Name: Mark Carlson
Hometown: Hampton Bays, New York
Start Weight: 257 pounds
End Weight: 208 pounds
Time Running: 4 years, 2 months
Growing up, I stayed fit by playing sports and staying active; I even played college lacrosse. But in my late 20s, I gained so much weight; I was bartending full-time, and I would stay up all night, and drink excessive amounts of alcohol.
I ate anything I wanted, ignoring the effect it had on my health, and at 28, I hit my peak weight of 260 pounds. I would get out of breath doing simple tasks. I didn’t feel comfortable in my own skin, and when I looked at myself in the mirror I was ashamed. For someone who played college lacrosse, I was really angry that I was having such difficulties.
When I was 37, with my third daughter on the way, I decided I needed to make a change. I wanted to live a healthier, happier lifestyle so I could have the most time with my family. My turning point was in January 2017, when I saw a picture of myself with my stomach sticking out under my shirt. It was embarrassing—and it was time to do something.
I started running in February 2017 because I always associated running with weight loss. Running was convenient. Other sports require things like equipment and meeting times. With running, I just had to get out and go.
It was awful at first. I had to use a treadmill because it is so cold and icy during New York winters. I started by running three times a week and only about two miles at a time. My goal was sign up and run a half marathon the following fall using Hal Higdon’s training program for beginners.
As the weeks went by, runs became easier, and weight came off at a fast pace. I also made a number of dietary changes, such as decreasing the amount of food I was eating and incorporating more vitamins. I limited sugar and alcohol intake to once a week. These days, I eat cereal or oatmeal for breakfast, a salad with protein for lunch, and a sensible meal with protein, carbs, and vegetables for dinner.
Basically, I’m more conscious but not unrealistic. When I want something, I have it, but I weight the options before I put it into my body. It leads to much better choices. It also helped me get across that half marathon finish line.
After that year of running and changes, I set my goals higher and I chose to run the NYC Marathon when I turned 40 years old in 2019. I also decided to join a running group, use the Zwift app, and start other forms of exercise like swimming and weightlifting.
All of these have given me new excitement for a healthy lifestyle. Now, I run four to five days a week, and I run between four to six miles each time. When I am training for a race, I increase the mileage on weekends and do more long runs. Having races on the calendar as goals has really helped.
Over the last four years, I have lost 46 pounds. I am comfortable at my current weight and feel stronger and confident. I have been documenting my weight loss journey through social media, and I have used that platform to motivate others. I get a great feeling of accomplishment by giving back to others what I was looking for in myself. Although image was my motivator in the beginning, I have found a new appreciation for the emotional component that has gone into my training and how that has had such a positive impact on me.
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