“Dad, I want to get a fat belly like you.”
Those words from my five-year-old son were the catalyst for a weight loss journey that would utterly transform my life. At that point a year and a half ago, I weighed 330 pounds. It hurt to bend over and tie my shoes. I got to work every morning and slammed an energy drink for breakfast, then didn’t eat all day until I hit a drive-through at night for a double cheeseburger with large onion rings, washed down with a three-liter soda.
I had tried dieting before, basically starving myself with weight loss shakes and pills until I lost 20 or 30 pounds, then gaining it all back because I couldn’t sustain it. I knew that if I was going to lose weight the right way and keep it off, I needed help.
Luckily, I work for H-E-B, a company that cares about the health of its partners (employees). I applied and earned a spot in the H-E-B Slim Down Showdown, a contest my company puts on every year to help customers and employees make major lifestyle changes.
Even though I was hopeful, I carried a lot of self-doubt into Fit Camp. During the weeklong program, dietitians, trainers and other specialists taught us how to eat right and exercise, with advice and calorie budgets based on each person’s level of need and ability.
When I returned home, I pushed myself to my limits. I was at the gym every day by 4 a.m. for a two-hour workout, then back at 5:30 p.m. for the same. I did that seven days a week for 10 weeks.
For food, I would take most of my meals and snacks with me for the day. My girlfriend Melanie enjoyed looking up healthy recipes, and we would cook in batches together on the weekends so that all our meals were ready and planned for the entire week. Melanie was there with me every step of the way, joining me for evening workouts even though she hated the gym.
When people ask what motivated me to keep going, I tell them it was that comment from my son about getting a fat belly. You can say that was my fuel.
At the end of the 10-week competition, I had lost 90 pounds and Melanie had dropped 60. As we walked down the runway together for our big reveal at the Slim Down Showdown finale, I got down on one knee and proposed to her in front a screaming crowd. Oh, and I won the contest’s $10,000 grand prize.
Coming off of that crazy high, I was a little worried that I might slack off, but the good feelings have just kept coming. To keep things fresh, I have set new goals for myself. In all, I ended up losing 130 pounds.
With the fat off, I am now lifting weights and building body mass, getting new stretch marks from pumping up muscles I never had.
Melanie runs about three days a week and has gotten really into healthy cooking. We put the $10,000 away for a down payment on a house.
The most mind-blowing aspect of this journey is not how it affected my life, but to see how I am impacting the lives of others. My mother, who has always struggled with her health, has lost 50 pounds after seeing me change my life. My Dad, after watching my Mom, is now going to the gym as well.
My coworkers, who saw me drop the weight in real time, have started going to the gym with me and asking for advice. Even giving little tips here and there seem to make a difference. At the gym, the staff members have put my picture on their “wall of fame” and whenever they are trying to sell a membership, they bring the prospective client around to talk to me. It makes me laugh, but I’m happy to do it.
When I see someone at the gym struggling as I did at the outset, I always go up and talk to them and offer a few
tips or encouragement. I can only hope it helps them stick with it. When I make a connection, I notice that people come back and talk to me again.
Today, my strength is not just physical in nature. I have gained a mental strength that has fueled my ambitions and my confidence. Every day, I wake up at the crack of dawn with a natural high, ready to hit the gym and get after it.
In May, I am doing the Spartan Super with a team. My boys, now 6 and 7, want to do the Spartan Kids race. Now, instead of a fat belly, they want muscles like Dad. (Don’t worry, I told them, it’s too early to start lifting weights.)
My advice to anyone who wants to lose weight is to do it right, through exercise and healthy eating. Skip the pills and shakes, there is no magic bullet. You can do the same Slim Down Showdown program I did from home by registering at heb.com/slimdown. It’s all there for you online with recipes, tips, workouts and a mobile weight tracker.
Second, find an exercise you really like and keep setting new goals for yourself. Find something that motivates you, like that comment from my son, and let that drive you until you find your footing and get into a routine.
And third, hold yourself accountable. Stop making excuses. It’s your choice if you want to put that burger in your mouth or go home and cook a healthy meal.