Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Toby Reed is 36 and 6 feet tall, and he currently weighs 185 pounds. In 2010, after seeing the tragic deaths of his immediate family caused partly by obesity, he was determined to forge a healthier path for the sake of his newborn son. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
I knew my weight was an issue my whole life, but I just ignored it. My whole family was unhealthy. My brother weighed over 400 pounds and my dad was over 300 pounds, so I felt that it was just how our family was supposed to be. We were constantly made fun of in school by other kids, but then we would just go home and eat our worries away. We ate fast food almost daily and drank soda nonstop. As I got older, I tried diets that would result in losing some weight only to regain all of it and more after I quit.
In 2010, my wife was pregnant with our first child and life seemed great for us. My parents had just retired and moved to be closer to us for the baby. Within two weeks of relocating, my mom passed away unexpectedly. Shortly after that, my 31-year-old brother died suddenly. His death certificate actually said “severe obesity” as the cause of death. This was a huge loss for me. We were less than two years apart in age, and he was my best friend. It wasn’t until the following year that I got the final message when my dad died. Now the last of my immediate family was gone and I realized that I was probably next since I led the same unhealthy lifestyle as they had. I couldn’t let my newborn son down, so I had to figure out how to change.
I strongly believe in the saying “If you fail to plan then plan to fail,” so I put together some obtainable small goals and thought about how I would get there. The feeling of checking a goal off of my list was so powerful, it motivated me to check the next one off — even if the goal was to walk around the block. It was still me doing something toward my ultimate goal.
For my diet, I knew that quick fix diets didn’t work for me, so I needed a complete lifestyle overhaul. I started with small but impactful changes like eliminating sugar, soda, processed junk, and fast food. I wanted to not only lose weight but be healthy by adding nutritious whole foods into my diet like spinach, kale, probiotics, and chia seeds. I kept a simple food journal for a few months that made me accountable to myself.
Some of my diet rules:
Drink two glasses of water before every meal. I added lemon for the flavor and cleansing benefits.
One trick that worked for me was adding chia seeds to my beverages like green tea. They are packed with fiber, omega-3s, and protein, so they kept me full throughout the day while adding very few calories.
Measure everything out. It was enlightening to see what a true serving of a food was and what I was consuming daily. Every bite counts.
Make every meal at least 50 percent veggies — and I usually ate a healthy protein alongside it the veggies, like chicken, lean beef, or salmon. I tried to add in a lot of spices in my cooking that added a lot of flavor without the calories. I also added healthy fats into my diet, like coconut oil.
Limit carbs — which included fruits for me, even though they are healthy. Most people assume that fruits are a free pass but they can be high in sugar and the calories add up quickly. I usually ate a banana and another serving of fruit daily.
Treat myself to a cheat meal once a week. I would eat whatever I wanted without gorging myself, then it was back to the diet. I knew that there were going to be days that I screwed up, but I didn’t let that spiral out of control. I got back up and went back to my routine.
Wait 20 minutes after eating my meal. If I still felt hungry after I finished my food, I waited 20 minutes before touching any more food. I found that my mind took a little while to realize that I was actually full.
Today, I eat a lot of vegan meals, so that has been a major change for me.
For exercise, building a routine that I could stick to was huge for me. I hated the gym for a number of reasons but loved to shoot basket, so that’s what I did. I wanted to start off doing something that I enjoyed to get me in a routine. Once I was in that routine then I increased the intensity of my 40-minute workout by spending half the time doing body-weight exercise routines that I found online with squats, push ups, burpees, core exercises, and jumps. As a reward, I would go shoot hoops for the second half.
Other little things that I did were, I got up 20 minutes early for work to walk or slowly jog, always took the stairs, parked at the far end of the parking lot to get extra steps, and walked during commercials while watching TV.
While I was making these changes, I felt like I finally had control of my life. There were tough days when I wanted to give up, but I fought through them. Accomplishing some of my smaller goals helped me push forward. Plus, giving up really wasn’t an option. I knew that I wouldn’t be alive to see my kids get older if I didn’t change, and I wasn’t going to let that happen.
What kept me motivated was knowing why I was doing it — to be there for my family. I wanted to be the dad that was able to run and play with the kids in the park. Once my mind was set, then there was no going back.
My life changed so much after my weight loss, in fact, I have dedicated my life to helping others change in various ways. People are very surprised to learn that I was almost 300 pounds a few years ago. Before my change, I had terrible back pain and could barely walk. But once I started losing weight, the back pain went away. I am now able to go on bike rides, run, and keep up with the kids.
Emotionally, I have changed greatly. Before my weight loss, I was not confident in myself, I was very quiet and just kept to myself. Now I feel confident to speak my opinion and I feel comfortable in my own skin. I became a stronger person inside and out. I feel that I am able to accomplish anything that I truly set my mind to. It goes to show what hard work, dedication, and perseverance can do.
I was surprised by a lot of things after my weight loss. As much as I hate to say it, I feel that I am treated differently, people are much nicer to me, and I feel more respected now. I don’t think a lot of people realize how hard it is being overweight. They assume that you are just lazy with no self control so they don’t have a lot of respect for you.
One of my worst fears was that I would start putting weight back on once my body adjusted. My way to combat that was to work on adding lean muscle through weight lifting. That way I would turn my body into a calorie-burning machine. I lift weights about three days a week and remain active with mixed martial arts. I love to challenge myself. Practicing muay thai and krav maga allows me to grow physically and emotionally while still being exciting and fresh. The last thing I want to do is get bored with my workouts. I view exercise as being fun instead of a mundane task.
We practice moderation in our house. There is nothing that I consider off-limits, but I don’t overdo it and don’t make treats a daily habit. For example, my family eats cake to celebrate a special occasion instead of having dessert on, say, a Tuesday. We eat healthy at our house. My older son helps me chop up veggies or ingredients for our smoothies, and in general, my kids know the importance of eating healthy. I tell them about my parents and brother, so they understand just how much it means.
People inspire me, there are so many great stories out there of people overcoming life or death circumstances that I can’t even fathom. If others can overcome dire situations, then I can surely overcome my weight issue. I try to put things in perspective that way.
Balance is the hardest part for me. It is hard to draw the line on moderation and enjoying life. It is easy to be out with friends and want to share some unhealthy foods and of course it is OK to eat poorly sometimes, but how do you know when enough is enough? I just try to remember what the old me was like and remind myself that I don’t want to go back to being that person again.
With two kids, finding workout time is hard. I usually make it a game with my kids in the backyard, but it can still be a challenge. I find myself getting up really early before my family is awake to work out and meditate.
My best advice is to put together a plan on paper. Consider this a lifestyle change and not a diet. Keep it simple though — don’t set yourself up for failure. Keep your goals challenging but achievable like walking for 20 minutes after work. Keep a food journal in the beginning to hold yourself accountable. Eliminate sugar from your diet. Schedule your workouts like they are work meetings. And do something that you enjoy. It is much easier to stick to exercise if you look forward to doing it. Everyone is different, so you have to find what works best for you. Don’t compare yourself to others. Your weight-loss journey is going to look different than other people’s. Find a way to make it enjoyable!
Need more inspiration? Read about our other weight-loss winners!
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