I’ve been a yo-yo dieter for much of my life. Except where some people lose ten or twenty pounds, then gain it back, I’ve lost hundreds of pounds at a time. And then I’d gain it back. Not slowly, either. It came back fast, for all kinds of reasons. At one point I was 370 pounds, and over a year got down to 180. I’m 5’10”, so that’s a good weight for me. But I gained it all back. That happened multiple times.

So in January of 2019 I was 480 pounds. I couldn't walk more than five or ten feet without needing to sit down. That's how bad it was. And I travel a lot for work, meeting customers, so here I am this 480-pound guy who can barely move more than 10 feet, but I’m carrying my luggage and my laptop and looking like a mess.

My inspiration to change

I was struggling to walk through the Raleigh-Durham airport and everything just kind of hit me all at once. I knew I felt terrible, and I knew I looked terrible. Clients had watched me struggle to climb a set of stairs. We’d recently gotten new badge photos and I thought it was the worst picture I’d ever seen of myself. My relationships were strained because I was depressed about my size.

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And I’m an alcoholic. May 30, 2019, I had my last drink. I was someone who would black out and not remember what I did while I was drunk, plus I hated the way I felt the next day. Alongside losing weight, I decided I needed drinking out of my life.

I’m not going to make it sound easy. I had some really sick days as my body responded to going sober. And it’s a challenge. On a whiteboard in my house I have a tally of how many days I’ve been sober, how many days I’ve not smoked, how many I haven’t gambled. That board motivates me.

I had started using the Lose It!! app and counting my calories. I cut down my calories quite a bit because I couldn’t exercise much until I lost weight. Then I got so I could go to a gym that had just opened around the corner from me. I really got into spin classes and doing a lot of cardio. And once I quit drinking, it just supercharged my weight loss.

The first month of not drinking, I dropped about 45 pounds.

Then I got diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. I’d had neurological issues before, but it had seemed a one-off thing. Once I knew it was multiple sclerosis, I realized the stakes for keeping the weight off had just been raised.

the author running in a half marathon
Courtesy of the author

Friends inspired me, too

I had a couple of people who really inspired me to start running. One, in Raleigh, is probably one of the healthiest people I know, and swears by running half-marathons. She really sold me on the idea. Another is my cousin Ian, who runs marathons. He told me about the sense of community he gets from it, and that really appealed to me, too.

I dove right in. It was during the pandemic, so my earliest races were all virtual competitions. My first in-person race was a half-marathon. And I’ve been doing it ever since.

I’m 5’10”, and at my heaviest I was at 480 pounds. Since then I’ve dropped 312 pounds, then put on about 20 pounds of muscle, so I’m at 188 these days. I still keep my count of days sober, without a drink, and without gambling. I recently did the Brooklyn half-marathon, with a time of 2:44:48.

I never could have done this alone, even if I had to be the one to help myself first.

All of these numbers and stats help me see my progress, but a big part of what keeps me running is feeling like I’m part of something. There’s such an endorphin rush from going out there and running with other people, knowing I’m doing these things for my health. Ultimately, the numbers don’t matter as much as the feeling of support and knowing I’m not alone. I never could have done this alone, even if I had to be the one to help myself first.

That’s what I tell people who are looking to get into running. Just getting to the starting line is a victory. You’re not going out there to be the fastest person. If you lined up to run a race, you've already won. You're proving to yourself just how much you’re capable of doing. Thinking that way, and being honest with myself, is what keeps me going every day.