Hey guys! I’ve been watching this sub and a few similar ones for the past year or so for inspiration in my own weight loss journey. I wanted to share the progress I’ve made, but through my own perspective – my beloved hobby. (This might be a bit long, so TL;DR, I’m a US Civil War reenactor who decided to make changes for the better, dropped 28 lbs. so far, and I’ve got progress pics in my uniform down below.)
So a couple things about me – I’m a huge history geek. I’ve been in love with US history, especially the Civil War era, since I was a kid. I studied history in college and I dream of working with the National Park Service at a historic battlefield one day. My love of history got me into reenacting/living history when I was about 13 years old. It’s a hobby that’s become a major part of my life. I take it pretty seriously and consider it a really great way to help the public connect with the past. I’ve also met some of my best friends through the hobby.
Some reenactors do things at different paces; some are just kinda casual and are a bit more relaxed in the way they camp out, the kind of events they do, and what kind of physical activity they do in the field. My group are what are called campaigners. We keep things pretty strict as far as historical authenticity. We endeavor to camp as real Civil War soldiers camped, ate as they ate, and march as they marched. We do some pretty strenuous stuff. Sometimes to raise money for battlefield preservation funds or simply to understand what Civil War soldiers went through, we will march rather long distances with all of our equipment and arms. In 2012, I was 17 years old and in the best shape of my life at about 230 lbs. I joined about 250 other guys and recreated a historic march of 17 miles (including fording the Potomac River) in about 8 hours. It was one of the toughest things over ever done.
I’ve gotten a lot less healthy since then. When I went to college, I gained A LOT of weight. A lot of it had to do with the all-you-care-to-eat dining commons on campus, and of course drinking and going to parties (which was completely new to me). I still reenacted through college, but I definitely wasn’t as high-speed as I used to be. I could still do distance marches, but the heat would get to me so much worse, and I would get tired so much quicker. It finally came to last February. I’d been gaining more weight after a pretty rough breakup. I was going to an event I was really looking forward to. I was getting my gear on and putting on my uniform and found that I could no longer button my favorite coat. If I tried, I looked like a ridiculous stuffed sausage. Fortunately, someone had a spare coat they could lend me for the weekend. But the damage was done. I felt awful. I hated myself and couldn’t believe I’d let myself get so out of shape. I kept thinking, “How the hell can I honestly stand in front of the public and say, ‘This is what a Union soldier in the Civil War looked like,’ when I can’t even do simple drill without getting out of breath.” I was huffing and puffing on short marches of only a mile or two. My equipment didn’t fit right anymore. My doctor said I had high blood pressure. I just hated the way I looked and I felt ashamed.
I resolved to make changes. My first step was to join a Facebook group in the reenacting community dedicated to weight loss. It’s so, so, so important to have a support group. We would share recipes and exercise regimens with each other, celebrate together when one of us could fit into their favorite uniform parts again, and challenge each other to get better. We would even have a competition where we’d all chip in $20 each, and at the end of a few months, whoever healthily lost the highest percentage of body mass would take half the pot and the other half would be donated to historic battlefield preservation.
I started really making moves in May. I weighed myself for the first benchmark – 303 lbs. I started to cut back on alcohol. This was tough for me – my other hobby is sampling craft beer and visiting breweries. So I made compromises with myself. Try to limit drinking during the week to maybe one or two beers max. On the weekend, it’s okay to check out a brewery, and it’s okay maybe once every couple weeks to have a night drinking with friends – but all things in moderation. I wouldn’t really count calories, but I focused more on mental changes. I would try to reduce portions, which I was never good at before. I was always a very fast eater. I started eating meals SLOWLY and watching how much I would eat before my stomach starting sending the message, “Hey man, you’re not hungry anymore,” and then I’d adjust future portions accordingly. It’s really helped. Plus I’ve been taking care to watch when I’m eating and why. It’s true what they say – a lot of times, we eat just because we’re bored, and I certainly did!
I started drinking A LOT of water. I got a water bottle that was about 32 oz. and I would drink about three of those a day, sometimes more. At times my coworkers would joke about how much I was up going to the bathroom to pee. I’d laugh and reply with one of my favorite phrases, “Hey, hydrate or die-drate!”
The biggest step came in committing to exercise. I tried out different cardio workouts recommended by the other guys in my reenacting weight loss group. One was basically cranking up the elevation on the treadmill to about 10 degrees and trying to power walk at a steady 3.4 mph. It felt just like a hard march up a hill at one of our events, and damn, did it get me sweating! Plus it’s not so hard of impact on your knees for folks who might have a little joint trouble. From there, I started taking on weight/resistance training. From about December on, I was going to the gym for at least forty-five minutes each day after work, and I was making great progress. Unfortunately COVID-19 has thrown a wrench in that and I’m not making the progress I’d like, but I’m still doing what I can. I was never EVER a runner, but I got a pair of decent running shoes, and I’ve been using a run-tracking app to watch my progress as I take runs around my neighborhood. I couldn’t remember the last time I was able to run a full mile without slowing down to a walk, and I finally started being able to do it over the past month.
So here I am. I’m down 28 lbs. – so close to that 30 lb. milestone – and I feel so much better. I tried on my gear again yesterday for the first time since the fall, and everything looks and feels so much better. I wanted to share some progress pics of me in my gear – all suited up to do the hobby I love most. The photo on the left was taken in Oct., 2019 and I was about 295 lbs. at that point. The photo on the right was taken yesterday at 275 lbs. The only things different are the hat and 20 lbs. https://imgur.com/a/ylp2f9h
I’ve still got a long way to go, but I’m so proud of it. I want to eventually get down to 230 – my weight when I marched those 17 miles and crossed a river under a blazing late summer sun all in eight hours. For myself, for my friends, for the love of my hobby, and for my passion to tell the stories of those who came before us, I’ll get there. If you’ve got a hobby you love or a passion you pursue, use that as motivation. Use that as your lens for progress. It’s done so much for me.