I was already a fan of Randy Bartlett before he lost all the weight and started hiking up huge mountains. For the past twenty years, I've known Randy as one of the best performers and keynote speakers in the mobile entertainment and event production field. He's been a solid friend, a trusted mentor, and a valued colleague. Bonus: he's always been really funny.
Randy was on my Celebrate Life interview series about five years ago. I look back on this now in disbelief. Today he has the same amount of talent (if not more), he's just as influential to me and others in the industry (if not more), and he's just as funny now (if not more)- than ever. But the incredible thing is that he literally transformed his body.
No, not the "hey, I lost 20 pounds and put it all back on 3 months later" kind of transformation that litters Facebook on a daily basis. Randy is one of the few who focused on the journey (what he calls "the process") of making self-care a lifestyle.
His transformation has been on point for an impressive 3 years and counting.
Recently on Facebook, Alan Chitlik eloquently asked Randy a really important question. I thought Randy's answer was so honest and helpful that it needed to be shared. Take a look...
AC: Randy, your journey to health is an inspiration to a lot of people. I was hoping you could elaborate more on some of the motivation/mental aspects of the challenge.
In particular, you've described how you ate like a spoiled teenager (or words to that effect) with pretty much no focus or discipline.
Then you decided to be done with that, have surgery, change your life. To an outsider, it seems like you just flipped a switch and all of a sudden, you became this committed fitness zealot.
How do you think that happened, mentally and emotionally? Did you set up structures of accountability that helped you?
We all KNOW that we should eat better and move more, but you really do it.
RB: "Hey Alan - Not sure I can do justice to that great question on Facebook, but I'll give it a shot...
The first part is easy. I'm a spoiled brat, the baby of the family who always lived for this moment. For the most part, I like that about myself, but there are some downsides. "If it feels good, do it" is a great meme, but not necessarily a good lifestyle.
As for the change, I've battled my weight my entire life. There are some genetics involved and some choices involved. Various doctors told me to get it under control, but most of them weren't nearly serious and direct enough with me. When my wife was diagnosed with diabetes, I went with her to the doctor to learn about it. I thought she wasn't doing enough to take care of herself and basically told her that if she let herself continue the slide, it would be without me. Sounds harsh, but since it seemed like a choice she was making, I couldn't be part of that choice.
She got her act together and got healthy, while I continued my downhill slide. And then one day, my doctor told me I had diabetes. With all I had learned about it, and the ultimatum I had issued my wife with her diagnosis, I knew I couldn't deal with diabetes. I'm too much about this moment to deal with the myriad of issues that diabetes creates, so I made my best effort to get it under control but my best wasn't good enough. I began looking into weight loss surgery.
What I knew was that gastric bypass surgery "cures" diabetes. They don't know why yet, and the diabetes goes away long before the weight, but for me, that became my only option. I was going all in for this.
Once I had the surgery, the first part is "easy" enough, in that you simply can't out-eat the surgery, but having watched my wife, among others, go through it, I knew more about it than most. In the beginning, it's pretty exciting, as the pounds just melt off, but from the beginning, I knew that movement was key and I began walking, very slowly and very short distances, but doing it every day, further and faster.
I'm very competitive, so my Runkeeper app was awesome, because every day I could do better than the day before. Faster. Further. Goals being achieved.
Now to the flipping of the switch. This was the light bulb moment for me. Most obese people become obese because they crave instant gratification. I was definitely that way. If I deprived myself of something, or exercised more, I didn't see an instant result, but if I ate that cookie, I did. So I "ate that cookie," literally and metaphorically.
I learned to make the PROCESS my instant gratification, instead of focusing on the result. When I walked somewhere, I saw it on my Runkeeper app, and when it sent me a message saying, "You've set a new personal record," that became my "cookie." When I ate a sugar free popcicle instead of ice cream, that became my instant gratification, when I saw that I just accomplished what I wanted to.
If you diet, you'll generally lose weight, but it can be inconsistent. So for three days, I used to eat everything I "should" and then sometimes, I'd find that I lost no weight, or very little, or sometimes even gained weight! This is bulls**t! "So what's the point?" I'd think, as I got myself some instant gratification, in the form of food, usually.
But now, I realize it's the process. If I miss out on the process, I feel deprived. If something gets in the way of my workouts or my better eating habits, it's bothersome. I feel cheated. My weight is stable, but I didn't get my instant gratification. I learned to make the process instant.
Beyond that, I saw a meme on Facebook that really, truly, changed my way of thinking. It said, "Exercise is a celebration of what the body can do, not punishment for what we ate." That was huge for me.
When I don't want to work out, when I'm dying while I'm running or whining to my trainer, I flip that switch inside my head that tells me to remember what this celebration is all about. I couldn't do this stuff two years ago. Now I'm about to turn 60 and I'm doing things I couldn't dream of for the last 35 years.
I spend a small fortune on my personal trainer, hiking trips, etc., but that has become my most important investment. I save a fortune in medical costs, fast food, even clothes, because my clothes are a LOT cheaper now. I'm way ahead of the game financially, so I gladly write those fitness checks.
For me, it was never really much about appearance. I certainly like the way I look more now than before, but that's such a secondary issue for me.
Finally, I just understand that it's not just how long I will live, but how well I will live. I'm having more fun than ever and it's a million little things - bending over to pick things up or tie my shoes, how I feel at the end of a long work day or when running around at a wedding or leading a dance or lifting gear. The other day, working with my trainer, I was whining about how out of breath I was, telling him that I thought that by now, I would be able to do what we were doing without being so winded.
He said, "If you weren't this winded, I'd add more weight." I forget that while I'm still doing the "same" exercises I did last year, now I'm doing it with more weight, faster, longer and my recovery periods are a fraction of what they used to be. ..."
Randy's response should be required reading for anyone who is looking to lose weight and keep it off. It's more than setting a goal of "how much weight" you want to lose, or how you want to "look" for your upcoming wedding reception, or how you want to "appear" at your next high school reunion... it's about the day after all of these goals are met. And most importantly, it's about how you want to "feel" every other day after that for the rest of your life.
'Taking Care of Yourself' is more than just a chapter title in my book. It's something you need to do if you want to truly transform your body, mind, and spirit.
If you're like me, and want to know the answers to questions that most people don't have the guts to ask, here's Randy's brutally candid answer to "Why didn't you lose the weight "on your own" and why did you take the "easy" way out?" (Note The T-Shirt) :)
Randy's Response: (and why I respect him so much) "If there's any way you can do it without surgery, you absolutely should. Surgery should not be the first option because there are many reasons not to do it and it's certainly not "the easy way." But it was, FOR ME, a big mistake to keep thinking that I could/would do it "on my own." I ended up truly losing my 30s, 40s and most of my 50s. The number of things I could have done during that 30 year period is heart-breaking and I set a pretty horrible example for my children and grandchildren during that time.
I was just so used to living my life with the limitations that my weight put on me that I didn't even know that I had limitations because of my weight. It's just the way it was. It was eye-opening to see life as a fit, healthy person. I was pretty lucky that I didn't have anything happen to me during those years. So many people who live life as an obese person don't get that chance. Stroke, heart attacks, diabetes, high blood pressure, back issues, somehow I dodged all those bullets until I finally ended up with diabetes, which ended up saving my life, because that was the motivation I finally needed to do something major.
That was MY decision. I don't recommend it for anyone else, but I do recommend realistically exploring all options. Look, if they told you that you had cancer, but there was an operation to get rid of it, but that there would be some side effects of that operation, you'd do it, right? So the surgery is one treatment method. For me, it was the right one, but not for everyone. The bad option is the one where time passes and nothing is done to solve this ticking time bomb."