101 pounds


Aug. 6, 2013.

As of this past Sunday morning, I have lost 101 pounds.

Before I left for my trip to Tanzania a month ago, I’d lost 92 pounds. Any weight I lost climbing Mount Kilimanjaro I gained back on the week-long safari I went on afterward–sitting in a vehicle all day looking at zebras and giraffes and lions, and then returning to the hotel to all-you-can-eat-buffet suppers in the evening, will do that to you.

Last week (July 29-Aug. 3), I dialled in my nutrition and got back into my exercise routine. So when I stepped on the scale Sunday morning, the number staring back at me revealed that, since the end of November 2011, I have lost 101 pounds.


Nov. 15, 2011.

Here are a few other numbers for you:

– body fat is down 10 per cent

– BMI is down 12 points

– down 14 pants sizes

– down to an XL t-shirt from 3XL or 4XL

– got rid of 35 lbs. of clothing (yeah, I weighed the bag) that no longer fit me

What the numbers won’t tell you is that I competed in a cyclocross bicycle race; appeared on Breakfast Television and exercised while dressed up like a monk; competed in a 5 km. obstacle/adventure race; went on a weekend mountain biking trip; started dating again; and climbed Mount Kilimanjaro.


Competing in the open race at DarkCross 2012 last Sept. 15. Photo by Dan Speechley.

The numbers won’t tell you those things, but they’re all true.

The numbers also won’t tell you how I have a lot more energy and don’t crash at work in the afternoon like I used to. The numbers won’t tell you how, at least in my estimation, I’m a better son, brother and friend now.

So how did I do it? People ask me that, and I tell them, “I ate less and I moved more.” And then I feel like maybe they think I’m being glib, but really, that’s kind of the answer.

I ate less and I moved more.

Now, the longer (but by no means comprehensive) answer to the question “How did you do it?” goes something like this. In no particular order:


Huge garbage bag full of clothes that don’t fit anymore.

I started thinking about joining a gym. Four years later, I joined a gym. A few months after that, I slowly started changing my diet. I stopped drinking alcohol for long periods of time. I went to the gym three or four or five–sometime six–times a week. I went to the gym when I felt like it. I went to the gym when I didn’t feel like it (usually). I worked out at home. I went running with a friend and I went boxing with another friend. I went to the BodyPump class another one of my friends leads.

I made mistakes. Sometimes I made the same mistake two or three or 19 times before I finally learned from it and did something different.

I fell in love with movement and became fascinated by the way my body works. When I lost a significant amount of weight and found I was still unhappy, I started seeing a counsellor. I prayed. I laughed. I cried. I felt sorry for myself. I snapped out of it. I journaled. I wrote out a plan and did my best to stick to it. I identified my reasons for getting healthier, wrote them on a recipe card and carried it around in my wallet.


Crunched some numbers on my phone Sunday morning. Pleased with the result.

I made mistakes. Sometimes I made the same mistake two or three or 19 times before I finally learned from it and did something different.

To get inspired, stay motivated and to learn, I listened to music, read books and articles, listened to podcasts, watched TV shows and movies, and followed pages on Facebook and Instagram that were health-related (be it physical health or mental health or spiritual health or emotional health).

I had honest conversations with family and friends. I started thinking long and hard about the kind of man I want to be. I got scared. I pretended to be brave and sometimes I actually was brave. I thought long and hard about what I think I deserve in life, and how I want to treat myself and the people around me.

I prioritized myself. I worked to improve my work/life balance. I gave up some volunteer commitments so I could focus on my health. I got more sleep.

I made mistakes. Sometimes I made the same mistake two or three or 19 times before I finally learned from it and did something different.


August 2010.

I tried to go on Facebook less. I tried to stop comparing myself to other people. I eliminated the word “should” from my vocabulary. I became OK with being uncomfortable. I explored anything I was feeling that was unpleasant, and instead of numbing that unpleasantness with food, I sat with the feelings so I could learn from them.

I got curious about my fears and the things that were holding me back. I tried new things. I questioned almost every habit in my life, both good and bad. I learned to forgive myself. I learned about procrastination, perfectionism and shame. I learned how to assert myself, as well as how to be open and honest about my thoughts and feelings. I read, thought and had conversations with people about building confidence and self-esteem.

I did mountain climbers and ground zero jumps and burpees–a lot of burpees. I got sad. I got angry. I took responsibility. I asked for help.

I trained myself to think about myself and the world in new and different ways in an attempt to change the narrative in my head. I started a blog. I let people know about my goals. I celebrated my successes with family and friends.


Mid-June 2013. Two weeks before this photo was taken, this t-shirt did not fit.

I surprised myself.

I chose to be happy.

Did I mention that I made a lot of mistakes along the way?

Sometimes I made the same mistake two or three or 19 times before I finally learned from it and did something different.

I guess sometimes I’m a slow learner.

Sometimes it felt self-indulgent, and sometimes it felt like I was taking everything in life too seriously. Sometimes I forgot why I was doing it, and sometimes I would have an identity crises, unsure of who I was becoming.

Sometimes I thought that maybe the November 2011 version of Aaron was all I was ever meant to be, and I was foolish to think I could be, or deserved to be, anything else.

Sometimes the “Who Do You Think You Are?” Phantom almost won out.

But that’s not a voice I was meant to give in to.

Sometimes changing felt easy, occasionally it felt natural, and every so often, it felt like the change(s) happened over night.


Aug. 6, 2013.

But a lot of the time, it was damn hard–nothing about it felt natural at all, and my body and mind screamed for me to stop pushing myself in new ways.

It wasn’t easy, but it was worth it.

I started this post by giving you some numbers. Here are a few more things the numbers won’t tell you:

The numbers won’t tell you how powerful and confident I feel today, and how, for the first time in a long time, I’m proud of myself and actually feel good about being me.

The numbers won’t tell you those things, but they’re all true.

What comes next? I’m not sure. Stay tuned!

*     *     *

Check out this song and video by German hip-hop artist Casper. It’s called “Im Ascheregen.”

I’ve been listening to it over and over since I discovered it this past Saturday, and any time I get excited about music, I want to share it with people. So that’s one of the reasons I’m posting it.

But I’m also posting it because the music captures the exuberance I’ve been feeling the last few days.

The lyrics are somewhat fitting as well. In the song, Casper envisions burning down an unhealthy past and dancing in the ashes as he moves on to a better future. Enjoy.

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24 Responses to 101 pounds

  1. Johnny says:

    This is an amazing piece written that cuts deep into the human spirit…in an inspiring way. This goes beyond numbers, beyond being ‘sexy’, beyond the lies we are told every day about ourselves. Your life Aaron, your story, is a gift to all who witness it. I hope everyone who reads this and who knows you realizes that they too can realize the potential of who they truly are and who they can become. Thank you for your honesty in rough times and in victory!

    • You’re welcome, Johnny–and thank *you* for all your help along the way. “I hope everyone who reads this … realizes they too can realize the potential of who they truly are and who they can become.” Bang on. That’s my hope as well.

  2. Art says:

    Wow, Aaron! Powerful! Thank you for sharing and giving a little glimps into what a struggle and victory your journey has been. You are an amazing man! I thank God for you and wish you His richest blessings on you.

  3. Shauna says:

    Congrats ! Love it !

  4. Tante Irene says:

    Aaron I admire you inner strength, endurance and love for what you believe in. You have accomplished something truly amazing and you are an inspiration to me. May God continue to bless you. Love your; Tante Irene

  5. kai says:

    ganz grossartig geschrieben Aaron! einfach wunderbar wie gefühlsnah du alles beschreibst. mach weiter so! Glückwunsch zum date 🙂 !


    PS: johnny fukumoto ist ein highlight! mit Mönch Epp im Hintergrund 🙂

  6. gzrglide02 says:

    Awesome Aaron. It’s a very inspiring story and probably the most honest account of a journey I’ve read.

    Keep it up. It’s tough going to FF some days, but the results are always worth it, especially when your writing gives perspective of what can be accomplished. Thank you.

    I gotta go do some squats or burpees now.

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  8. Breanne says:

    This is an amazing story. I didn’t realize all of the extremely hard work you’ve been doing these past years. I knew you were working hard, but I didn’t realize how hard. I’m so happy to hear that you feel better and more confident in yourself. Because I always knew how much other people (including myself) love and respect you and think you’re truly an amazing person who deserves only the best. The fact that you realize that now is only going to bring you continued happiness in the future. SO SO proud of you cousin!!!

    Love, Breanne

  9. Jennifer says:

    Aaron, I started reading your blog after being directed here by a Winnipeg Free Press article, and your name caught my eye because we attended the same high school. This piece is beautifully written, and strikes a chord with me as I’ve been striving to meet my own fitness goals this past year. You’ve made amazing progress and I am very happy for you. Thank you for inspiring me to keep climbing!

    • Hi Jennifer, great to hear from you! It’s always fun to reconnect with people from high school. I appreciate your kind words, and I’m glad I was able to inspire you. All the best to you as you keep pushing toward your goals!

  10. Well Aaron, though you don’t know me, I think I know your Mom who in my books is a class A lady. I know her from F&L women! You have inspired me today. I have gained and lost all my life and respect your battle. Congratulations – I am going to read your blog and follow your journey in hopes that it will spark, kick, encourage, nudge, drag me in the same direction! I, too have good people in my life who inspire and encourage: nutritionist, sports therapist, family. It needs to be me!!!

  11. Christy says:

    Thank you Aaron! Thanks for sharing so deeply and openly about all you’ve gone through. Thanks for giving me lots to think about. I am so glad that, although your appearance has changed so dramatically, you are still the strong, sensitive, generous and wise person I always have known. I am so glad for your happiness and excited it is resonating with so many. Loved it in the Canadian Mennonite too. You continue to be awesome, and I keep smiling, glad to know you!

  12. Pingback: Two years | Aaron at Large

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