Mark Heithaus

My name is Mark Gregory Heithaus and I have thus far lost 85 lbs. In August 2012 I returned from a fun-filled trip to Cincinnati, Ohio with my brother and father, weighing 260 lbs. For a long time I had struggled with weight, though working a physical job. Simply put, my eating habits were pretty terrible. Even on days when I didn’t work, my eating habits were awful and I paid no attention to my intake of calories versus my calories burned. I had tried to lose weight before, but my starting point was always to begin a “diet” and to work out. I never made a FULL lifestyle change. I now understand that to refer to a lifestyle change means more than the physical.

jerusalem_fat_picture_fullAfter returning from Cincinnati, Ohio in August (and watching the Reds take two of three games from the Pittsburgh Pirates!) I began the first semester of my final academic year for my Bachelor’s in history at VCU. I was entering into a six-class semester while still working 20-25 hours a week. Looking back, the work load was a bit much and very stressful, but it was also successful. I managed to remain on the Dean’s List, my only academic blight being a single “B” out of the six final grades. Additionally, by the end of the semester I was down to 210 lbs!!!! I feel that I somewhat ‘stumbled’ into the process of the weight loss by not trying to focus on weight loss, but rather focusing on lifestyle change in other forms that filtered into the physical. I knew that in order to be academically successful with my impending work load I would have to be very conscious of how I spent my time. I also was aware that if I wanted to keep my back account healthy while working only 20-25 hours per week rather than 40-45 I would have to really crack down on my spending. My motivation: a desire to go to the Russian-speaking part of the globe for six months or more in order to immerse myself in the language by next May (May 2014). I realized about 15 lbs. into the weight loss that I was in fact losing weight. So then I committed.

At first the weight fell off. I did simple things like packing a cooler of food for each day rather than eating out (this I really started as part of the attempt to cut spending). I also took the stairs everywhere and parked on the top level of the parking deck regardless of rain or shine, full or empty. I also began carrying ALL of my books for classes, including my laptop just to carry more weight. At no point during the Fall 2012 semester did I go to the gym. By mid-October I was down to roughly 225 lbs. I created a profile on WEBMD.COMand plugged in my information, and began to track my calories. I targeted my calories at a mere 1300 per day, and I began to make sure that I was getting enough fiber in my diet as a means of helping myself to feel more full each day. In mid-October I took a 5-day ‘study-cation’ to Washington, D.C. to make use of the Library of Congress. In that week alone, I ate well but healthy. I began each day with a good breakfas t, went to the metro station by 8:30 a.m. with my laptop bag and a few books slung over my shoulder (I even intentionally dressed in slacks and a collared-shirt each day just to ‘feel the part’ while doing my research), and actually enjoyed standing on the subway and the hikes to the various buildings of the LOC complex. On a couple of days I treated myself to healthy lunches in the cafeteria of the Jefferson Building, and one morning I had breakfast in one of the Congressional buildings with a couple of very personable and friendly congressional aides I had met. I even treated myself to room service and ice-cream one night in my hotel room, yet I still lost weight on the week! That week was a lesson in taking care of myself not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. I ate well, in portions, and enjoyed myself. Granted, not every day is so exciting, but it was an important lesson for me.

As I lost more and neared the end of the semester, the weight wasn’t just ‘falling off’ quite so easily. By the Christmas break I was roughly 205 – 210 lbs. I adjusted my goal of reaching 210 lbs. (which itself had been an adjustment from a goal of 220 lbs.) to 200 lbs. Though I didn’t have to worry about classes, and though I had the opportunity to work extra hours and hit the VCU gym during the break, the Holiday food posed a real struggle. By that point, I was PAINFULLY aware that just a FEW FLIPPIN OREOS could set me back a lot for the day. By that point I had memorized the calories of man foods, and the lighter I got the more aware I became of how difficult it was to burn off the extra calories from snacking. I worked hard to practice portion control in party settings, and each night I would jog my neighborhood just to not lose momentum. Finally, by the start of the recently ended Spring 2013 semester I weighed 200 lbs. and I once again adju sted my goal to NEVER AGAIN allowing my weight to begin with the digit ‘2’.

Though not taking six classes again, I got out of the academic gate rather slowly as I was still taking five classes and felt somewhat burned out from the previous semester. Trying to balance school, work, and my new health goals was not easy especially since work-out time became more necessary to burn calories. I also began to experience the various forms of physical pain that come with finding one’s athleticism. I discovered the not-so-joyous joys of shin-splints and knee problems when running. I spoke to a nutritionist who explained that my diet, though high in fiber and protein, was seriously lacking calcium and other vitamins. I readjusted my diet, adding in more things like yogurt and frozen yogurt, the oatmeal bars and plenty of extra fruits. By the weekend of the Ukrop’s Monument Avenue 10k, I weighed 178 lbs.!!!!!

I continue to weigh myself in the mornings, and for the Summer I have re-adjusted again in order to account for increased physical work overnights at my job and increased hours. I’m spending more time solely on my Russian, and I only have one class remaining for graduation (which I’ll take in the Fall by itself – Russian history), and I WILL graduate with honors! =) I now have good shoes that were recommended for me, I take multi-vitamins and a calcium supplement, and I continue to run. I appreciate not only the physical benefits of losing weight, but I also appreciate the mental benefits for studying and reading that come from eating right (not just less, which is something I had to learn as I progressed).

Next week is my brother’s wedding, and I had to get re-fitted for my wedding attire yet again as my size has continued to decrease. Not to toot my own horn, but I have to say… Я очень красивый (ya ochen’ krasiviy = I’m very handsome! =))) )