I’ve started playing basketball from very young age; I got my first basketball when I was 3, started shooting hoops when I was 6, and playing organized basketball at the age of 8. I’ve continued to play it through elementary/ junior high, high school, and college. I was always tall, skinny, and bouncy kid who, to optimize his basketball performance, needed to gain some weight. Coming out of high school, I was 6’7’’/205lbs, and through college, I maintained my weight at about 225- 230lbs, which was my ideal playing weight (I was able to preserve my speed and bounce without anyone pushing me around).
Ever since I’ve stopped playing basketball at collegiate level though, I’ve started to gain weight; my activity level has dropped significantly, and my eating habits have remained unchanged. Within a year my weight increased from 230 to 260 lbs. This is when I realized that if everything stayed the same, I’d end up having multiple health problems (such as joint problems caused by abnormal weight, multiple heart conditions, or even cancer); in other words, it was time for me to show that I value my health by taking full control of it.
To try and prevent aforementioned risks and get my health back on the right track, I first joined a local basketball team in Kreuzlingen (beautiful town on Lake Bodensee in Eastern Switzerland). Even though basketball exercise has been associated with numerous health benefits, such as weight loss, decreased blood pressure and body fat percentage, increased bone- mineral density, and reduced symptoms of schizophrenia, among others (Laszlo, Betlehem, Calleja- Gonzales & Ostojic, 2019), I realized that if my effort is going to be successful, I’ll have to follow that up by changing my diet. And that I did. I started avoiding unhealthy foods (such as pizza, fried food, and sugar-containing foods and soft drinks), and eating smaller portions more times per day. I replaced soft drinks with water (like lots of water), sweets with fruits, and lowered my meat consumption (I consumed half of the amount I was consuming before, with nuts replacing the other half). Despite doubts that I had in terms of sustainability of the new behavior I had adopted, the first effects were noticeable after only few months. After a full year I was back at my ideal weight; I weighed 225lbs again.
This was about 3 years ago, and I knew that getting to my desired weight was the easiest part of the journey. The most difficult part was yet to come, and that was maintaining that weight. We have all heard stories about people losing a lot of weight just to gain it back again after little while, and I decided that wasn’t going to be me. I was too proud of my achievement, plus I knew how hard I had to work towards it, that letting myself gain that weight back was just not an option. And if it meant that sometimes I had to look straight at that cheesecake for 30 minutes and resist temptation to try it, then so be it (cheesecake is, by the way, my all-time favorite food). Additionally, fear of disproportionate body shape/ weight playing a role in basketball-related injury is what kept me focused in times of crisis (I generally fear many things, but getting injured on the basketball court is at the very top of the list). I knew what my goal was, and nothing was going to mess it up.
I’m still playing basketball, as in addition to already mentioned health benefits, I deeply believe it to be the greatest sport in the world. My behavior in terms of my eating habits has gradually changed though, and I’m not as restrictive towards food as I once was; I sometimes go to a fast food restaurant, or drink a soda. I eat a piece of cheesecake instead of just staring at it, trying to convince myself that it’s a poison. Most importantly though, I’m proud to say that I have maintained my weight at 225lbs ever since reaching it few years back. And that I consider success.
Laszlo, R., Betlehem, J., Calleja-Gonzales, J., & Ostojic, S.M. (2019). Basketball for Health. Should We Hop and Shoot for a Remedy? Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 94 (2).