The email that changed my life 109 pounds ago

This is the 2nd post in my series about Real Life Biggest Losers (see the first installment here:  These are real people (not reality show contestants or celebrities) who have lost a large amount of weight and managed to keep it off. I interviewed a number of such people about their experiences and publish a new interview every couple of weeks.


Meet Dan.  I came across Dan on Twitter a few months ago and was pretty fascinated by his story, so I was eager to interview him.  He says an email changed his life.  I think Dan changed his life.  Either way, his story could change yours…

How much weight have you lost? When did you start losing weight?  How long have you kept it off?

To date I have lost 109lbs! I started October 14, 2009 and haven’t looked back at all. Well maybe a little, my wife and I went through old clothes yesterday and took 9 bags to Goodwill. Combined we’ve lost 191 lbs since October 2009!

How was it that you decided to make such a major life change?

I read a blog post by Dave Wallach, who writes Pace of Chicago He had run with a woman named Lauren. At the end of the post he put out there, if anyone wanted to run the marathon next year, they should email him. I did. It hit me that I needed to make a change. I have a beautiful wife and two adorable daughters…and I wanted to be around for them. Heart disease runs in my family. I knew I was on a fast track to a heart attack.

That email changed my life.  By the time I got home I had Dave as my mentor, a coach, a charity I would run for and a sponsor!  I had to sell my wife on the idea. Which wasn’t easy as she was just starting her third year pursuing her Doctorate of Pharmacy.

People get frustrated about failed weight loss attempts (can’t lose or gained it all back).  Did you have failed attempts?  How often did you try to lose weight but fail in the past?

I did. I had many. My wife, bless her heart, tried for years to get me to eat right and go for walks. I would play along, but would struggle or sabotage both of us…and give up. I felt stuck. I would try, and see how hard it was and feel like a failure. So I’d eat to cope.  Fall of 2009 I was at the point where I was eating McDonalds twice a day. Twenty minutes after eating I’d be sick.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to people who are having difficulty losing weight?

I wasn’t ready. You have to be ready to make a change like this. It’s a life changing event, a lifetime commitment. The hardest part is starting. I was so scared. I was lucky and had a huge support system around me. An awesome coach (Jen Harrison), an equally awesome mentor, friends, family and even people who started following my story all helped me. My wife and daughters are my biggest supporters. It seemed when I struggled last year, someone was there to pick me up or give me a nudge.    So my advice? Tell everyone you know. Tell them your goal. Share it with your family, friends and coworkers. Even if they chuckle at first, if you’re serious, they will come around and will support you.  Also, do it for you. Don’t do it because your spouse wants you to. YOU have to want to change for yourself.

Sticking to it seems to be the ultimate challenge.  Most people can make some changes but often end up back to where they started.  For you, what is the key to STICKING TO IT?

Once I got started I kept trying to move forward. Setting big goals helped. I was determined to run the Chicago Marathon and lose 100 lbs in a year. It wasn’t easy. I was determined but at times I struggled…having a great support system helped. Blogging about my journey helped too. Sharing my struggles showed me others did too. I didn’t feel alone.  I know I could falter if I gave up. I still could. I work hard because I don’t want to be Big Dan anymore. I saved one old shirt and an old pair of pants as a reminder…I’m never going back to that.

If you could give your former self advice before you started to lose the weight, knowing what you know now, what would you tell yourself?

My biggest regret was not doing it sooner. If given the chance, I’d tell myself to do just that. Get moving now, run…enjoy life. You don’t have to be sad.

Just starting off, losing weight is hard.  Tell us, does it get easier over time? Or harder?

It comes and goes. Making changes early on…I didn’t change anything major. I cut out fast food and junk food. I ate smaller portions, but ate more often. I drank more water. That seemed easy. The weight came off. Especially last summer while in the thick of marathon training. Though, I do admit…I slipped a little. I saw that after a 20 mile run, I could “splurge” and have ice cream or eat more and I would still lose.   I work with a dietitian as well, to track that, and watch myself. As they say, old habits die hard. I have more to lose, and it’s harder to lose it now. I’m adding muscle, but I could tone up more and shed a few more pounds.  It’s harder this year for sure, though no that we’re in the middle of marathon training I’m losing again!

What is the hardest part for you now?

My drive isn’t as intense as it was last year. At times I’ve caught myself floundering a bit, maybe losing focus. I know I can’t ease up off the gas, so to speak, so I keep going.  Part of that comes from not losing as much weight this year. I got used to seeing the number drop each week…this year it hasn’t. I know I’m still making progress and improving, so that’s been the biggest thing for me this year.

What is your current diet?

In a typical day I’ll take in 2800 calories or so, depends on what is going on with training. Some of my staples…  I eat steel cut oatmeal, made with almond milk, with flax seed and chia seeds with some mixed berries mixed in. I eat a lot of vegetables- salads, etc.  Quinoa is great! I love it…I’ll use it in place of pasta, add it to salads, or even have it for breakfast with an egg white, some black beans and salsa. Greek yogurt…I’m a huge fan.  And water…lots of water

What is your current exercise regimen?

I hit the gym with a trainer once or twice a week and run 6 days a week. One long run, usually on Saturdays and Sunday is my rest day. In July I logged 150 miles of running!

Anything else you would like to tell us about your journey?

I feel lucky to have gone through this life changing journey. It’s been an awesome ride so far! I’m excited at what the future holds!

If we want to follow you, where do we find you?

I’m on twitter:
My facebook page:
And my blog:



Dan will be running his second Chicago Marathon in 2 years on October 9, 2011.  He is Chairman of the 2011 Chicago Marathon Start and has raised over $6000 for the American Heart Association. He lives with his wife and 2 daughters in Chicago, Illinois.

Thanks for an inspiring story, Dan.


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  1. Dan has a great story, and is a great guy! I had the pleasure of meeting him at a dinner in Boston last month, and was very happy to learn that the IRL person matches his online personality!
    Keep up the great work, Dan, and thanks for giving me the pushes that I have needed lately!!!!

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