“Weight-Loss Win” is an original Yahoo Health series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Ryan C. Benson is 47 years old and 6’1” tall. In 2005, he won the first season of NBC’s “The Biggest Loser ” by losing 122 pounds, going from 330 pounds to 208 pounds. But since then, Ryan says he’s been “up and down the scale.” Today, he weighs 295 pounds — and is on a new, inspiring weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
High school was when I first recognized that my weight was an issue. I knew I had to make a big change, though, about 11 years ago, before I went on The Biggest Loser. I knew that for me, weight was going to be a lifelong struggle and I needed help — wherever I could get it.
Life After The Biggest Loser
I lost just over 120 pounds on The Biggest Loser. And in the long run, the show helped me to learn a lot about myself — both what motivates me and what triggers me to slip back into old, bad habits. But I did lose all that weight in five months, and most doctors will tell you that quick weight loss is not the best way to do it. Once the show was over, I was never able to maintain my ideal weight for more than a few days. I don’t think it’s impossible to do it (I’ve heard some contestants have kept the weight off), but it’s really, really hard. For me, in the 10 years since the show, I’ve been up and down the scale. Working a desk job can be tough on your waistline unless you’re extremely disciplined.
One thing I didn’t expect when the show ended was that for the next year or so, every time I’d go out to eat, or was in the grocery store, I’d feel like people were watching everything I ate, or watching what I put in my shopping cart. In hindsight, I know that wasn’t the case, but it sure felt like it! It’s an experience that stays with you for the rest of your life. I think about it every day — for better or for worse.
A New Weight Loss Journey
Weight aside, life has been great since 2005. I feel very blessed. My wife and I had twin girls in 2006 and then we were blessed with a little boy in 2009. I’ve been lucky to have a good career in the entertainment industry working in post-production for various studios. I’ve also been able to continue with my dream to be an actor and have been in some commercials and even had a great part in a film called Disfigured. It is a wonderful independent film that deals with body issues.
But today, my kids are 9 and 6 years old and I really want to be the best example to them. I want to show them what it means to eat right and exercise. Having gone through such a major transformation and the ups and downs of weight loss, I know that it’s a lifelong effort to remain healthy, and I’m willing to put in the effort. These last two years are the longest and most dedicated I’ve been to my health since the show — and I’ve lost 50 pounds. Because I have lost it slowly, I think I’ll be able to maintain it that much longer.
Ryan at 345 pounds,left, and Ryan today, at 295 pounds. (Photos courtesy of Ryan Benson)
I still have about 80 pounds to lose. It still feels challenging, of course, but I have new motivation. I’m working on training for the 2015 Nautica Malibu Triathlon in September — a course that features a half-mile ocean swim, an 18-mile, out-and-back bike course, and a four-mile run. I really enjoy being active and pushing myself. The camaraderie of the athletes inspires and encourages me to try even harder. And as much as I love doing it for my own personal health, I’m also very motivated to raise money and awareness for Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles. The work they do is amazing!
Working toward a goal is a way I keep myself constantly motivated. I will have spent six to seven months training for the Malibu Tri, and it has not only been fun, but it has kept me focused on my health and diet and prevented me from skipping workouts.
In training for the triathlon, I try to work out six days a week — biking three times, jogging twice, and going for an ocean swim once. As for diet, I’m always making changes and trying to find what works best for me. The changes that have worked for me most recently have been cutting out sugar, grains, and dairy. It was hard at first, and the longest I have done this is for 30 days, but when I remove those foods, I feel great and I seem to drop weight quickly.
Here’s a typical day of meals:
Breakfast: Eggs, turkey sausage, avocado slices, carrots
Snack: Banana, hard-boiled egg
Lunch: Turkey chili or grilled chicken breast, fruit (berries, oranges, grapes), carrots, salad
Snack: Nuts (cashews, almonds)
Dinner: Hamburger patties (or turkey burgers or steak), large green salad with balsamic dressing, small sweet potato
Indulgences have historically been, and probably always will be, a problem for me. There have been times when I’ve tried to limit them to once a week, and other times when I’ve tried cutting them out completely because they can be such a slippery slope. Working in an office, it’s hard to make good choices when I go out with friends and coworkers. In the end, I know I can’t live a life without at least some of the decadent foods I love, so what I’ve found to be helpful is to plan ahead. I’m also trying to change my idea of a “treat” from food to something else, like a new pair of sneakers, or downloading a new album, or getting a massage. That way, when I achieve a goal, I can “treat” myself with these things.
A key to this journey has been support. I know I need the support of my wife and family in eating right, and I need to support them in staying committed to the same good habits. It’s a two-way street. To keep good habits, though, I have to plan. Packing my lunch is so helpful because I can easily be tempted to eat in the car since I drive about 45 to 55 minutes each way to work. It’s a challenge not to snack on those long car rides, or to stop and grab something, but I try to distract myself with my favorite podcasts, and I always have water, carrots, and apples to crunch on.
The best piece of advice I can offer is to remember that nothing happens overnight. It’s a process. Sometimes it can be hard to enjoy the process — we want immediate results — but when we can learn to enjoy the journey a little bit, it’s easier to be healthy and happy.