Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo Health series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Jesse Frank Shand is 28, 6′1″, and currently weighs 260 pounds. But back in 2013, he weighed more than 653 pounds. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
I could tell I was getting more and more overweight. I had made attempts to lose weight in the past, but could never continue past the initial burst of motivation that I would experience in the first month or so. When I wouldn’t see drastic results, I’d always give up. It got to a point where I finally told myself that I just didn’t have the will to do it. I gave up trying and just tried to distract myself from my worsening situation with video games.
Initially, I went to Bodybuilding.com as an ill-fated attempt to get a rise out of bodybuilding types. I created a thread called “Ask the fattest man on the misc [sub-forum] anything,” and posted photos of my then-obese body. I then waited, fully expecting a backlash. But my plan backfired on me. People on the site were more encouraging than I expected. They started trying to convince me that it wasn’t too late to change, and that even at my weight, all was not lost. I didn’t want to hear it and made my usual excuses, like not having enough money for groceries or lacking the motivation. But the members on Bodybuilding.com didn’t accept my excuses and even offered advice on how it could be done.
Due to my physical condition, I was unable to do traditional physical activity when I started. I could barely even stand up at that point. So one of the members in the forum thread said to me, “At your weight, you could literally just flop around and lose weight.” So that’s what I did. I flailed my upper body around to some music until I had worked up a sweat for my first real workout.
I started doing workouts like this at the same time every night, and within a couple months, I was walking laps around my house, I coupled this with very small changes in my diet — a couple less chicken quesadillas, or shaving a few hundred calories off my intake here and there. It was only a few months before I started to see serious weight loss! Within roughly seven months, I had lost 100 pounds!
Jesse’s weight-loss progression: At the beginning of his weight-loss journey, on May 24, 2013 (left), about a year later, on Aug. 19, 2014 (middle), and this year, March 1, 2015 (right). (Photos courtesy of Jesse Shand)
During all of this, the Bodybuilding.com community kept giving me tips, helping me find ways to keep improving, and gave me the encouragement and motivation I needed to continuously progress and stay consistent.
I feel so much better. I am active and get to enjoy activities I never would have tried before. I play racquetball, cycle, swim, practice archery, and lift weights. I have gotten to meet up with friends I haven’t seen since high school who can’t get over how different I am now. The public nature of my weight loss has meant I get to hear people’s struggles and advise and help them in a similar fashion to the way others helped me.
For me, it’s hard to narrow down a single thing that’s best about being slimmer. Getting to buy clothes from normal (non-big-and-tall) stores, getting to play sports again, having a reason to care about my appearance, and feeling good about myself again all rank very high for me.
I find myself seeing food less as a source of comfort and more for the fuel and energy it provides. I ask myself if I want to waste my calories on something empty or if I’d rather spend them on a meal that will help me get through my workouts or my day at work. I also find myself more interested in the content of all the food I put into my body. Learning about nutrition has really opened my eyes to the many pitfalls that can be found when choosing what to eat.
As for exercise, I have found that it is easier to do when you are doing activities you enjoy. Playing sports, cycling, and doing things outdoors is a much easier way to add to your calorie deficit than going to the gym day in and day out. So, I think it is important to not just force yourself to be active, but to find physical activities that fit your personality so that it doesn’t always feel like work. I like to play racquetball, cycle, lift weights early in the morning before work, and do cardio on the elliptical. I also enjoy swimming and golf in the warmer seasons.
Jesse before his weight loss, and after losing more than 393 pounds. (Photos courtesy of Jesse Shand)
As far as food, I try to keep it varied. I have found that my palate expanded a ton as I started eating fresh foods and moved away from processed stuff. I now enjoy plenty of flavors, spices, and textures. I just try and stay conscious of what is in the food I am eating and try to make sure I’m getting a good balance of proteins, fats, carbs, and vitamins.
I wish I could say I plan out indulgences. I know some people are disciplined enough for that, but I haven’t learned how to do it. For the most part, I just stick to my plan most of the time, but when I am invited out, or when I have a craving that is irresistible, I allow myself to have it and then balance it out by being especially on point for the days following it. The key is not letting myself see it as an excuse to keep messing up afterward. It’s not always easy, but most rewarding behaviors aren’t.
Trying to avoid my old binge-eating behaviors can be a challenge. I am a fast eater by nature and when I get going, it can be difficult to stop. I have to constantly remember to allow myself time to feel full. I try to drink a lot of water with meals to help with this.
Another difficulty for me has been the self-esteem aspect. I have lost a lot of weight, but many days, I still feel like the same heavy guy I was. I thought confidence would instantly come when I dropped the weight, but it’s something I have to work on and I hope to use it to keep pushing me toward my future goals.
What helps me the most is going back and looking at old photos or videos of myself. Seeing myself when I was at my heaviest and unhappiest and being able to see my progress over the years helps me remember where I am trying to go. I also think about all the support and encouragement that others have given me, and the thought of letting down the people who made it all possible for me is simply unacceptable. It truly powers me through.
My advice to others losing weight is to not worry about how long they think it will take, or about how little they are able to do when starting out. Just make the small better decisions, and adjust in your own time. Learn about nutrition and fitness and slowly make improvements. Be consistent over the long term and realize that you ARE going to make mistakes. Have a plan ready to recover and don’t beat yourself up over it. Just get back to making good decisions. No matter how much weight you have to lose, if you put in the effort, you will reach your goals.