How Photo Walking Helped Me Get Out of Obesity and Gave Me a Better Life

Photo walking is honestly one of the best things that you can do for you, your mind and your body.

I posted a joke the other day to my personal Instagram: I can only have fun when I bring three or more cameras with me. Except in some ways, it isn’t a joke. I’ll bring an Instant film camera and any combination of either two film cameras, two digital or one of each. These cameras are what I’ll take with me for a day of actually getting out there and photo walking–which has become more and more of not only a rediscovered hobby of mine, but a way of life. Since giving it a genuine effort since the beginning of the year, I’ve lost 35lbs, beat obesity, have a normalized heart rate, a better blood pressure, and I’ve challenged my creative mind in ways that I never had the time to do previously.

Let me give you a few facts about me:

Yes, that used to be me.

  • I’m 31
  • Caribbean Indian and therefore have a genetic predisposition to higher cholesterol levels, etc. Not Native Carib, but the Indians that were enslaved by the British and brought over for, guess what, slave labor! My ancestors were slaves. Look us up!
  • Five foot six inches tall
  • Currently 165lbs but I was 197 at one point.
  • I work from home.
  • I’ve meditated for 15 years and have found ways to make both me and my company incredibly efficient with little work, effort, and with a lot of organization.

I’ve run the Phoblographer for almost 9 years now and I’ve been running it full time for around 6 years. When I quit my day job I lost a lot of things:

  • Health insurance
  • Tons of money because at the end of the year small business owners in NYC pretty much hand over 49% of their profits
  • Sanity that I’ve had to learn how to get a grasp on
  • Stability: that I’ve had to learn how to forge
  • Motivation: Not for the job, but for taking care of myself. I’m the type of person that will put my business before my personal health and oftentimes goals before myself. The sacrifice, as you can see, has been worth it.
  • Oh yeah, my vision. I’m legally blind.

But after I turned 30 years old, I started to look at life much differently. I started to look at what I wanted, where I wanted to be in a few years, how I was going to do it, etc. This is the stuff that I often teach to others when it comes to forming and working on their own businesses. But for a long time, I was being pulled in a number of different directions. Between running our team, seeing the numerous sites that often poach our stories without crediting us, and trying to maintain relationships for the site, I get impounded with stuff. My friends, God bless them, know that whenever I hang out with them that I’ll most likely bring a camera or a lens or something that I’m actively testing. I need to. Unlike the typical American worker, I don’t get a break.

A vacation? What the hell is that? You look at Instagram and Facebook and it seems like everyone is on a perpetual vacation. But no, I actually work. In fact, business trips stress me the heck out. Between the TSA and many in America thinking that I’m going to blow up a plane due to my skin color when all I want to do is run my business, I’ve had to use my charisma to disarm people. It’s been a blessing and a curse.

When I turned 31, I decided that I wanted to make a number of life changes:

  • I wanted to be healthy again
  • I wanted to enjoy photo walking again
  • I wanted to connect with people again interpersonally via photography
  • I wanted to not feel awful in front of a camera again

Part of this swift kick in the ass was due to Inside the Photographer’s Mind, which I do with Adorama once a month. Reading comments like “Man, Chris got fat.” is pretty disheartening. Over the course of my weight loss, it’s made me think harder and different about a number of things like the body positivity movement, and much more.

But let’s talk photography.

My major life changes involved:

  • Photo walks almost every other day
  • A one year commitment to not drinking alcohol so that I can meditate better and therefore focus through pain harder because I’m training to one day hold one of the Guinness World Records in spicy pepper eating.
  • Intermittent fasting
  • Meditation
  • Cycling indoors, because I can’t legally drive or ride a bike anymore due to legal blindness.

So I got myself an Apple watch. It would give me a reminder to move about once an hour or so. To beat that, I ended up pushing myself to do 40 jumping jacks an hour, 12 times a day. Sounds rough? It really isn’t. 20 of those each hour are with hip rotations to crack my back and hips after sitting at a computer for a prolonged period of time.

Final

Apple watch tells you to start out burning 500 calories actively a day. If I had a commute here in NYC, that would be a piece of cake. But I eliminated that nonsense from my life years ago. To beat it, I’d need to cycle and I’d need to do other things that I enjoy. I hate working out. So instead I ended up photo walking. Luckily, North Brooklyn has a plethora or pretty places to photograph. But instead of doing the same thing every day I’d take a set journey each time I went out to explore new things. I’d go to other parts of Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx, and my favorite borough in the world: Queens.

While photo walking, I’d test gear actively for the website. So I’d pack my backpack with perhaps three cameras, lenses and all. Carrying all that onto the subway and commuting burned calories. Then getting up stairs to emerge from the underground, walking around places, exploring, setting up stuff like tripods (be smart about this), walking around shooting, etc. It ended up burning calories.

When you’re out in NYC, you’re tempted to go out and shoot but then to go eat your heart out. I needed to cut this out to eating just the things that I really, truly wanted to experience and changing my metabolism. Instead of speeding it up with smaller meals which has never worked for me, I slowed it down even more. With intermittent fasting, I started at 16 hours after reading about a boxer who did it. But then it hit me, I don’t box and I’m not in combat sports anymore. So instead, I ended up pushing to 24 hours and therefore one big meal a day. Then 36 hours. And finally 48 hours. I read more about this and talked with folks on Reddit about what they were doing. Eventually I started to incorporate not only the obvious water, but Gatorade (electrolytes and sodium), salted bananas, and then meals with friends into the diet. I make it a habit to have tuna melts with tons of veggies inside a few times a week. But to start, I’d only intake calories under 500 or 600 of my active calories. That helped me burn a lot of at and water. Then I started to gradually eat more to balance things out.

When I’d get home from the photo walks, I’d sit there at my computer and edit. Since I’m a ridiculously fast editor, this wouldn’t take long. So when my friends were all busy, I’d find myself bored. So I’d go back out and photo walk again with a different camera of some sort. It kept me creatively motivated, talking to other people that I wouldn’t normally talk to, etc. Combine this with meditation for around an hour or so a night, meetings that I need to have with folks in the industry, and you’ve got a lot of motivation to keep going.

Eventually I moved beyond 500 active calories and now I’m at 600 active calories a day. Combined with controlling when and how much I eat, it’s worked wonders for me. Additionally, cutting out alcohol has also helped my body be able to process anything and everything even better. At Photokina 2018 my one year without alcohol breaks and I’ll go back to drinking. But even then, it will be incredibly rare as it has made me think more about why we drink. Here in America, we’re repressed about alcohol. We’re a country that says that it’s okay to send a young man who is barely a tax payer to war but he can’t legally drink for a few years. Insane, right? So we become a culture that associates drinking with chilling us out. Eventually, what folks don’t realize, is that they’re problem drinkers. The only way that they can cope with stress is to drink. It justifies Happy Hour culture here in the US. I hate it. I think that it’s so basic. If you have to rely on alcohol to chill out then I think that you’ve got a bigger problem. It’s taught me to better focus on creative ways to deal with stress. Combine this with photo walking, and you’ve got even more creative fuel.

In the process of doing all this, I’d tell Apple Watch that my exercise was an Outdoor Walk. After months of seeing my doctor because I finally have insurance again, he’s told me that I’ve made great progress.

I hope that all the pieces of the puzzle are starting to click for you; because for me, it’s been quite cathartic to get this all out. And I genuinely hope that I help others put their mind to achieving their goals through their hobby.