Meet Ben, a 44-year-old fundraising and software consultant and father of two!
Just earlier this year, Ben was living a sedentary life. At 280 lbs, classified as “morbidly obese,” Ben found he was unhappy with his current track, out of energy, and in need of a change. As someone who worked out of a home office, he spent much of his day at home on his computer, and very little time moving more and eating better. He was lost, and looking for a home to help with his weight loss journey.
Ben decided he wanted to get healthy, found Nerd Fitness, and over the next 10 months lost over 100 lbs. He started strength training, ran a half marathon, and more.
How did he do it?
Let’s find out.
Steve: Hey Ben! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions dude. What got you motivated to start? When did you make a change?
My wife was pregnant with our second daughter (born in April 2013). I realized that I’d be 62 years old when she’s a high school senior and at the rate my health was declining due to weight gain, I might not even make it that far. I needed to do this for my family. That, combined with the fact that I was feeling uncomfortable in all my clothes and embarrassed about how big I had gotten prompted things.
Steve: That’s quite the wake up call. The old you spent a lot of time your free time at home on the computer. What about the new you?
The early morning gaming/internet time has changed to exercise time, usually running. I hit the gym at lunchtime 3-4 days a week, and even spend a lot more time planning my meals out than I used to.
Steve: What about your exercise strategy?
I started off just trying to get moving. I knew that I wanted to do 3-4 days of 30+ minutes cardio and 3-4 days of strength training per week. It wasn’t until I found NF that I truly learned what a quality strength program looked like. On the cardio side, I was terribly out of shape and couldn’t jog slowly for more than a minute without getting terribly winded. So, for the first week or two my cardio workouts consisted of one minute jogging followed by three minutes walking, repeated 8 times (like Interval Training). It never occurred to me that less than 6 months later I’d be able to run the distance of a half marathon without stopping.
Steve: Give us and example of a workout!
As I gear up for a race in March, I run 3 days per week, approximately 4 hours total. Strength training is at around 3 hours per week. One of the big takeaways I got from Nerd Fitness was that to achieve the goals I set, I needed to work on both cardio AND strength train. I do two days upper body and just one day lower body strength training. Upper body is typically alternating between push and pull, something like this:
- dumbbell bench press
- dumbbell row
- low-bar inverted rows
Lower body is pretty straightforward: squats, lunges, and leg presses.
Steve: What about your diet? Did you use a specific strategy or just look eat healthier overall?
I haven’t followed any specific diet strategy, though I’ve certainly pulled elements of several different ones. Overall, my diet has evolved to be what I consider to be extremely “clean,” though I realize that proponents of various diets might disagree. Basically, I now view all food as fuel for my workouts and daily life, and I want to perform as well as I can, so I try to use the best fuel that I can. Here are some of my go-to foods:
- Pre-Run Snack: a grapefruit, some strawberries, or a homemade protein bar made with blueberries, flax seed, rolled oats, steel cut oats, safflower oil, raw honey, and whey protein.
- Breakfast: Usually one of two options: Greek yogurt, granola, and berries, or steel-cut oatmeal with cinnamon, apples, and blueberries. Boiled egg(s)
- Lunch and Dinner: Usually 6-10 oz. of lean meat (flank steak, grilled chicken breast, grilled salmon or tuna, smoked turkey) with one or two sides such as broccoli, grilled mixed veggies, short-grain brown rice, quinoa, black beans, homemade guacamole, sweet potatoes, baby spinach salad topped with olive oil and vinegar
Steve: How exactly did your diet evolve – what were some of the first changes you made?
Very early on, I just focused on reducing my caloric intake.
At that point, I didn’t really look at the quality of food I was eating or macronutrient content. It was purely “you have a budget of ~2100 calories per day to lose 2 pounds per week. Eat ~2100 calories per day.” I mean, I pretty frequently ate pulled pork or ribs with sugar-sweetened BBQ sauce in January and February of this year. As I started to read Nerd Fitness and other sites and gain some experience, I came to realize that healthier foods (especially leaner proteins) would help me feel more full because I could eat more of them, and they’d also help increase the rate of fat loss.
What I didn’t realize until it started happening for me was how much eating healthier would help with fitness performance. Once I saw my lifting numbers increase and my running times decrease rapidly with better nutrition, I was hooked.
Here are some of the major things I’ve learned:
- Prepare as much of my food as is possible at home.
- Fat isn’t to be feared, especially when it comes from healthy sources such as nuts, eggs, seeds, and avocados.
- Carbs should be viewed as sources of fiber and fuel for workouts.
- Look to minimize sodium, saturated fats, and added sugars.
- Lean protein is the awesome in every way!
Steve: What was the toughest change for you to make?
I was in fairly good shape when I was younger, so my ego made it difficult to get back in the gym as a fat guy. Several of my early trips were during off-peak hours when I knew that few/no people would be there. I did get over that rather quickly, though.
But really, success breeds success.
Once I started seeing results from doing what I was doing, it became easy to ramp it up further. I actually lost weight more rapidly in months 3 through 7 (12.6 pounds per month) than in months 1 and 2 (9 pounds per month), as the momentum helped me make more changes.
Steve: How did you track your progress? Did you take any other measurements?
Let’s just say that I put the “Nerd” in “Nerd Fitness” when it comes to tracking. I record my weight daily. I also track several body measurements monthly (waist, chest, biceps, thigh, calf, etc.) My heart rate monitor comes with a fitness test that I administer monthly and record. And all of my strength training weights and cardio training times are tracked using various apps.
Steve: What was the most important change you made that helped you succeed?
I believe the most important change has been around nutrition, both in how much I eat and what I eat. There are those who preach calorie count and others who espouse clean eating. I do both.
Steve: What kind of support system did you have? Friends and family?
My wife has been a massive help, both as a cheerleader and in taking on more of the burden with our kids in the mornings when I’m running. I started posting on the NF Message boards back in April, and I learned a crazy amount about strength training. I’ve also enlisted the support of social media by blogging, and my scale auto-Tweets my weight every morning.
For me, weighing daily and having it automatically tweeted is what keeps me in line more than anything else.
Steve: Have you tried and failed to get healthy before in the past? What made this time different?
I’ve tried and failed to “lose weight” in the past. This is the first time that I’ve focused on “being healthy” and that shift in thinking alone has been a big part of the difference. The other major difference had been that I’ve eaten a significantly *larger* calorie count this time than ever. I’d never counted calories before January of this year, but now that I’ve been doing it since then, I’m acutely aware that I weighed over 200 pounds and frequently ate only 1000-1500 calories per day when I was dieting. No wonder I would crash and binge! It’s very rare for me to eat under 2000 now.
Steve: What would you tell somebody who’s tried and failed but ready to try again?
I’d recommend that they get moving, be ok with starting small, and make sure to eat both enough food and healthy foods.
What are you excited to do now that you weren’t physically able to do before? Any activities in particular?
While it’s neat and impressive-sounding to be able to go out and run 15 miles, more than anything else I’m just glad I have much more energy to play with my daughters. Just being able to keep up with my off-the-chain 4-year-old daughter is huge. Beyond that, the biggest change is that I’m much more acutely aware of the importance of good nutrition. I wouldn’t be surprised if I never eat a fast food burger and fries again, and that’s something I wouldn’t have said as recently as March or so.
Steve: Favorite video game of all time?
Steve: Do you have any nerdy passions or pursuits?
Does running a message board for a text-based football game count? 😉 I have been the head geek at Front Office Football Central for 10+ years. and I am very active in the text-based sports simulation community overall.
Steve: Yes. That counts. Hahahaha! If you could have any superpower in the world, what would it be, and why?
Mind-reading. I’m generally fascinated by people, so actually knowing their thoughts would take it to the next level.
Steve: Tell us something interesting about you!
My daughters–ages 4 years and 4 months–share April 4th as their birthday.
Why Ben was successful
Ben found a recipe for success that worked for him. In less than a year he became a whole new man, down 100 lbs, with a completely new lifestyle and outlook.
Let’s take a look at some of the things that made him successful:
A focus on nutrition: Ben went from knowing almost nothing about nutrition, to carefully crafting a style of healthy eating that worked for him. He realized that fat is not the enemy, that you can’t outrun your diet, and that carbs should come from healthy sources and be used as fuel for workouts (specifically his long runs!). Ben preferred to track his calories closely AND eat incredibly healthy. While many Rebels have success following a specific style of healthy eating (e.g. Paleo) without worrying too much about calories, Ben found that completely nerding out over his diet was what worked for him.
Tracking, tracking, tracking! Ben tracked EVERYTHING. Not just his weight, but his lean mass and fat mass. Not just his 3-mile time, but his VO2 max. On top of that, he took regular photos and even took measurements. Because Ben had so much data, he didn’t need to freak out when one specific thing looked off. If his weight went up one week but his other indicators still improved, he could easily see, through other measurements, that he probably just gained some muscle. It’s easy to tell that Ben enjoyed this process, as he was able to geek out about his progress and throw himself in this new game – life.
A great reason: Ben had a great reason to get healthy. Above all else, it was his family and his daughters that motivated him to make a change. He knew he needed to change something if he wanted to be around for the major moments in their lives. So, he got started and took practical steps in place to keep him moving forward and achieve his goals. He had a great reason and motivation to get started, and put in place a great system to keep him on track.
Accountability: Ben mentioned his weight gets tweeted automatically. EVERY DAY! Talk about accountability. Not only that, Ben set up a blog where he reports his progress and shares his experience, allowing loved ones and acquaintances alike to check up on him. Some people may only need a workout buddy to stay on track, while others need their progress automatically tweeted every day. Whatever the case, make sure you have a way to stay accountable.
Become the next success story
Before starting, Ben had a long way to go.
So he focused his energy on that: STARTING. He didn’t become an Underpants Gnome…he just took action and figured the rest out along the way. His workouts changed drastically, and his diet is radically different from his previous lifestyle, but both of those changes happened gradually over the course of 10 months.
He put on his hard hat and went to work every single day.
And just like Optimus Prime, Ben made sure his slow transformation resulted in dramatic results.
Ben, thanks for sharing your story with the Rebellion (now over 120,000 strong!) – good luck in your next race, and take care of those kids.
What questions do you have for Ben?
photo source: success