Making a commitment to change: Vaughn’s story

staricaseIt’s been one year since I started working out at Blitz, which I have taken to calling my Blitzversary. A lot has happened in that year, lots of laughter and some tears and copious amounts of swearing and sweating.

I didn’t start coming to Blitz because I wanted to lose weight or get fit like a lot of people, although those were welcome side effects. What I wanted more was to gain control over my mental health. I have struggled with depression for years and although medication helped it only got me to about 70% of my “normal” self and I wanted to feel better.  My doctor felt strongly that I needed to make permanent lifestyle changes if I was going to get back to feeling 100%, but I resisted his advice. Then I read a book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain by John Ratey. In the book Ratey outlines the science that shows the benefits exercise has on our brains and what role it can have in treating and preventing everything from depression to Alzheimers. The book made a deep impression on me and I decided that I was ready to finally start making those changes.

A year ago I was the poster child for bad habits and bad health. My diet consisted almost entirely of refined carbs and pop. I hadn’t exercised for over two years and I was so out of shape a flight of stairs would wind me. At 42 years old and dangerously overweight I had basically given up on ever being an active person again and I kept telling myself that I could live with that.  But after reading Spark I decided what I couldn’t live with was the effects this lifestyle was having on my brain and mental health.

My doctor recommended working out with a personal trainer because he thought I needed accountability and to let someone else do the thinking for a while. I tend to over-think things just a wee bit. I suggested to my doctor that since I was really out of shape perhaps I should take a while to get fitter before I started working with a trainer.  My doctor had recommended Blitz because one of their primary focus is on exercise and it’s use in treating depression.  Now I can see how ridiculous that sounds but at the time I was dead serious and dreaded contacting Chris. I actually called him from my doctor’s office because I was scared if I waited I would never make that call. When I talked to him I asked him if, being so out of shape, I would be the right type of person to train at Blitz. He said that Blitz trained everyone from zero to hero. I think I made a lame joke about being a minus six. But somewhat reassured by his responses I agreed to meet with Paul for an initial consultation.

In the past when I have embarked on making healthy changes I have thrown my self into it with gusto. Not content to make one change at a time, I would do all of them at once. I would resolve to only eat organic gluten free macrobiotic food raised by wood elves and harvested under the cover of moonlight. I would exercise as much and as hard as I could, basically killing myself in the process, and balance it with yoga and meditation so I could become the Mother Theresa of fitness. I would also resolve to keep a daily journal to capture my innermost thoughts in order to glean insight and triumph over my inherent laziness.  And as you can anticipate it would all fail miserably.

This time things were different…

Vaughn Neff 2011 vs 2013

I wish I could say this was all part of my grand plan to slow things down and make one change at a time but it wasn’t really. I think I was just too tired and overwhelmed to change my diet and my activity level all at the same time. The first day I started working out with Paul I was terrified. I had to psyche myself up just to walk out of the change rooms. With my size and fitness level I really don’t think there could have been anything more intimidating then exercising in front of total strangers. When Paul asked, I didn’t sugarcoat any of the truth about my horrible diet or lack of fitness.  And that first day all he told me was to start drinking more water. That I thought I could do.

And so my fitness “adventure” began. The word “journey” brings up images of new age gurus and makes me giggle so I prefer to use the word adventure. I started working out two and then three times a week with Paul.  I complained and swore A LOT.  Even when I swore at him Paul would just laugh. When I said something was hard Paul would say, “it’s supposed to be hard if it was easy everyone would do it.”

I’ll be writing every Monday during March about the changes that happened in my lifestyle over the past year and some of the things I’ve learned.  I’d love to hear your story too!  Chat with me on twitter.


  1. Heather Halpenny says:

    Hi Vaughn:

    Last year I tried to walk up the stairs from the rivervalley because the parking was so much cheaper. I could not do it because I was too breathless, even after two weeks so I wasted the money I prepaid on the parking.

    I went to my family doctor who sent me for tests for the breathlessness. Well, they ran me as hard as they could on that machine but no heart disease symptoms. In fact, the hard I ran, the more my blood pressure dropped. The doctor, a beautiful man from Singapore asked me if I was maybe breathless because I was too fat?

    Yes, I was. So, I started a regime with Ideal Protein and a personal counsellor. The food is fine but it is the personal counsellor that really helps me be gentle and kind with myself and to realistically look at my personal expectations. Since August I have lost 24 pounds. I still have about 15 more pounds to go until I start maitenance portion. I am scared of that because I lost a lot of weight with Doctor Bernstein but I gained it all back and more as soon as I had a more normal diet.

    Now on this plan, I have been on a month break and only gained about 1 pound back so I am starting to trust that I can make this permanent.

    Now that I am embarking on the last leg I started to look at my exercise regime. Grim and barren. So, this Saturday I went to the Kinsmen for 30 minutes, today I did my weights for the first time in about 8 months and lastly I walked from the cheap parking lot and only stopped once for a breath.
    I am started on my journey.

    Loved your blog entry. Little elves by moonlight?

    Kind regards

    Heather Halpenny

    • Wow Heather that’s a great work on your part. I love that you shared your struggles as I think the more people do, the kinder others reading it will treat themselves and get motivated to make changes. I always think of you as uber fit so I’m glad I’m glad you started on your journey once more.

  2. I really look forward to your further March posts. You go girl!!

  3. Vaugh- you are such an inspiration! It takes so much courage to put yourself out there and be honest- and you are clearly seeing results because of your effort and accountability! Great work, and I look forward to reading about your journey!!

  4. Great job! Inspiring! Keep it up, and I look forward to reading more about your adventure!

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