Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo Health series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Darren Moore is 31, 6′2″, and currently weighs 195 pounds. In 2010 he weighed 375 pounds. This is the story of how he healthfully lost the weight over the course of two years.
The turning point
As I reflect back on my childhood, I acknowledge that I never had a healthy relationship with food. This is a result of a lack of focus on healthy eating and exercise in my family and environment. My weight started to become a huge issue when I was a freshman in college. During the end of that year, I gained upward of 100 pounds. I was also suffering from depression because of a number of things that were going on in my personal life. I wanted to lose weight but could never seem to find a program that worked for me. My turning point was realizing that no one was going to help me but me. At some point, you have to pick yourself up by your bootstraps and figure out a way to make things happen.
In order to lose weight, I first had to make the decision to change my life. Making that decision seems like it would be the easiest thing to do, but it in fact was the most difficult thing to do. I worked with a medical professional to develop a diet program that would work for me — one that focused on changing the types of foods that I ate and reducing calories, along with taking some nutritional supplements.
In changing how many calories I ate, I went from consuming high-fat, high-sugar, and high-carbohydrate foods to a diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates. I used what many call a low-calorie diet or very low-calorie diet, which is not for the faint of heart and must be done in conjunction with a medical professional. I also incorporated some exercise, but most of my increase in exercise came a bit later — once I started to lose weight and could actually engage in physical activity. As an obese individual, it was difficult for me to walk, let alone run, so I was not able to start running a marathon like some individuals are able to do. One thing I had to learn was that everything takes time. I did not gain the weight overnight, so I was aware that I was not going to be able to lose the weight overnight.
However, as the weight started to come off, I started enjoying things that I always liked to do when I was a young child. For example, as a child, I loved to Rollerblade and used to do it all around my neighborhood. As I gained weight, my knees and legs were not able to support 375 pounds. When I lost the first 100 pounds, I started to Rollerblade on a daily basis, often Rollerblading 15 to 20 miles at a time. I also enjoyed running when I was younger, but as an obese person, I was not able to run for more than 15 seconds. As I got lighter, I was able to start running outside and on a treadmill. I never thought I would be able to run on a treadmill, so I’m still amazed — even now — every time I do it.
When I saw results, that was all I needed. I enjoy my life a lot more knowing that I can go into any store and buy clothes and not have to worry about something not coming in my size.
In the past, I dealt with low self-esteem and depression. But after losing the weight, I felt like I finally became visible, that people finally saw the real me that was always there from the beginning. My outside finally matched my inside. I definitely like myself more and feel more confident now.
Darren Moore before (left) and after his weight loss. (Photos courtesy of Darren Moore)
I have always been intelligent and have always had dreams, but I never quite believed that any of my dreams could actually come true. However, now I believe 100 percent, without a doubt, that I can do anything and everything that I want to — and I am doing it. Years ago, I thought I was unworthy of doing something like appear on television, but now I am on TV every other week. All of my experiences have made me passionate about the topic of weight loss, and I dedicate a significant portion of my career to helping others lose weight and understand the psychological and emotional factors of weight loss.
Today, I eat a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet. Every once in a while (typically around special holidays), I allow myself the opportunity to indulge in foods that I avoid during the rest of the year. While this feels good in the moment, I am finding that it actually just makes me feel irritated afterward. It is almost as if your taste buds change. The food that used to be amazing to me, now is not that great. This has to do with changing my relationship with food, so food does not carry the same importance as it used to.
I drink plenty of water, and believe water is therapeutic and fills you up. When I was losing weight, I would drink water before I ate so that I would feel full earlier and consume fewer calories. I also made sure to avoid eating things that did not taste good to me — which sounds crazy at first, but as I examined my previous eating habits, there were times that I found myself eating simply for the sake of eating. I also noticed that I used to consume food to excess whenever I was upset, depressed, or anxious, so I focus on being more mindful and changing how I cope with negative feelings.
I have also reduced my portion sizes. Restaurants tend to serve way too much food, so now when I go out to eat, I ask for a to-go container right when my order comes out. I pack some of the food to take with me so that I am not tempted to eat the entire thing.
Most of the things that I struggle with are related to traveling. I had a traumatic experience on an airplane a few years ago when I was obese. A flight attendant asked me if I needed a seat-belt extender, but did it in an indiscreet way so that everyone on the plane heard her. I was embarrassed, angry, and sad. Now I sometimes feel a little anxiety whenever I board a plane because there’s always a little part of me that wonders, What if the seat belt doesn’t fit? Then when I do buckle that seat belt, in my mind, I think, Phew, crisis averted.
The other issue I often have with traveling is related to finding places to eat. When I travel for personal reasons, I always rent a vehicle and research healthy options for eating beforehand. However, when I travel for work, I do not always have a rental car and I am often stuck with food places that are inside or around the hotel. This results in having very few good options. During these times, I may pack a few food items with me to have just in case I need them, in an attempt to not revert back to eating unhealthy food just because it is convenient.
If I ever feel like I am slipping, I go to the gym and look around, and when I see another person working hard, it motivates me. It makes me think, Get your head in the game! Do not let them beat you. The competitive side of me comes out, which is one reason why I believe in and support the idea of fitness challenges. I have dedicated a significant amount of my research at the university to weight loss, motivation, and the incorporation of marriage and family therapists. If competition is structured in a controlled and positive way, it can be fun, motivating, and worthwhile. I currently serve as a mental health consultant to a few programs, most notably the Insight 2 Health Fitness Challenge, FitCom program, and Mercer University’s fitness challenge. I am also developing my own reality-based weight-loss television show that will air on a local channel.
As a professor, I conduct research regarding weight loss within the context of individual, couple, and family relationships. And as a therapist, I work with individuals dealing with a variety of concerns, including weight. Weight loss does not automatically cure mental health and body image issues, because weight is not always just about physical pounds; it can also be about emotional weight that may exist in a person’s life. Therapy is a way to work through that weight. All of my work has helped me to understand an issue that so many of us struggle with. It also informs the book I’m writing, Less Is Moore: A Memoir, which shares, in detail, my experiences before, during, and after weight loss.
Do not wait. Everyone says that they want to get healthy and change their lives, but they keep putting it off and saying that they will start later — usually after a holiday or a special event. It goes back to the adage of “Why put off until tomorrow what you can accomplish today?” It is better to start today because by tomorrow, you may have gained a pound, changed your mind, and entered into a downward spiral of eating unhealthy food, sitting on the couch, and staying in a depressed mood. Replace “I can’t” with “I can … and I will.” Now is the time!