Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo Health series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Ryan Footit is 40, 5’8”, and weighs 180 pounds. But just last year, he weighed 330 pounds. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
A year ago, in June 2014, I turned 40 and weighed in at 330 pounds. I knew that if I didn’t do something about my weight, I was going to die an early, painful death loaded with medicines and procedures. Around that time, a Planet Fitness gym opened less than a half-mile from my condo. The day it opened, June 29, 2014, I started my journey. I set a goal to participate in the Music City Half Marathon the following April. I was ready to change my life.
I knew from the start that I wanted to lose weight on my own — no weight-loss drugs, no surgeries, no fad diets, or gimmicks. If I was going to lose the weight, I wanted the gratification of doing it 100 percent by myself. Plus, I think all the pills and gimmicks make for temporary weight loss. If you do not stay on the pills, the potions, or the diets forever, you will gain the weight back. I didn’t want that. I needed to modify my lifestyle to allow for continued success that would last the rest of my life.
Since that very first day, my process of losing weight has been evolving. At first, I simply cut out wheat and dairy products from my diet. But over the last 10 months, my diet has changed to one that’s primarily focused on raw fruits and vegetables. I didn’t (and don’t) count calories or carbs or fat. Instead, I spent time every single day researching the healthiest things to eat and then eating them. Now, I always ask myself, “Is this food going to provide maximum nutrients to my body?” If the answer is “yes,” I eat it. I do not like restrictions or thinking I cannot eat anything. If I want to eat it, I will. With that said, I also know how many calories I burn per hour and I look at eating “bad things” as a time debt. I say to myself, “If I eat this cake or cookie I am wasting, say, 30 minutes of my treadmill time this morning.” I could have slept an extra 30 minutes or watched my favorite television show or listened to my favorite music with those extra 30 minutes — rather than working off a piece of cake. Most of the time, when I frame the food this way, the answer of whether or not the food is worth it becomes a “NO”! Of course, sometimes there are weddings, birthdays, or special events when the food is worth it, and on those occasions, I indulge.
Since I started my journey a year ago, I stopped eating anything processed or anything microwaved. With my hectic work schedule, I have not found a great way to incorporate meat into my diet and I really don’t miss it too much. I also eat chocolate every single day. I buy any dark chocolate bars that are 72 percent or higher in cacao content. One large bar will last me a full week.
When I started exercising, I logged just 30 minutes on the treadmill and each week after, I would add 10 minutes. For several months, I was up at 3 a.m. to work out because that was what I needed to do to get a workout in before work. Now, I’m 15 pounds away from my goal weight. In the past year of losing weight, I probably only missed a workout five times. Even when I travel, I will find a Planet Fitness nearby or I will walk outside or in malls. Where there is a will, there is a way! When people tell me they do not have time to go to the gym, I tell them that we all have a 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. — what we do with that time is up to us.
Sometimes I run into people who I haven’t seen in a while and they say “I did not recognize you!” I love that. I feel like a completely different person. I have not been this light since high school in the late 1980s.
I was shocked at how quickly I went through clothing. I was dropping sizes before I even knew I could fit in them. Goodwill has received about 15 bags of clothes that I can no longer wear. I wanted to get rid of them so I wouldn’t have any comfort zone to gain any weight back. If I have no clothing that will fit if I gain weight back, it will keep me motivated to keep the weight off. Before, I wore a XXXL shirt and size 46 pants. Now I wear a size MEDIUM shirt and size 34 pants.
“I feel like a completely different person.” (Photos courtesy of Ryan Footit)
I have documented my weight-loss journey on Facebook and having people reach out to me and tell me that I have inspired them to lose weight is so meaningful. Knowing that I have done something to help someone else’s life is the ultimate reward.
Today, I know that I will be around longer to spend time with my kids and, someday, grandkids. Being able to do things I never thought I could — like running and participating in the Music City Half Marathon (which I completed in a little over three hours) — has made all the challenges along the way worthwhile.
As a general practice, I find that I do best when I graze all day on veggies, some fruits, and a serving of nuts. Doing this means that I am never really hungry and that helps to prevent overeating.
To stay on track, I plan all my meals and snacks. Preparing raw veggies can be time-consuming. I spend four to five hours a week washing, drying, and putting my meals together. Even when traveling, I always have a bag of apples, bananas, and nuts to snack on or eat as a meal.
When I do have to eat out or don’t have great healthy options available, I follow the Dolly Parton diet. Dolly once said that she lost her weight by cutting her portions in half. She would eat half, she said, and leave the other half for her angels. It is purely psychological, but if you want to start eating the other half it makes you think twice about stealing from your angels. Splitting meals also works if you have someone you can do it with when eating out. One day, I hope to meet Dolly and take a picture of myself alongside her. I’d love to share with her that she made a difference in my journey!
My biggest struggle is forcing myself to spend less time in the gym. I still have 15 pounds to go to hit my goal of losing 165 pounds. When I reach that goal, I will also weigh 165 pounds, meaning I will have lost half of my body weight. I anticipate that when I hit my goal I will eliminate my evening workout routine.
When it comes to dealing with richer, heavier foods, I try to follow a two-bite rule. My partner loves to order dessert when we eat out. I’ll eat two bites of whatever he has (assuming I like it) and that will both satisfy my sweet tooth and allow me to still feel like I am normal person enjoying some of life’s pleasures — without guilt or excessive calories. I love that.
One down side is that my life partner and I do not get to eat together as much as we used to. I work 10 a..m to 7 p.m. and don’t like eating dinner past 7 p.m., so I always eat at work. Unless it’s one of my days off, we usually eat on our own. When we do enjoy a meal together, my partner — who cooks like Paula Deen — has begun making healthier meals for us. It was hard at first, but now he uses less butter and gets creative with seasonings for vegetables.
Stop making excuses for why you can’t and figure out how you can. No single diet or exercise routine is going to work for everyone. You have to eat, so eat things that are healthy and that you enjoy. You need to work out so find routines you enjoy doing.
You cannot just simply eat less, you must modify your life to a new style that you are willing and able to live with for the rest of your life. Over time, your diet will evolve — let it. You likely can’t give up everything at one time, so gradually make your changes.
It’s important to recognize that once you achieve your weight-loss goal, you will need to maintain that by doing what you have done to get to that point. For me, getting to my goal does not mean that I can suddenly start eating chocolate cake and drinking soda for breakfast. Those of us who have struggled with our weight know that maintenance is a lifetime compromise.
Take it slow and go at your own pace. If you start out running a marathon, you will spend the next two weeks unable to move. Push yourself a little bit today, but not to the point that you want to give up or to a degree where you hurt so bad that you can’t work out tomorrow. At the beginning of my journey, I said to myself, “You have been fat for 40 years. If it takes you two years to be successful while going slow, that’s better than being too aggressive, giving up, and being fat for another 40 years.’
Every pound is a victory and you should be proud of your accomplishments. Some days you may fail. We all have those days. Once you recognize that you screwed up, fix it immediately. Never, ever give up. You can do it! Above all, love and respect yourself no matter how big or how small you are. Know that you are a beautiful person inside and out because having a positive self-image helps in every aspect of your life — including your weight-loss journey. There is a skinny you inside that is just dying to get out!