How Donnie Brown Lost 172 Pounds in 5 Years
Hi! Tell us about yourself…why did you decide to start losing weight?
One of the first times I came to realize how significant my weight was in my life was around 8 years old. I was turned away from playing pop warner football because I was too heavy. I entered 9th grade at a weight of 305 pounds but it was welcomed at that point on the football team. Fast forward to 2015, I found myself in a hospital from a migraine that would not subside. I suffered from migraines for a while but this one was just different. After a CT scan, it was revealed that I would need to have brain surgery to remove whatever the big “dot” was in my head. For 2 weeks, I was on a steroid regimen to prevent seizures and checked into the hospital at a weight of 395 pounds. In recovery, after a 9-hour surgery, my wife at the time revealed to me that she was pregnant with our second child. That was the origin of most of my motivation.
After going through a full recovery and getting back to work, I was just tired. Tired of not being who I wanted to be when I looked in the mirror or standing on the scale and seeing a number I didn’t like. In 2011, I lost my mother and grandmother within the same week and my grandfather in 2013. I wanted to do everything in my power to be here for my children to prevent them from that premature pain if at all possible. The brain surgery was not related to my weight but I felt like I could make improvements and prevent issues that ARE related. That was enough for me to get serious.
What did you do for exercise when you started? Did you change it up throughout your journey?
My job at the time offered a 90-minute workout lunch. Even at my heaviest, I always enjoyed playing basketball with my colleagues. I decided that was the best place to start and just increased the frequency and intensity. I knew this would give me a solid hour of cardio while also not dreading it like I would a treadmill or running just to run. I would go every day missing only a day or so depending on meetings.
View this post on Instagram
After I started to make progress, I decided to add other less intense workouts on the weekend. In early 2017 I challenged myself to go to the gym as much as possible and would regularly go 6 out of 7 days each week.
What did you do for nutrition when you started? Did you change it up throughout your journey?
One of the issues with my other attempts at losing weight was not seeing results. I knew a drastic change was needed and seeing results would help me stay dedicated. Some of my diet issues were eating late, not eating breakfast, and general bad food choices. The first thing I did was introduce water and juice fasting into my diet. I would do 48 or 72-hour water fasts at least once a month to “shock” my body and also see some quick results. I then started to shift my eating too early in the day. Because I did not like eating breakfast, juicing became my go-to. It was easier to drink breakfast than to eat it for me. That turned into a regimen of a vegetable/fruit juice for breakfast, a salad for lunch, and dinner was my opportunity to eat “normal” as long as it was before 7 pm. Even dessert!
My calorie target was 1,800 and I also focused on reducing sodium intake as well. On some days, I would swap the lunch salad for a protein shake and I took a multivitamin. As my body got used to that diet, I introduced others like going vegan for a month, doing a keto-like protein-heavy diet, and generally expanding my food selections. If I saw a stall losing weight, I would kick start it again with a water fast or a new diet. I did a five day water fast in June of 2016 after I slowed down for the first time.
How did you stay mentally strong when it was tough? Did you ever give up? How did you recover?
When I got serious about losing the weight, I decided to change my expectations in preparation for the mental battle that I was sure to face. Even though I was seeing results fairly quickly, I knew I needed to plan for the long term as well. I set a 2-year mark for assessing my progress and decided to focus on consistency as the short term goal instead. How many days can I fast? How many days in a row can I go to the gym? How many days can I not eat after 7 pm? Those smaller challenges kept me going and helped me power through the times I would gain weight or feel discouraged.
If it was really a tough time, I would always go back to my original motivation as a reference. I would remind myself of why I was doing the hard work in the first place. Another key mental shift was being easy on myself when I made mistakes. There were many days that I slipped into old habits or just outright binged all the junk food in sight. Instead of feeling defeated, I decided to give myself the same instruction I would someone else in that predicament. Why would I throw away all the hard work because of a slip-up? Especially when I wasn’t “expecting” results until the 2-year mark anyway. Just make the next best decision you can.
Did you use any sort of trackers/apps/scales to track your progress?
To help with tracking my nutrition and workouts, I used MyFitness Pal. I would scan everything I ate. Including any seasonings, I added to my food. I did not want to miss or forget about any calories so I could make sense of the data in the future. I would also add my workouts which did calculations for me about what deficit I was running and which nutrients I was over or undereating.
When did you start to notice progress?
I saw results very quickly. The first water fast I did, I lost about 10 pounds. I gained a lot of that back but within the first 6 months, I lost about 30 pounds. Still not that noticeable but the scale was changing. Early 2017, I had found a rhythm and by August my body was responding and I really noticed a difference and had lost 100 pounds. Getting under 300 pounds was the moment I realized I could do this for the long term.
Do you have any “hacks” or “secrets” that helped you succeed?
I truly believe fasting helps to regulate hunger and helps you have a better understanding and relationship with food. Once you don’t eat for a few days, you realize you can do whatever diet there is. It helped me break through the old mental model and gave me confidence along the way.
View this post on Instagram
What advice would you give to beginners who are looking to lose weight?
- Focus on the reason you are wanting to lose weight. Find what you are holding yourself accountable to that is not just the gym or a diet.
- Be gentle with yourself. It is not easy to lose weight and it is definitely harder than gaining it.
- It is an up and down journey. Fall in love with the failures as much as the successes. They hold real opportunities to test your limits and ability.
Do you have any fitness books/podcasts/websites that you’d recommend and why?
Not necessarily a fitness book but, it helped me along the way: “Atomic Habits” by James Clear.
Where can we find more about you?
Would you like to share YOUR story on How I’m Fit?
We’d love to hear from you! Please send us an email and we’ll get in touch shortly!