…it really does. I have had the good fortune to be among the “villagers” for this Real Life Biggest Loser. I met Mike when I got my first job as a waitress in a breakfast restaurant. He was skinny as a rail and had frequent contests with the other cooks about who could eat the most sausage links. We became friends, he was like a big brother to me, and then life happened, we lost touch, and eventually reconnected 3 years ago. Since reconnecting, we have exchanged life advice for diet advice while chatting on the phone over long runs in any weather you can imagine. Mike is the epitome of a good friend. If you know Mike personally or have met him on Twitter you will surely have noticed that he is friendly, fun, and social. He has done a fantastic job of creating his village, one that is supportive and makes the hard work fun. The road is long, and sometimes really tough, all we can really do is help each other…
Occupation: I own a financial planning company
All time high weight: 245 lbs at height 6’1’’
Current weight: 188 lbs
Total weight loss: 60 (was down to 185)
When did you begin your weight loss journey? Late 2009
How long have you kept it off? I got to my goal of below 190 pounds last year and have stayed there the past 8 months.
Were you always overweight, or did you gain weight over time? Growing up I could eat whatever I wanted and stay thin. I never had to learn self-control. I can’t even imagine how many calories I ate in a day. It easily had to have been 4000+. Hell, I would eat a fried chicken dinner for 4 (chicken, biscuits, mashed potatoes, gravy & coleslaw) and a half-gallon of milk just for lunch! It wasn’t odd for me to eat McDonalds for breakfast, lunch, and dinner in the same day. Add to that, at least one candy bar, 2+ liters of coke, a pot of coffee, plus some cookies and chips to snack on. THATS A LOT OF UNHEALTHY CALORIES! Somewhere between ages 25 and 30 my body changed and I started to get heavier. I also started my career and changed my active lifestyle. I went from being a very active person (biking, basketball, skiing, hiking, karate) to someone who went to work, came home, and laid on the couch. All of the sudden I was buying bigger clothes and heading down a very unhealthy path. Then later in life, my dad passed (before his time) in May 2008, and I got depressed. I used it as an excuse to overeat and not exercise. I really got stuck in a downward spiral after we lost him. I now know this was the wrong way to deal with my sorrow.
What motivated you to lose weight? Did you have an A-HA moment? I was just always feeling down and unhappy with myself. I put on my size 40 pants and they were feeling tight. I couldn’t believe what I saw when I looked in the mirror. I kept buying bigger clothes to hide my weight and I almost needed to up the size again. I thought to myself, you’re going to keep getting bigger if you don’t do something. I needed to make a change quick! It was time to stop the pity party and just do it.
To what extent had your weight affected your physical health? It affected my health both physically and mentally. Physically I was lethargic, I never had energy, the couch was my best friend. The results from some blood work were nothing to write home about either. As I look back, mentally I was a little depressed, always feeling uninspired. This started to get worse after we lost dad.
How did you lose the weight? Tell us about your diet and exercise regimen. Two words, “NET CALORIES” I track my food intake, subtract what I burn from exercise, and if I’m under 1,800 for the day I’m good. This makes all the difference in the world; I didn’t look at anything but calories. It was one simple thing to track, and using MyFitnessPal made it even simpler. Don’t get me wrong, it’s simple, but it sure isn’t easy. 1,800 net calories was way less than I was used to, so I needed to burn calories. To do this I started running, and running, and running some more, just so I could eat. Tracking all this is key, it makes you conscious of all the food decisions you make throughout the day. I started to think before I shoved stuff down my gullet. I would look at a candy bar and realize if I ate it, I needed to run 3-4 miles to burn it off. Most of the time I would say, it’s just not worth it. This approach has completely changed my way of life, and how I approach food. I also learned, NOT TO DRINK MY CALORIES! I now watch what I eat, run at least 5 times a week (I shoot for 26 miles every week) & started playing basketball again. I am 42 and have never felt better.
Who was the most influential person/people to you during the process of losing weight? The two most crucial people, in helping me lose weight, were Robyn and Sherry. Robyn, my wife, puts up with me, and encourages me. She looks at labels to help me track calories. She has also changed some of her yummy recipes to be healthier for me. Robyn also never complains about all the time I spend running. Even better she talks proudly of me, when telling people of my dedication to it. I never could have gotten healthy without her support at home. The second person is Sherry (yes the one who writes this blog). She is the one that taught me to just focus on one thing, net calories. Sherry also keeps me accountable. She always asks what I’m eating, helps me make good decisions, and makes me schedule my runs. Sherry can be tough, but that is what I needed, and still need to this day. I also do a weekly weigh in, and let her know where I’m at, this helps to keep me focused. Sherry is the one that made me realize it’s not about dieting; it’s about changing your lifestyle! With Sherry’s help that’s exactly what I did, and I can never thank her enough for helping me.
That said, I truly believe it takes a village to raise a healthy person. The more you surround yourself with people that encourage and want to help you get healthy, the better. You need to have less interaction with the people who sabotage you, and say things like “come on, you’re doing good, let’s go get a burger and fries.” They mean well, but this doesn’t help when you want that damn BURGER & FRIES! It’s also important to have friends that don’t make fun of you when you look up food calories before you order dinner, or that you went online and planed your meal before even getting to the restaurant. That is not considered normal “manly” behavior, and some people like to point that out.
Aww…thanks! Have you ever lost weight and then gained it back? If so, how was this time different? The first time I lost weight was in 2006. I did this with traditional diet and exercise. I was doing ok, and then my dad died. As I mentioned, that affected me more than I realized, and I gained all my weight back, plus some extra. The difference this time is, I’m not doing it alone, I have tons of support. I am also a different person now, being and staying healthy is a way of life for me. I don’t diet anymore, I changed my lifestyle, and I don’t want to go back, I CAN’T GO BACK!!!
It’s easy to let your diet drift or slowly stop exercising. What do you find to be the key to STICKING TO IT? You said it sister! I always struggle, because I love to eat. Food just tastes so good. Steak, hamburgers, onion rings, popcorn, candy, brownies with butter on them, hell anything with bacon. (Damn I’m hungry now.) What I do to stay on track is, whenever I get over 190 pounds, I publicly commit to a perfect week, of being under my net calorie goal on MyFitnessPal. That with my weekly weigh ins keeps me from drifting.
Just starting off, losing weight is hard. Tell us, did it get easier or harder for you over time? It gets easier. I have grown accustomed to the changes I have made in my life, and they have become part of who I am. Now, I want to go out and run, it’s not a chore, and keeping track of my food has become a habit.
What is the hardest part for you now? Diet, it’s always a struggle for me. I have learned to substitute good food for bad. I eat a lot more fruit, instead of candy, and grilled chicken not burgers. I have even found that when craving chips, a dill pickle is a good substitute (salty and crunchy). But I always want to eat the bad stuff, and of course I still do, just in moderation.
If you could tell your former self anything, knowing what you know now, what would you say? Stay active & healthy you stupid, silly boy! There were two times I needed that said to me. First when I started my career and second when my dad passed.
Do you worry about gaining weight back? How do you prevent yourself from gaining it back? A little, only because it already happened once, but I think I have made enough lifestyle changes to prevent it. Add to that the support I have at home, and in my social media community, I think the deck is stacked in my favor to stay healthy. Not to mention, reporting weekly weigh ins, and food habits to Sherry (Have I mentioned she can be tough?)
Yes! I can be tough! But I’m always on your side. Can you tell us how your participation in social media, such as Twitter, Facebook, blogs (reading them and writing your own) has impacted your weight loss journey? It has been invaluable! I think Twitter and MyFitnessPal are 2 of the best weight loss tools around. They have been a HUGE part in creating my village that helps keep me healthy. In MyFitnessPal you can have a wall where friends post things like in Facebook. If you don’t log in for a few days, it lets your friends know, and then they call you out. I love my, MyFitnessPal community! Twitter has become the largest part of my “healthy community.” I get tons of encouragement from runners & health conscious people. A great example would be the day before Thanksgiving, I tweeted that I wanted to get a Big Mac & fries. Within 1 minute, I got 5 tweets back encouraging me not to do it! Throughout the rest of the day, I also got follow up tweets from people asking me what I ended up doing. For those interested, I ended up eating grilled chicken and apple slices with a diet pop. I have also used Twitter to get groups of people to join me in trying to create healthy behaviors (Misery loves company). It started with Sherry and I creating #plankaday. Since then, I have added #candyfree (trying to go at least a week without candy), #loseapound (lose a pound over the holidays) and now I’m getting runners to sadistically join me in trying to run 26.2 miles every week (#marathonaweek)
What is different (if anything) about your life (and/or health) now that you have lost the weight? EVERYTHING!! I’m not depressed, tons of energy, lower stress, improved results from my annual physical, and better attitude at work. I am back to being the happy, healthy, and active person I used to be!
Thanks Mike, for being such a great friend and inspiration!
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