Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo Health series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Steven Blount is 26, 5’10”, and weighs 172 pounds. But in 2013, he weighed 327 pounds. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
I remember the exact moment that I decided to make a change in my life. It was the middle of July 2013 and it was incredibly hot and muggy outside. I had not been feeling very well that day and was exhausted. We had recently celebrated my sister’s 16th birthday and, of course, there were a ton of pictures taken and being shared. I had a feeling of despair — I hated when pictures were taken. I decided to step on the scale to get an idea of what I weighed and it read 327! I couldn’t believe my eyes. I even began to get teary-eyed. How could I have let myself go that far? I had been in the 260s throughout high school; I played sports and also played in the band. I was a very active kid. I knew my diet was atrocious and always had been, but 327 was a number that I couldn’t even comprehend. I felt terrible. I knew that at this moment I needed to change.
In the fall, I would start my career as a physician assistant. Beginning my medical career pushed me over the hump to get my act together. I knew that if I was to be able to care for not only myself but also my future patients, I had to be the best version of myself. My family has a history of coronary artery disease and heart problems exacerbated by their diet. I heard a quote that really resonated with me: “Your genetics load the gun, your lifestyle pulls the trigger.” That has stuck with me and been a big driving force.
I had tried all types of other weight-loss “solutions” before, but they were always temporary and never stuck. After trying so many, I started to observe that they were all designed to keep you healthy as long as you continued to give them money for their products or time. I knew that I couldn’t go that route anymore. I wanted to make changes that would be life-long — and not follow a diet. So I started small.
The first thing that I adopted was the habit of monitoring my daily food, calories, and steps. For this, I used the MyFitnessPal app. The only person I had to be accountable to was myself. I never hid anything. I put every last morsel that I had into my mouth into that app. Now, I finally had an idea of what I was consuming — from the amount of carbs, protein, and fat, to sugar and micronutrients. After logging what I ate for a while, I realized that it was an average of about 2,500 to 3,500 calories per day, and higher if I had a few drinks. I plugged into the app that I wanted to lose about two to three pounds a week, on top of all of my other personal stats, and it gave me a daily calorie goal of 1,850.
I specifically remember feeling like crap the first week or two. I felt groggy and irritable. I had read a lot about the effects of withdrawal and the effects of high levels of sugar consumption. One study I read was involved scanning the brains of mice in a laboratory and observing what happened when they consumed sugar or drugs. The mice actually preferred sugar because the sugar lit up more of the pleasure center of their brains than the drugs. I definitely felt something to that effect.
Related: 20 Foods That Are Sugar Bombs
It was not easy trying to make changes, but I tried to be as subtle as I could. I added more fruits and vegetables while still continuing to have some of the same foods I used to eat. Slowly, I began to want less of my old favorites. It wasn’t a huge difference at first, but that’s how change begins. I started to eat breakfast every single day no matter what and that made a huge difference. It helped me to not be as famished when I got to lunch, dinner, and even late at night. It gave me a sense that I’d started the day off on a good note. Every morning, I enjoyed my plain rice crisps cereal with 1-percent milk, a banana, and a cup of coffee with one teaspoon of half-and-half.
The biggest thing that kept me from giving up was that I wanted to be the best version of myself. I needed to be able have an honest conversation with family and future patients about making life changes. I knew that by just winning the day, I would be able to keep going. With such a large journey ahead of me, it would have been easy to think, There’s no way I can do this. But I would set small daily, weekly, and monthly goals to keep me motivated. For example, I would say, “If I can lose one to three pounds, that is a victory. It doesn’t have to happen all at once.” Little things add up. I also began to adopt the mantra of “No two bad meals in a row.” I knew I was going to slip once in a while, because I’m human. I think it’s better to have a bite or a small portion of something than to suffer through not having it and then binge on it later.
The best feeling once I started losing weight was recognizing that what I was doing — making small, gradual changes — was actually working! I began to believe that these small things would pay big dividends in the future. I kept logging every morsel, making subtle tweaks, and slowly, the weight was coming off.
I joined the local YMCA to exercise. Every night — rain, shine, no matter what — I was there at 8 p.m. It was not a fun experience at first. I hated cardio, but who doesn’t when you can’t run for more than 30 seconds at a time without getting out of breath? I started slow. I only used the treadmill. I would walk at 3 or 3.5 mph for about 45 minutes to an hour depending on the day. I would use the programs on the treadmill that change the incline to simulate the feeling of walking up a hill. I would sweat like crazy! The best part was that almost no one was there at that hour. It was a peaceful time. This quiet gym time allowed me to refocus on me. I would be exhausted when I got home, but I would make a green tea as a pick-me-up and head right back to the books to study.
Since that summer of 2013, I have lost 155 pounds. I went from 327 to 172 pounds and a BMI of over 43 to 24.6. My pant size has gone from 40 down to a 32. I once wore an XXL shirt and now I wear a medium! I My resting pulse has gone from 85 down to 48. I am able to run farther than I could have ever dreamed. Just last week I ran four miles in less than 40 minutes! I like to track all of these measures of progress, from steps to food. It’s motivating to recognize how far I’ve come.
My “diet” today is pretty dynamic and plain at the same time. I usually start my day the same way that I’ve done for nearly two years now: with a bowl of cereal, coffee, and a banana or strawberries. After that, I try to incorporate as many fruits and vegetables as possible. I log everything I eat, no matter if I go over my calorie goal or not. Some days are harder than others, but I find that I’m more in tune with what foods I like now.
My exercise routine varies greatly depending on the month. I am currently in my clinical rotation year and the structure of my rotations changes. Some months, I might be working a 9-to-5 job. Other months, I might be working three 12-hour overnight shifts delivering babies or working in the ER. I keep track of how many steps I take and try to at least reach 8,500 steps. On days that I am able to get in a good sweat, I usually stick to running. I know that I should mix in some resistance workouts here and there, but I never want to have to worry about standing for 12 hours during a surgery after leg day! So I usually run for three to four miles every other day when I can. I use all kinds of apps to track the data including MapMyRun, Nike apps, and even FitBit. I figure the more information that I have, the better!
Now that I’m maintaining my weight, I realize that people who were overweight at one point in their lives seem to have an unofficial lower daily caloric intake. I feel that I have slower metabolism than the person sitting next to me. I have to eat about 1,500 to 1,800 calories a day to continue to maintain my current weight. Now, I am not saying that this is for everyone, but having to find that sweet spot has been a challenge!
One habit I swear by is to always be prepared. For me, that always meant having snacks available after class. I always kept a box of Clif bars in my car with maybe a banana or almonds so that I’d never be caught hungry without healthy options. Having a one-hour ride to and from class could have made it extremely tempting to just pull into a fast food place and grab a quick bite, but having a better, cheaper option allowed me to stick to my goals.
My focus throughout this journey was to be able to help myself in order to help the ones around me — friends, family, and future patients. I realized that in order for me to be the best person I can, I had to put myself higher than I had been. For so many years, I neglected myself and was living in doubt that I could ever make a change.
I know the struggle that nearly a third of all Americans are going through, and the cards are not stacked in our favor. The most important thing you can do is to get educated and learn as much as you can about health. There is a lot of junk out there and I believe the path that you take has to begin by you finding your inner fire. You have to find a reason to believe you can do it. The path is going to be extremely challenging, but if you want something badly enough, you can do it.
I always knew, even when I was young, that I was not meant to be heavy. It was as if I was wearing this suit of body fat and I couldn’t get out of it. Now, today, I want to spread the word of my journey.
I will be graduating from PA school in five months. I cannot wait to begin my next journey with the things that I have learned over the last two years. It is going to be an amazing one.