How I Lost 220 Pounds in 2.5 Years by Starting Small
Hi! Tell us about yourself…why did you decide to start losing weight?
I had a few motivations for losing weight. I started in July 2018, but really my path to starting my journey began on December 31, 2016. I had a pulmonary embolism the day before in my sleep and was severely short of breath. That day I weighed in at 623 pounds. I spent New Year’s Eve and the first 5 days of 2017 in the hospital.
Over that week, I lost 50 pounds on the restrictive diet in the hospital. Over the next year and a half, I would yo-yo between weighing 560 to 590 pounds. In March 2018, I had another significant event when my grandfather passed away. He was my hero and I mourned his death pretty hard. So, on July 10, 2018, I weighed myself for the first time in about 5 months and I weighed in at 615 pounds. This was just 8 pounds less than my highest recorded weight and I decided that enough was enough and it was time for a change.
My motivations for losing weight were that I didn’t want to die young. I wanted to become a father. I wanted to travel more and experience life with my wife and future children. I wanted to prove to myself that I COULD do it.
In May 2018, my wife and I traveled to Los Angeles for a long weekend. I had always wanted to visit the infamous Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. We stayed right across the street at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel. And boy, was I tired every day on that trip because of all the walking we did. It wasn’t a lot but around 600 pounds, walking around Dodger Stadium, downtown Hollywood, the Warner Brothers Studio Tour, and all of that was just too much at my weight.
What was your workout routine? Can you give us what a typical week looked like for you working out?
For the first 100 pounds, I didn’t do any increased exercise aside from maybe walking an extra 1,000 steps per day. Still, I was still not hitting more than 4,000 steps per day regularly. I know this because that’s the initial step goal I set on my Fitbit.
After the first 100 pounds were lost about 8 months into my journey, I began walking more and upped my step goal to 7,000 steps. It would remain this way until May 2020. In April 2020, I decided that I was not going to let the time at home due to the coronavirus pandemic go to waste. I started walking. In April I hit over 10,000 steps per day on 9 of the 30 days. And I just thought, I can do this more and more.
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In May, I hit that 10,000 step goal on 17 of the 31 days. On May 29, I didn’t hit my goal after having hit it for like 9 days in a row previously. So I promised myself I would hit 10,000 steps per day for every day in June. And I did, and I did it again in July, and August, and September, and October, and November. And then on December 7th, I decided to end my streak of 10,000 steps per day for 191 consecutive days.
I did this because I had some other goals. I wanted to start working out with weightlifting more than just walking and I also wanted to dedicate more time to professional upskilling. Since that time, I’ve been working with a trainer and do a combination of weightlifting on circuit machines and high-intensity interval training (HIIT). I do chest press, lat pulldown, overhead press, leg press, leg extension, bicep curl, arm extension, pec/delt fly, and row machines.
My HIIT circuit includes battle ropes, standing rows using a 25lb kettlebell, walking around carrying two 30lb kettlebells, 25lb kettlebell swings, standing bicep curls, and medicine ball squats. For cardio, I’ve also been doing 5-15 minutes on a treadmill, doing a combination of running and walking or using a stationary bike for 25 minutes.
What was your nutrition like? Can you give us what a typical day of eating looked like?
My nutrition has changed and evolved throughout my 2 ½ year journey. When I started in July 2018, I used Slimming World. It’s basically like a UK-based Weight Watchers. The reason I liked it was because I followed some people who lost over 200 pounds using Slimming World. I found their nutrition plan pretty doable.
But then after I reached 100 pounds down I didn’t stay on track as I should have. This was March of 2019 and I knew I was getting surgery in the fall of 2019, for this globule of excess fluid and fat I had under my stomach. This developed after my embolism wrecking my lymphatic system. So, I had that surgery in October and by January of 2020, I was fully recovered. I weighed back in at 495 pounds and again decided I needed to get back on track.
I didn’t follow a specific nutrition plan this time. I just started trying to eat less junk, more protein, and fewer carbs. I began tracking my meals and snacks. My target calories at the beginning were to be under 2500 and I tried to keep a good balance of fat, protein, and carbs.
I mostly tried to eat healthy meals, and avoid a good amount of excess carbohydrates, and also limiting my sugar. During the pandemic, I also started doing intermittent fasting. These additional techniques helped to get me over 150 pounds lost in May and then 200 in late August. Over the course of 2020, I’ve lost nearly 100 pounds again and reached a total of 215 pounds lost (since July 2018) and 223 pounds overall as of January 4, 2021.
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How did you stay motivated to lose weight? Did you ever slip up?
Losing weight is tough and it’s not linear. Some days, weeks, or even months, the scale won’t move how we want to see it move. We’re all only human, and if you have a moment of enjoying some food you know doesn’t fit in your plan; move forward after making the choice you did. Don’t dwell on it.
With that being said, I will say that when I had times of adversity within my journey, I would think of how far I came. Also, while the scale wasn’t moving, the NSV’s (non-scale victories) are what helped to motivate me to continue.
I’ve had some this fall while the scale hasn’t been moving as I want. I’ve been able to fit in booths at restaurants, not need a seatbelt extender on an airplane, and fitting into any rental car I wanted to use. So again, in the tough times, just keep moving forward and keep your eyes on the prize. Become your destiny.
When did you start to notice progress?
I started to notice progress after I lost about 70 pounds. I really saw it in my face. Over time there were gradual things, like how big clothes got on me. Also, going from wearing a size 7XLT shirt to a 3XL and wearing over a size 70 pants to now wearing a 52 or 54.
Some other big moments were being able to shop at a regular store. Recently, in some transformation photos, I recreated past photos, and just seeing how much thinner I am now compared to years ago is shocking sometimes.
Did you use any sort of trackers/apps/scales to track your progress?
I use a Fitbit Versa Lite for tracking my activities, whether it’s walking, swimming or weightlifting. I’ve used the Fitbit app to track my intake in the past, but I’ve been working with a nutritionist in the past 2 months, and am currently not tracking, as I am following a structured plan.
Do you have any weight loss “hacks” or “secrets” that helped you succeed?
One of the biggest keys to my success was meal prepping on Sundays. Having meals set up for the week really helped me stay on my plans, throughout my journey. To get my workouts in, I’ve found that going to the gym before work is vital for me to stay on track. That way, I don’t have the opportunity for some excuses to creep in throughout the day and derail me.
I’ve found a few hacks along my journey. When I’m hungry or want to snack between planned meals, I take about 10 sips of water which really helps to fill me up. If you’re not sure how to start at a gym, just start. Any movement is better than no movement.
Watch some YouTube videos for starting to work out, to get ideas; or just get on a treadmill or elliptical. If you want more help, I’d recommend a trainer if you can swing the cost.
Do you have any fitness books/podcasts/websites that you’d recommend and why?
I mostly listen to podcasts. Some of my favorites are Fat Guy Forum, Big Fat Life, Hungry for Success, Accountable Life Group, PrimalBroCast, and American Glutton. I’ve been on 4 of these, I’ll let you figure out which ones.
They are all good for giving experiences of other people that were in your shoes along your own journey or even giving you ideas on how to start. I also recommend finding videos on YouTube with Jocko Willink and David Goggins.
As far as books go, I’d definitely read Discipline Equals Freedom by Jocko Willink and 12 Simple Rules for Life by Jordan B. Peterson. These videos and books can help give a good foundation for building up discipline and accountability.
What is your best advice to beginners who are looking to lose weight?
It’s the cliche answer but just start. Small incremental changes can lead to huge success. I started with just walking a little bit to now being in the gym for an hour at a time. Just Start!
Secondly, find a good support system for yourself. For some people, that includes your family and friends, for others that may just be online friends. Whoever your support system includes, just make sure you can rely on them for real support.
Lastly, don’t compare yourself to anyone else. We are all on our own journey. The only comparison for you IS you. Compare yourself to last week, month, year, or even a decade ago. Don’t fall into the trap of comparing yourself to celebrities, influencers, or anyone you randomly see on Instagram. Their body changes didn’t happen overnight, and you can’t expect results overnight. Small incremental changes will lead to significant results.
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