I credit myself

This is the 10th installment of my Real Life Biggest Loser Series and in each and every one, the interviewee says something in particular that really stops me in my tracks.  Meet Jeff Rowell.  When asked who helped him the most during the weight loss journey he said, I credit myself.  No Jeff, it’s not conceited, it’s owning it.  Owning the good and owning the bad.  I strongly believe that a necessary step in any type of behavior change is the ability to own your behavior.  Sometimes it’s the toughest thing to do.

Jeff (right) with John Stanton founder of The Running Room

Name: Jeff Rowell

Age: 52

Occupation: Technology Consultant (Professional Geek)

All Time High Weight: 210

Current weight: 172

Total weight lost: 38

When did you begin your weight loss journey?  September 2008

How long have you kept it off? 2.5 years and counting

How was it that you decided to lose the weight?  Was there a defining moment, a turning point, an A-HA moment? In the summer of 2008, after years of struggling with her health and her weight, my wife went gluten free.  She immediately started feeling better and her excess weight melted away, on the other hand I looked like I was eight months pregnant

Jeff in 2008 at all time high weight

How did you lose the weight?  Tell us about your diet and exercise regimen.  I have an issue with diets, I don’t think diets work. My first step was to understand where my calories were coming from.  I used SparkPeople to track my calorie intake.  The first week or two, I changed nothing, while discovering that I was averaging over 3500 calories a day.  The first thing to go was soda (or as we Canadians prefer – pop).  Totally empty calories!!  Gradually I began to understand portion control and bought a food scale.  I began exercising.  Worked my calorie intake down to 2200 a day and the weight began to come off slowly but continually.  A couple of times I’d reach a plateau, but eventually the weight would begin to drop.  During this time, I was a cardio addict; lots and lots of miles on the elliptical and treadmill.  I set a goal for myself of running a 5K race on New Year’s Eve to usher in 2009 before beginning a Learn to Run program at the local Running Room.  I figured after 30 years on the couch I was probably well rested.  I completed the “Resolution Run 5K” in 33 minutes during a snow storm after only running outside a couple of times. The next week, I started the Learn to Run program and was booted out (they said graduated with honors ) and in to the 5K Training group where I’ve never looked back.

Who was the most influential person to you during the process of losing weight?  This sounds a bit conceited but I credit myself.   In my opinion, the only way you can successfully count calories is to be totally and completely accountable to yourself, if you cheat, you are only cheating yourself.  If I ate it I wrote it down, if I didn’t weigh it, I tried to estimate as closely as possible.  While on an outing with the family, we stopped at the Golden Arches for a quick meal.  I had the standard burger, fries, and pop, that one meal was a huge spike on my calorie tracking page for months. There is nutritional information out there for just about anything you can put in your mouth and eat.  You are allowed indulge on occasion, its human and its natural, No don’t beat yourself up, track it, write it down and keep going. A single meal or bad day isn’t going to make a difference over the long haul.  Sparkpeople was a wonderful resource site for people looking for information healthy lifestyle choices.

In your past, had you ever lost weight and then gained it back?  If so, how was this time different?  I’ve never dieted in my life.  I still don’t consider myself on a diet.  I eat what I want, but I choose much more selectively.  More than ever I try to make the meal myself and control ingredients and portions.  While I was marathon training I was constantly eating, lots of good healthy carbs and not so much protein.  I gained back about ten pounds.  Mostly muscle right?  Not so much.  The problem was without sufficient protein in my diet I was always hungry.  I couple of tweaks by adding foods I had never tried before made a huge difference.  Quinoa and Greek Yogurt are exceptional sources of protein and help give you that sense of fullness (satiety) that overcomes the constant need to eat.   Shifting calories from the evening to the morning also helps.  Being a notorious coffee drinker in the morning, I’ve never felt much like eating after I wake up.  Oatmeal and blueberries and an egg augmented with egg whites can get the day started off properly.

It’s easy to let your diet drift or slowly stop exercising. What do you find to be the key to STICKING TO IT?  I’ve had a couple of breaks in training due to overuse injuries but have always found different ways of cross training.  I’m a big fan of the elliptical machine.  Its low impact and I’ve usually been able to ride out not running by getting back in to the gym and working whatever isn’t broken.   The simplest reason I’m able to stick running as my primary exercise is the support I have from the incredible group of people I train with.  There is always something going on and I can count on never having to be alone if I want to run on any day of the week.

Jeff with his Goofy Marathon medals

Just starting off, losing weight is hard.  Tell us, did it get easier or harder for you over time? I’m quite lucky, I set a goal (run 5K) and achieved it, set another (race 5K) and achieved it.  Then another 10K, have the check mark, half marathon, then marathon, and finally the Goofy Challenge.  Each one felt like another step in the right direction.  I want to run the Boston Marathon.  I’ll get there no matter how much they tighten up the qualifying standard.

What is the hardest part for you now?  I want to complete a triathlon but have to learn how to swim.  I swim like a cat in a bathtub of cold water.  It isn’t pretty.  After fifty plus years of doing it wrong, there is a lot to correct.  I am shall we say, “A work in progress.”

If you could tell your former self anything, knowing what you know now, what would you say? In 1985, we had a young lady working as our secretary; she would run during her lunch breaks and from the Running Room with a group a couple of evenings during the week.  She invited every one of us guys in the office to join her running numerous times.  We all laughed it off as being young and foolish.   Given the chance, I would tell my 1985-self to stop hesitating and say “Yes !“

Do you worry about gaining weight back?   There is no going back.

How do you prevent yourself from gaining it back? I place full accountability with the only person who has the ultimate control in my life – Me!

Jeff running the Mississauga Marathon in 2010

What is different (if anything) about your life now that you have lost the weight? I’m fond of this quote by George Sheehan, “The obsession with running is really an obsession with the potential for more and more life.”   Today, I’m chasing dreams that I never knew I had.  I’ve completed a marathon, well three of them. Someday – Boylston Street will be under my feet and perhaps if I figure out this swimming thing, a trip to Kona.  Who knows? Any dream is possible if you work hard enough!


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

Radical Running Blog



Thanks Jeff.  You are definitely owning it!

Jeff lives with his family in London, Ontario.

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