My Journey

On the surface my story is about weight loss. Layers down it is a story of transformation from despair to purpose. A journey to a better self began with understanding that what I needed was processes authentic to myself, not a surgery, pill or product. Here is my story.

It begins with a dandelion

May 24, 2014 was the day I met the dandelion of change. According to a flower meaning website, dandelions mean emotional/spiritual, as well as physical healing. When I took this photo I was in pain.

I had recently purchased a decent camera, a Nikon D5300 because I wanted to better embrace outdoor photography as a hobby.

The photo was taken in Heritage Park, on the Yantic River in Norwich, Connecticut. It is a tiny park yet I could barely walk because of back and hip pain.  This was the last photo I could stand to take after a very short time before having to get back into my car and sit for awhile. I was fat and sick and in despair for a life I wanted but seemed out of reach. I felt like death lay just ahead, and I was likely enough right. Worse. I did not care. I had poorly managed type 2 diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol, partial blindness from diabetes and liver problems from excessive drinking and poor diet. My immune system was a dumpster fire, meaning I caught every bug that passed through town. I took a cocktail of medications that didn’t do much more than enable more illness. Thus I used every second of a generous Sick Leave/PTO allotment recovering from something.

My life sucked. It was a daily repeat of work-junk food-booze-netflix. Until the weekend, when there was no work. in between episodes I would dream of doing things like exploring different places. Hiking, doing photography, going places. Being free instead of trapped in a circle of depression and despair. Ultimately this lifestyle cost me the sight in one eye and much of  in the other.

Dandekion
The dandelion of transformation

It wasn't so much that I was fat and I wanted to be thin. It was that I was sick and I wanted to be well. I was dead and I wanted to live.

John Atkinson

To get to the good part today (September 2021) I feel fantastic, walk between five and seven miles daily and take a cocktail of finely-tuned supplements. No medications. Normal blood everything. Very rarely get sick of anything because my immune system is a tank. My life?  It’s the one I used to dream about while “knowing” I would never have it. And I live it fully within the scope of my disability. 

All the photos and places on this site? Represent only about 5% of the photos I have from the places I’ve been since my healing, Because that is what it is, healing.

Over the last years I have been asked by a few how I did it. I never knew how to answer that question. I wanted, needed, rather, to find a way to convey my experience of natural and sustainable weight loss through being authentic to myself. On all the levels of myself. I found that diet and exercise were just fragments of a pile of pieces that needed rearranging. 

This dandelion became a pivot point for me. One of three that began the journey. On the surface it looks like a weight loss journey, but its more than that. Its a story of transformation from sickness to health and a living death to a life of fulfillment. It began with a dandelion, six years and eleven months from the time of this telling. The reason I tell it is so that perhaps it will be someone’s “Dandelion of Healing.”

John Sick Fat Tired 2014
June 2014: Self Portrait of Misery, Pants Size 48
June 2014

Fat, Sick, Tired and Triggered

As I mentioned, the dandelion was the first of three triggers. Triggers that brought about a state of desperate longing for change but not knowing what that change would entail. Somebody said a journey of a thousand miles begins with a step. Understanding that intellectually doesn’t help a body in the slightest when they have no idea what that step is. Or what direction that step needs to be made.

I let my triggers guide my steps in this the initial phase of my journey.

Trigger: "You qualify for....

…bariatric surgery!” Said the doctor. As though I had won a prize. “Here, take this informative brochure.” Oh Fuck no,

Trigger: The poster in the doctor's office.

I was sitting with someone else at their doctor, and there was a poster showing what was an actual serving size.  I understood it intellectually. But it sunk in. Finally.

Trigger: The hike that wasn't.

I went to a favorite state park with a 2.5 mile loop trail. I made it a quarter of a mile down the trail before back and hip pain turned me back.

At this point diet and exercise was all I had to go with. Those were the first steps on the journey. 

July 2014

Dietary Mythos

I started the journey armed with two pieces conventional unwisdom about diet:

By September 1 I was two and a half months in. I had lost fifteen pounds. Doesn’t seem like a lot for that length of time but I was rolling like the tortoise rather than the hare And repeat.

I had seen a few people crash thirty pounds off in a month. Seen the same people crash forty back on in two weeks. And repeat. I had done that path. I was determined to think outside the box and find the way. Survival demanded I stay course to the end. The trick was to find a way that it didn’t suck totally. A path I could walk repetitiously within the context of my own individuality.

Individuality is a word that is going to roll on out a lot from here on. I have mine. You have yours. Yours is different than mine. In nearly every regard. That is why every “diet plan” has its successes and failures. For the successes that meant the plan worked within the framework of self for them. The failures. Not failures. Just not in alignment with the individual needs of the person who was unable to make it work.

First steps so you go with what you know right? So I did. Which means I bought low or no fat everything and counted calories like a miser counts coins.  This works, but is misleading and not entirely sustainable. Unless a person is that super detail oriented person who does that kind of thing for the perverse pleasure of doing so, they aren’t going to do it forever. And if all calories were created equal. They aren’t.

I think deeply about things and just then I was thinking deeply about my food and the whole of me, and how every diet I had ever tried had ended in failure. Here failure was not an option. I had to do something different than I ever had before. 

I did not know what that was, but I knew three things: 

  1. I knew that sustainable transformation was bigger than diet and exercise.
  2. I knew that the understanding of what those things are would come to me through the gradual process of looking.
  3. I knew that God, The Goddess, the Universe, whatever owe wants to call that thing that’s bagger than us, had my back. Why? Because I asked real nice and expected the help.
John July 2014
July 2014: Tackling the Treadmill

Diet. Its a word meaning what we eat. Put an "A" in front of it? Suddenly it's "A Diet" A monster we have to battle with knowing that eventually it will defeat us.

How a word becomes an obstacle: The Diet Circus

I already knew that diet was  a dirty word.

Its just a word that means the stuff we eat. It can be poor or good. Depending.

But as soon as we put the letter “a” in front of it? making it “A Diet.” It becomes problematic up in our head. It did in mine anyway. “A Diet” becomes a phrase that conjures up the visual impressions and emotional energy of all that we can never again enjoy. A negative mind-picture that kicks the gain on our internal misery meter all they way up to ten.

During this time I gave my relationship with food a serious rethink.  I started out with what I knew, No Fat, Count Calories, fewer you eat more you burn the better.

I also knew that this course was unsustainable long term I had to find a balance with nutrition and food. I saw that I needed to eat in alignment with my overarching desires, which were to be well and live. That meant transcending the idea of a diet as a weight loss tool into a balanced, sustainable and enjoyable dietary lifestyle.

As the old cliché goes, The Lord helps those who wait, provided the work like hell while they wait. I went with what I knew with the help f the MyFitnessPal App. After a period of time I was able to develop my calorie sense through developing a routine and better eating habits.

John August 2014
August 2014: Down 9 lbs
August 2014

Getting Physical

I joined the gym and began hitting the treadmill walking at 5:30 AM. Day 1 (June 16) was a painful half mile. By the time of the photo in early July I was up to a mile. I also walked the perimeter of the parking lot at work, which was a quarter of a mile. On June 16 I walked at twice for a half a mile. This hurt. I will not lie, But on June 16, 2014 I walked a mile total. slowly and torturously. I was watched. By some whose words and attitudes showed that saw my eventual failure as foreordained. Jokes on them, as I type this, almost seven years later, yes a few pounds over ideal, but not obese, having walked little over seven miles today. I would like to think that I was watched and some were inspired.

I walked. I didn’t run. I saw no need to and walking suits both my biology and temperament. I prefer to walk in the forest but the gym it was for my beginning. Planet Fitness Yay. Being an early riser helped me get there. It being right on the way to work helped as well. I am grateful for their inexpensive memberships, hours of operation and no judgement zone policies. Like a lot of folks. I have enough negative experiences with jock-ish individuals that gyms had always been a nonstarter. 

I was dedicated to the improvement. I didn’t turn into the hard-charging gym-rat with a routine. I went, walked, did some other stuff, and did it every day. I had a reason, which again I will state has more to do with finding a life instead of just losing weight.

September 2014 - April 2015

Purposefully Mindful Progress

By September 1 I was two and a half months in. I had lost 23 pounds. Doesn’t seem like a lot for that length of time but I was rolling like the tortoise rather than the hare And repeat.

I had seen a few people crash thirty pounds off in a month. Seen the same people crash forty back on in two weeks. And repeat. I had done that path. I was determined to think outside the box and find the way. Survival demanded I stay course to the end. The trick was to find a way that it didn’t suck totally. A path I could walk repetitiously within the context of my own individuality.

Individuality is a word that is going to roll on out a lot from here on. I have mine. You have yours. Yours is different than mine. In nearly every regard. That is why every “diet plan” has its successes and failures. For the successes that meant the plan worked within the framework of self for them. The failures. Not failures. Just not in alignment with the individual needs of the person who was unable to make it work.

Critical Ingredients: Spirituality, Mindfullness and the power of Visualization

Aside from diet and exercise, by this point I had begun fine tuning my food intake and exercise patterns. In part using research. By research I do mean more than “google it.” I took nutrition and fitness courses online. I began to swap out bad foods for good. I began implementing the things that worked for me.

It was about at this time that I began to notice that I was happy. Just look at that picture. I had only lost 15 pounds, but I had undergone a complete emotional transformation. Look at the pictures. The story is there.

Here’s where the old diet and exercise mantras fall into the back drop and give way to the more important aspects of my total transformation. Because while learning some of the mechanics I was considering in great depth the head game of it. 

It was here I began to grasp how small a part of my journey weight loss was. There was a deeper game afoot. One of self-realization coupled with self-actualization. Of which weight loss and a much greater level of agility ad endurance were a smaller part of a greater transformation through non-physical process.

  • Visualization of the Ideal Self

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  • Mindfulness: The Art of here and Now

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  • Spritul Practice

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Sculpted Ego: Defining and refining The Ideal Self

The driving part of my consciousness needed to be molded from current self to ideal self. I needed to see who I wanted to be in my head, I had to visualize my ideal life to the point that that life became real to me. 

Building this visualization of my ideal self was, and is an ongoing evolutionary process.  Benjamin Franklin is quoted as saying; “Some people die at 25 and aren’t buried until 75.” These are the tragic souls who just stop growing as human beings. My first understanding about even beginning was that growing as a person was a central part of developing that ideal self. Viewing that ideal self not simply as a vision of physical appearance, but a holistic self. Balanced across  the multiple dimensions of life and rooted in personal truths.

I cannot express enough that my journey to my ideal self was a journey in self-awareness beginning with the questions: What is the most genuine expression of me. What does the most authentic me look like? Physically? Emotionally? Spiritually? How does the most authentic me view and express self within the scope of my individuality? How do I become true to that vision of me. What does that person do? For work,? For Play? What relationships does that person have and with whom?

Formulating that vision for me came in stages, In part because I was embracing an organic experience and learning as I went. In part because I didn’t have anyone about to tell me this shit. You have me. How awesome is that?

  • Creativity

    For mself my cre

  • Social Life

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  • Physical Activity

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  • Nutrition

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  • Relationships

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  • Physical Environment

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  • Psychological Wellness

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  • Emotional Wellnes

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  • Learning

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  • Spirituality

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  • Personality Preference

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  • Financial Wellbeing

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  • Job/Career

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Me September 2014
September 2014: More and More Treadmill

Ego can be your friend or your enemy. It is an untamed animal that begs domestication. Self transformation requires that it be molded into your vision of yourself.

Fat Loss April 2025
April 2015: Pants Size 38
June 2013
June 2015: Size 36 Pants
November 2015
October 2015: Size 34 Pants
March 2016
March 2016, Size 34, Standing in 48's
May2016
May 2016, Size 32, A different Person in Very Many Ways

But those three things up there. Think about those if you are looking for a transformation in your own life. Whether its weight loss, or something else. Whatever the obstacle that stands between you and who you desire to be. They are, along with other factors including relationships, home environment, social life. internal and external stressors. Ultimately I found those things to be more vital than “Diet and Exercise.” Balancing those things is the key to mastering personal transformation. Was for me. 

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