tears.

My parents were concerned early on. Their concern was reinforced by my pediatrician. We had various attempts to improve my eating habits. But I was resistant to nearly all vegetables unless fried or covered in cheese. And we just didn’t know much about nutrition. My parents even enrolled me in a program called “Twigs” which was some outdoor activity program for overweight kids. We had events on the weekends and it usually comprised of meeting up somewhere and going on a hike with other chubby kids. It was fun but it didn’t counteract the fresh tortillas, beef, beans and processed snacks I was eating at the slightest boredom.

Video games emerged as I grew up. My Dad was curious in technology and how things worked in general so my parents eventually indulged my desires. As I racked up more hours on the Nintendo, Sega and messing around with PCs and 2400 baud modems, my time spent outside running around decreased. But my parents provided many opportunities to explore various athletics. So I was at different times active, in Tae Kwon Do (thanks to Karate Kid), Football, Basketball and Baseball. I wanted to box and play soccer. But I think my parents knew soccer was the last place an overweight child would experience any success. And my Dad was a boxer when he was young. He didn’t want me to get knocked around when I was a kid. So I had to settle for shadow boxing in my living room while watching Rocky 3 and 4.

I was never very successful in any of these sports. I lacked natural aggression and my weight was not an asset in any athletic undertaking except that of being a football offensive lineman. But I enjoyed them all. Football became my primary sport as the others began to fade away. My last 2 years of pee-wee league football however became tainted by experiences of having to weigh in. I was too heavy to play in my grade of football so I played with boys a year older. And I still did ok. The next year with no age group to bump up to, I found myself in a sauna at a local gym losing a couple of pounds at the last minute. I don’t think I made the limit. I think they fudged the rules because they saw my fragile spirit.

As I began to play football at Jr. High, my interest faded. I was bored with running the same offensive line plays and blocking patterns. So playing football became practicing football. And practicing football became goofing around on the sidelines with friends. With brief interludes of a football coach yelling at us and making us run or do push ups. All the while putting on weight but maintaining a modicum of athletic activity.

I quit football before High School. I was bored with it and not willing to put in the hard work during off season training. My Dad was disappointed but he didn’t hold it against me. Looking back on it, I understand now. He loved watching me play and he knew it was good for me to have some physical activity with my weight and tendency to spend hours on a keyboard dialing up other computers with my modem. He put so much time and effort in watching, driving to and coaching the various sports I played. He even coached my basketball team. He didn’t know anything about basketball and our team sucked. But it was fun and I worked up a sweat. I imagine he was worried that all that time we spent together involved in sports would just become a distant memory. Another piece of my childhood lost to time.

But He was wrong. We had one more journey to go on together. We had a few more memories to make. With my Dad in my corner I would discover a strength inside myself that I didn’t know existed. My Dad passed away last April. But he’s still in my corner and I’m still fighting because of this journey we took together…

I am sorry to leave on a bit of a cliff hanger but I’m getting a bit overwhelmed emotionally and I have a lot more to say. I want to be sure I can write clearly. It probably makes sense to break this up anyway.

To be continued…

Adam Gutierrez
Highest Weight: 500 lbs.
Current Weight: 431 lbs. 
Goal Weight: 250 lbs.
Thunderpounds.com

Sticking to the plan

Sticking to the plan

This is one of the hardest things for me to do in a number of areas in my life. I get excited about a new thing be it diet, workout, business idea, book or any other meaty idea that I can sink my attention into. Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of upsides to having a healthy dose of curiosity. At the same time too much curiosity can complicate taking on significant challenges in life, that take time and consistency.

Losing weight when you have ~200 pounds to lose takes time and consistency to lose. In the past I have gotten excited about different diets and workouts. But that excitement is fragile any many ways because there’s always another potential diet or workout that is well-marketed or interesting to learn about.

I’ve done the same thing with my career, education, technological interests, side projects and even my relationships. But lately the thrashing around has begun to settle in ways that I am very happy with. A few years ago I met my wife and soon realized I was determined to spend the rest of my life with her. Settled. Around a year ago the startup I work at was clearly in need of someone responsible for the product. I asked for the opportunity and was given the chance to become a Product Manager. Which I have found to be a particularly good fit for my own skills and interests.

Now as I focus on reclaiming my health and active lifestyle I must settle into the plans I’ve made with my Doctor. I must settle into the plans I’ve made with myself.

And two weeks in, it is going pretty well. I’m down 15 pounds. Which is a lot but that is expected with a diet of this nature and the decrease in pounds has slowed down significantly in the past few days. But the number is still trending in the right direction.

I have also done a bit of thrashing in regards to the technology stack I will use to build the tools for focused weight loss. I have settled on a technology that is both exciting and I am familiar with. The tools I build will be using the Blockstack decentralized platform. Which allows the user to control their data entirely. Decentralization is not a feature that is crucial to weight loss management. But it will help me bootstrap the tools since I will be able to focus primarily on the user experience and not on a scaling up databases. With Blockstack the user stores their own data.

And with just some minimal tweaking and services, I’ve got a decent landing page at Thunderpounds.com and I’m happy with the way the blog looks.

Now to stick to the plan of building some decent software, losing weight and sharing my experience.

Adam Gutierrez
Weight: 438 lbs
Thunderpounds.com

The Next Iteration

The Next Iteration

Today I am beginning a 6-week temporary diet to lose 20-30 pounds. It’s called the HCG diet and it is not without controversy. But I’m doing it under the supervision of a medical doctor who is certified by the American Board of Obesity Medicine. She specializes in non-surgical weight loss and management.

I’m spending today and tomorrow loading up on fat so that for the next 6 weeks I will be on a diet restricted to 750 calories a day. This is an extreme deficit. The other part is that I am to inject myself with a hormone (HCG) which is supposed to assist with satiety and the use of fat stores over muscle.

I am more than anything looking forward to the strict regiment so I can turn off reasoning about food and just ‘stick to the plan.’ I also like the idea of a strict 6 weeks and then returning to a healthy but sustainable daily caloric intake. If it goes well I may lose up to 30 pounds in the 6 weeks. This would be the lowest weight I’ve been in I don’t know how long and I predict will come with a big quality of life improvement.

With success I could return to another cycle of the HCG diet in a few months. This is the plan for now. I am going to work harder than I ever have to make it work. But should I plateau after a cycle or two I will move on to something else that will keep the numbers moving in the right direction. Rather than as I would in the past simply give up. This is the difference.

Begin again.

Adam Gutierrez
454 lbs
Thunder Pounds

The Stack

The Stack

What I struggle with is bootstrapping a truly Minimum – MVP. I want to spend time learning back end frameworks and follow all mobile best practices. But that is going to take way too long to see results. And it’s far too distracting from all the really important work I need to do like interviewing customers and experimenting on the basic theory.

So instead of diving into node, I’m going to try to coerce firebase and urban airship to get the push notification function I need with just some basic analytics gathering from an ugly iOS app. That really only serves to receive push notifications.

So my MVP stack:
– iOS (client)
– Firebase (server and database)
– Urban Airship (push notification server)

For the first batch of tests I’m going to manually be taking survey results and loading them in to the urban airship system.

Adam Gutierrez
451 lbs.
Thunder Pounds

Initial Plan / Hypothesis

Initial Plan / Hypothesis

I need to talk to more potential customers. But in auditing my own experience what really helps me succeed is social reinforcement and encouragement.

Another memory from wrestling. Sorry. I was the only heavyweight on my team which meant I was by far the slowest runner on the team. When I was on my last track lap almost all of the team was already done. When I was struggling my teammates would run out to run with me through my last stretch. This is basically what it felt like:

via GIPHY

Needless to say I always finished strong with my team running behind me.

Additionally meeting and marrying my wife has provided motivation that I haven’t felt in a long time. And part of that is just having someone who keeps me accountable and expresses concerns about my lack of progress.

I think the most effective part of my wife’s help is just her being around and helping me be mindful about what I eat.

For me there’s just something about knowing someone is watching. I wish I had the discipline to do it on my own but I clearly don’t. And I need to accept that if I want to make progress.

I know I’m extremely lucky to share my life with my wife who cares about me so much. And I know there are more people who care about me but just don’t feel comfortable saying how concerned they are.

So here’s the initial hypothesis: I’m going to find a form system to send out surveys to close friends and family. I’ll let them respond anonymously. Then use the responses to inform and encourage me via a mobile app.

The over arching hypothesis is that we’re not addressing the emotional support component of weight loss and management.

Adam Gutierrez
Weight: 452.5 lbs
BMI: 63.1
Thunder Pounds

Today I fight.

Today I fight.

I’m sitting here with half a dozen donuts, 1 sausage roll and 2 Monster Punch Baller’s blend (my favorite energy drink) in front of me. I already ate 2 sausage rolls and 1 breakfast burrito from a local gas station. My stomach is rumbling.

Donut place sausage rolls have given me stomach troubles since I was a kid. I have a vivd memory of eating a sausage roll in a school bus on the way to a High School wrestling tournament. My Dad bought donuts and sausage rolls for the team sometimes before a tournament. Wrestling tournaments were always long days. He was always one of the few parents willing to be there with me and my team at 5 am on a Saturday and not leave until midnight. He would follow the bus both ways. Most parents dropped off their kids and sped off into the dusk. A few would show up at the tournament and watch their kids. Some parents we never saw. But my Dad was always there for me. Always in my corner. Always rooting for me.

And now he’s gone. He passed away last year from the ravages of diabetes. A pre-mature death that could have been avoided if he was better able to control his diet. My Dad was never fat. Only barely overweight at times. But diabetes from his genetic disposition and a stubborn palette kept him from addressing his health problems. The complications and long term treatments slowly killed him but were not the direct causes of his death.

Around the age of 8, I out grew him and we had to stop wrestling each other when he warned me that I was hurting him. My favorite pro wrestling move was called the splash. It involved me running and jumping directly on top of him. No more wrestling with Dad. A few years later I emerged as a dominant regional heavyweight wrestler after 2 introductory years of repeatedly getting my ass kicked. Two years of hard work and loss that I would have never endured without my Dad being there for me.

I didn’t understand this at the time but since I stopped wrestling I have always been looking for my next fight. I thought it was in MMA. I thought it was it was in law enforcement. I tried to find it again on a college wrestling mat. I thought it was in another city. I thought it was on an surfboard. I thought it was on an improv stage. And there were times when I didn’t look at all. Happy to indulge in the distractions of drugs, drinking and chasing after girls. I used early years of discipline and restraint as justification for a more exploratory style of leisure. For those 2 decades I ignored the fight that had come to me long ago when I was a child. Some combination of genetics and emotional function had turned me into a food addict. And it’s been kicking my ass.

Ever since I lost the discipline and the physicality of my high school wrestling practice I have been losing the fight I should have been focusing on all along.

So why knowing this now am I sitting here about to shove this hand grenade of sugar and fat into my body? My favorite childhood cartoon (G.I. Joe) always ended their PSAs with ‘knowing is half the battle.’ But what they didn’t say is knowing is ONLY half the battle. And I venture to think it’s not even half. Maybe 10-15% at best. Doing is the thing. And doing is the fighting I should have been doing all along. Instead of just knowing. Instead of just knowing the latest workout routine, the latest diet trend or diet supplement.

I have been eating emotionally for as long as I remember. I vividly recall being bored as a child during lazy summers and running to the cabinet to find a salty or sweet snack. I remember almost 10 years ago when I first experience severe Seasonal Affective Depression in Chicago and destructive eating really got on top of me. The past few years I have done better. There’s been times of focus and progress. And I’m happy to say that I’m not as heavy now as I was 4 or 5 years ago. But I’m not healthy. And I still have episodes of senseless, destructive eating.

When I originally decided to go procure this cachet of poison passing for food, I told myself it was because I should have one more experience to be able to document what it’s like with a session of destructive eating. But if I’m being at all self-aware it was just a junkie’s excuse to get one more hit.

So now. Right now I’m throwing this garbage food away. Because I’m done ignoring or taking lightly the problem that plagues me and so many others. And on some other day I may eat destructively again. I may miss a workout. I may eat an unhealthy meal. I may have more drinks than I should. But today I begin again.

Today I fight.

And today I’m starting Thunder Pounds to solve the messy, hard, emotional part of major weight loss. I don’t know what specifically Thunder Pounds is yet. But it’s starting as a journal of war. And from this journal I intend to build out the tools, weapons and strategies necessary for myself and others to win.

To those reading that are not personally affected by destructive eating, though I make no apologies, I do hope you will excuse my dramatic tone. This is literally a matter of life and death for me and many others. I also hope that you will take the seriousness of the cause to heart as it no doubt affects someone you care about. You will be needed as an ally.

Adam Gutierrez
Weight: 452 lbs.
BMI: unknown
Thunder Pounds