Family Status: Married
Occupation: Business Systems Analyst
Hometown: Manchester, Connecticut
Starting Weight: 403 pounds
Current Weight: 198 pounds
Current Waist Size: 32″
Michael’s Weight Loss Interview!
How much did you lose (pounds, inches, dress/pants size)?
To date I have lost 205 pounds and over 2 FEET off my waist! I went from a 4XL shirt to a medium and from a size 60 sport jacket down to a size 42!
When did you become unhappy with your weight (were you overweight as a child or did you gain weight as an adult)?
As a child I was fairly normal to slightly overweight. I began to gain weight in early adulthood eventually becoming morbidly obese, then super obese by the time I was in my late 30’s and early 40’s.
What made you decide to lose weight?
Throughout my adult life I had attempted to lose weight, only to gain it back and more. In 2010 I lost my dad to lung and colon cancers due to his poor health habits. At the time I was well over 400 pounds. I told my mom that we should not let his death be in vain and that we need to learn something from his poor health habits. I knew that if I didn’t do something soon, I would die early too. I was a ticking time bomb having developed a host of comorbidities (sleep apnea, pre-diabetic, high blood pressure, acid reflux, fungal infections, etc). Compound this with the fact that I had lost my will to live over time as it felt hopeless for me to ever lose all this weight.
I didn’t want my family to lose me early in life like we had lost my dad. So I decided to do something about it. It took me almost 4 more years, more failed attempts and a lot of soul-searching before I came to the realization that I had to change my life, not merely go on a diet and exercise. So in June 2014 I embarked on my health journey, tracking everything I ate using a food and fitness tracking app and moderate exercise. You can read more about my story on my website MikeInspiresMe.com.
What were the most important changes you made to lose weight?
#1. Keeping track of everything I eat. I needed to get a sense of what I was eating, but more importantly how much.
#2. Not dieting or depriving myself. Diets, to me, are about deprivation which lead to people having negative associations and not wanting to stick to it. I had tried many types of diets over the years and realized that, in the end, I learned nothing from them and eventually went back to my old habits. If I want to eat a cheeseburger I have one, but I have balance in my intake, so I adjust and eat lighter later.
#3. Keeping things simple so that it will be sustainable for life is the key. I am never going back to being obese and I needed to ensure that the methods I am employing will stick. In my experience, people often give up their exercise routines if they are too complicated or not convenient. My primary form of exercise is walking and it’s perfect because it is something I can do the rest of my life and anywhere I go.
What was the most challenging thing you had to deal with during your weight loss journey?
I did not consider the emotional changes I and others around me would experience. For me, it took a while to get used to not being obese. I was so conditioned to the life I had led as a super obese man that my mind needed time to catch up. For many months I still “felt” fat even though the guy I saw in the mirror was not.
The majority of people who know me are very happy for me. However, there are some people who I think have had a hard time dealing with it as it likely makes them feel bad about their own health. I have gone from being one of the heaviest people to being lighter and more fit than most men (and some women) that I know.
The last thing is dealing with people who tell me, “Don’t get too skinny!” or “You really can stop losing weight now.” Although I know that their advice comes from a place of good intentions, it still bothers me sometimes. It makes me feel like saying, “Why didn’t you tell me to not get too fat when I was over 400 pounds?”
How long did it take you to start to see results?
I started to see noticeable results about 4 months in.
How long did it take for you to reach your current weight?
About 11 months.
How long have you maintained your weight loss and what are the most important factors for keeping it off?
I have maintained my weight loss for several months and the most important factors for keeping the pounds off are:
- Not depriving myself.
- Keeping things simple (like walking for exercise).
- Not beating myself up when I slip.
What keeps you motivated to continue your weight loss success?
My own story and motivating others. I find it motivating to hear others tell me that I am inspiring them. I still remember the day that my good friend and fitness mentor had told me that I was inspiring him. It blew my mind that our roles were reversed.
How has your life changed now that you have lost weight?
The biggest change, besides my vastly improved health, is how I am giving hope to others to improve their own health. As more people began to ask me about how I was doing it, I started to write about it. Eventually I was asked at work to speak about my health journey. It went over so well and with the daily feedback I am getting from people, that I have decided to write a book on my experiences and perhaps consider a career in helping motivate others.
My focus is more around the mental aspects of how I did all of this rather than just giving diet and fitness advice. I have a degree in Psychology and a background in coaching and mentoring adults with disabilities, so I have a good grasp of understanding motivation. That has been the key to my success. People know what they need to do in terms of diet and exercise, it is the drive and overcoming the roadblocks they set up that they need help with most.
Do you have any advice for others who are trying to lose weight?
First, talk with your doctor before taking on any weight loss and exercise endeavors. It is advisable to get them to sign-off to ensure you are healthy enough to start.
Second, it might be good to talk to a dietitian or nutritionist to look at your current eating habits and food intake. There is a lot of confusing and conflicting information out there when it comes to diet, so it is best to have some professional guidance.
Last, and probably the most important for sustainability, is to make small changes in your habits over time. This will add up and lead to BIG RESULTS. If you try to take on too much all at once it becomes overwhelming and hard to maintain. This is why so many people give up on their goals.
How did ShapeFit help you reach your weight loss goals?
ShapeFit’s weight loss stories are very inspirational.
Michael’s Weight Loss Tips!
Weight Loss Tip #1:
Start off with small changes in your habits and gradually increase over time. These small changes add up! For example, if you eat 3 eggs for breakfast normally, try eating 2 for a while. Eventually you could get to liking just the egg whites like I do!
Weight Loss Tip #2:
Keep things simple (workouts and nutrition). If it is complicated, you will feel discouraged. For me, walking is about as simple of an exercise as it gets. You can do it just about anywhere and anytime. And when the weather is bad, I use a treadmill or walk stairs at work.
Weight Loss Tip #3:
Learn from mistakes and setbacks. Don’t get discouraged! Keep on asking yourself “How can I improve?” I have had days where I went way over my calories or “fell back”. At first, I used to beat myself up about it. I had to realize that I had 40+ years of habits to undo, so I need to give myself a break. When these times happen I ask myself what is really going on. I was a stress eater, so am I stressed or nervous? If so, how can I do something different next time (like taking a walk instead of eating when I am stressed).
Weight Loss Tip #4:
Associate your goal with something that will drive you to it . It is that mental association that helps you remain focused on achieving your goal. In my experience, people who struggle with obesity often have a negative association with diet and exercise. In order to succeed in losing weight you have to learn to change those associations to something positive. Exercise and eating healthy are good for you and will make you feel good. In the end, each of us is motivated by different things so you have to find the thing that works for you.
Weight Loss Tip #5:
Do not deprive yourself! If you crave something, have it, but have balance too. Enjoying a cookie once in a while is fine, but not half a package in one sitting!
Michael’s Weight Loss Eating Plan!
What do you normally eat for breakfast?
Egg whites, yogurt, protein bars, fiber bars.
What do you normally eat for lunch?
Anything I want in moderation. Mostly lean meats like chicken or tuna with high fiber pastas or grains.
What do you normally eat for dinner?
More lean meats like chicken, turkey and tuna along with high fiber starches. I love sushi, Thai, Indian, and Mexican food. We have tacos once a week in our house. I like to use corn or high fiber flour tortillas warmed in a frying pan and crisped with non-stick cooking spray. We typically use ground turkey or chicken for the meat. We sometimes even use soy crumbles. Add some light cheese and sour cream to top it off and lots of hot salsa and green leaf lettuce!
What do you normally eat for snacks?
I try to find snacks with some nutritional value like cookies or bars with fiber. I also enjoy snacking on fresh fruit like apples, pears, etc. One guilty pleasure I have is for peanut butter. I could eat it right from the jar (okay, I have many times). I discovered defatted peanut butter powder (PBfit and PB2) and my life has changed! Just add water or almond milk and you have a tasty peanut butter alternative!
What type of nutritional supplements do you take?
I take multivitamins and herbal supplements.
Michael’s Weight Loss Workouts!
What do you do for weight training (exercises, workouts)?
I weight train 5 days per week. I have a home gym with free weights and an all-in-one exercise machine. Right now I am focusing on building and toning my upper body and core. My legs already get a lot of exercise from all the walking, hiking and mountain biking, but I do some strength work on them as well.
What do you do for cardio training (exercises, workouts)?
I walk at least an hour a day on weekdays and up to 3-4 hours on the weekend. I also enjoy doing aerobics, mountain biking and skateboarding.