You Are Tougher Than You Think You Are

 

This is the 4th installment of my Real Life Biggest Loser series. This profile features my good friend Scott whom I have known for 20 years.

As I post this interview, Scott has just heard the gun go off for his first 50K race (30 miles).  He’s in the trenches.  Sweating.  Heart pounding.  Running for his life.

A year and a half ago, his workout was a 1 mile walk/jog around his block that ended with his feeling winded and exhausted.  What did he do?  He kept going…left 50 pounds behind… and what’s he doing now?  He just keeps going….

Name:  Scott

Age: 40

Occupation: Computer Programmer

All time high weight: 237

Current weight: 192

Total weight loss:   Last year I was down to 187 with a total weight loss of 50 lbs. To be perfectly honest I feel like a little bit of a fraud being in a group with the amazing achievements of Dan, Chris, and Mary. What they did was truly amazing, and makes my 50 lbs feel like nothing.  With that said, I’m not depreciating my accomplishment either. It wasn’t easy to lose 50 lbs with my hectic schedule. It took serious dedication and sacrifice.

You are SO not a fraud!  Do you know how many people would kill to lose 50 lbs?!   So, when did you start losing weight?   I started my weight loss in January of 2010.

Scott after completing the Swampfoot race through the mud

How long have you kept it off?  I was able to keep most if it off for over year, but then I fell into a dangerous trap. The fact that I had dropped so much weight coupled with how active I had become, lulled me into a false sense of safety. I figured that since I was burning more calories I didn’t have to pay so much attention to what I was eating or drinking anymore. Because of this lapse in reasoning I found my weight climbing again.

How did you lose the weight?  I know there are a lot of diet and dieting systems out there. Some call them fads while others claim they work. I just kept it simple and followed the math. If I burn more calories than I take in then I was pretty sure I was going to lose weight.  So I religiously kept track of every calorie I put in my body. By utilizing the great tools on the web I knew how many calories I burned just sitting on my bum all day at work, so I knew I had to eat less calories than that.

But reducing calories was only half of the process. I also increased my activity to burn more calories. I have always loved to run so that’s what I did. The great thing about running is that all you need is a pair of shoes and you’re good to go.

Scott in Dec 2009 at 237 lbs

Now the flip side, how did you gain the weight?   I have been pretty active my whole life so I never gave too much care to my weight. My diet was never the best, but I also didn’t eat fast food five nights a week. With this relaxed attitude I found that I was usually hovering around 200-205 lbs. However, in July of 2009, my second son was born. With a newborn and a two year old running around the house, I found my energy sapped so my exercise stopped, and my food choices began to digress. After months of bad diet and no exercise the weight gain began.

How was it that you decided to make such a major life change?  Was there a defining moment?   In January of 2010, I stepped on the scale and it read 237. This was the heaviest I have ever been.  I had a couple of running events I wanted to do in 2010, so I knew I had to drop some weight. What also helped was turning it into a competition. I good friend of mine wanted to get his weight to under 200 so we made a bet to see who could get there first. Since we are both pretty competitive this really aided me through the tough times.

People get frustrated about failed attempts.  Did you have failed attempts?  I didn’t have any real failed attempts, but I did have relapses. I have a serious sweet tooth. Actually I have a mouth full of them. I LOVE sugar; sugar in my coffee, sugar in my cereal, sugar in my sugar. Sugar is my kryptonite and whenever I get to a point of good health, sugar will lure me back to my larger pants.

How often did you try to lose weight but fail in the past?   I’m cursed/blessed with an extreme stubborn streak so when I set a goal I usually meet it. This has curtailed any failures for me.

Scott on a winter run

I take a very similar approach that Chris takes. I constantly register for running races. It’s a lot harder to wimp out of a workout if I have a race coming up.  I have actually started my wife and her mother on this path as well. Every month I sign them up for a 5K walk. This forces them to start walking more during the week. It’s either that or suffer on the day of the walk. Canceling is not an option when I’m your coach.  But I’m not recommending that everyone start running. I truly think the key is to find an activity you love that just happens to burn calories. For me it’s running. For others it’s basket ball, or rollerblading, or karate. I knew a guy that once lost 30lbs from playing Dance Dance Revolution every day.

Sounds like running played a big role in your weight loss. Running is pretty intensive exercise, which people can find quite intimidating. How did you go from the couch to running races?  What was that experience like?  I ran track in high school and knew that running was the exercise for me, but it had been a full decade since I laced up my running shoes. Falling victim to the “too much too soon” trap on more than one occasion, I knew to be successful I had to take it slow. My first goal was to run one mile. I plotted a 1 mile loop around my house, laced up my new Asics and started jogging. I could not believe how hard it was.. I used to be a great runner and now I was out of breath after the first block. I wasn’t going to give up though. Instead of turning around and going home, I walked.  I kept walking until I felt that I could jog again. I jogged until it hurt then walked. I did this jog/walk routine for the entire mile.  Two days later I went out again. My only goal was to jog just a little further before I had to walk. Eventually I was walking less and less until I was able to run the whole mile. It took almost a month but I did it. After that I did the exact same thing for two miles, then three and so on.

What is the one piece of advice you would give to someone who is having difficulty losing weight and wants to give up?    Don’t give up! I know it’s hard and sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s worth it, but it is. You will have so many wonderful things open up to you when you are healthy.

Scott on a run before dawn

If you could tell your former self anything, knowing what you know now, what would you say?   I would say to myself: “Get off your ass and go running. There are races called ultra’s which you are going to find that you love but you can’t run them in your current condition. So get out there and starting being the kind of man you want your boys to be.”

Just starting off, losing weight is hard.  Tell us, does it get easier over time? Or harder?  Losing weight is always harder than gaining it, and sometimes not as much fun. But if you find what works for you, when you do lapse into your old ways, and you will, you have the tools you need to get back into the game.

What is the hardest part for you now?  The hardest part for me right now is finding the time to exercise. I have two small boys who I want to spend as much time with as possible. I refuse to sacrifice my time with them so I sacrifice other things. I wake up two hours earlier than I used to so I can run while they sleep. I have no clue how Lost ended or who is the most hated person on the Amazing Survivor Bachelorette.  And I’m usually sleeping on Friday nights before my friends even decide what casino or restaurant they are going to. But I wouldn’t change a thing.

Anything else you would like to tell us about your journey?  I just want to leave you with a quote from Ken Chlouber, the race director of Leadville 100M, one of the toughest ultra’s in the US.

“You’re tougher than you think you are and you can do more than you think you can do”

I LOVE that quote Scott.  Thanks!  If we want to follow you, where do we find you?

You can find me on Twitter @WhoHasTheRuns

Or check out my blog WhoHasTheRuns.blogspot.com

Thanks Scott.  You may not feel like a “biggest loser” but you really are.  Sounds like you were barreling toward an unhealthy weight but you decided to dig in your heels, reconnect with the physical activity you used to love, and rescue yourself.   There is no activity like exercise to show you that you are capable of so much more than you know.  Thanks for reminding us of this…and to push our limits…for showing us the upside of being stubborn… and for inspiring us to keep on going….

Scott with his sons in July 2011

 

Scott lives in Sterling Heights, Michigan with his wife and his 1 and 3 year old sons.  In the last year he has completed the Cincinnati Flying Pig marathon, the Wisconsin Tough Mudder, the Swampfoot, Muddy Waters Bump and Run, the Detroit Turkey Trot, and Dances with Dirt.  Today (Sept 10, 2011) he’s completing a 50K race through Michigan, wish him luck!

 

 

Are you a real life biggest loser?  Email me at spagoto@gmail.com and let me tell your story.

 

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