My name is Shawn Tyler Weeks. At the age of 23 and standing 6 feet 2 inches tall I weighed 344 pounds.
I had been obese my entire life and had tried countless times to lose weight, chasing all kinds of diets, gimmicks and fads. I never had any lasting success.
One morning on my way to work I stopped at the Burger King drive-thru for my usual breakfast of french toast sticks, hashbrowns, and a large Coke. When I corrected the attendant who mistakenly gave me a Diet Coke, she made a comment about how maybe I should be drinking diet instead of regular.
For whatever reason, that embarrassment was different from the lifetime of similar comments to that point. Something inside of me changed, and in the next six months, I’d lose more than 100 pounds.
That was the wake-up call I needed to realize that if I didn’t lose significant weight – for good – I’d never see my soon-to-be-born daughter as an adult. I had been killing myself, and that was the day I decided to start saving myself.
This story of my recovery originally appeared on 344pounds.com, but I am pleased to announce that my story will now live here on MyBigLife. We will be releasing a new chapter each month so you can follow along. I hope that my story inspires you to start your weight loss journey. And if you do, be kind to yourself. You will have ups and downs, but just remember it’s not about those little successes or failures, but about the entirety of your Journey. If I can do it, I know that you can!
My weight loss journey story begins!
I signed up with a local gym in my hometown tonight (on my way out to dinner, no less). I didn’t stick around to exercise, I just paid my $99 for three months, had my picture taken and left. My wife was waiting in the car.
Why do diets not work?
Sustainability – you can’t eat cabbage all day, guzzle shakes, or eliminate bread from your diet, etc., for the next 40 years of your life.
I guess I didn’t need bullet points after all. Anyway, that’s why diets don’t work — they lack sustainability, the ability to be followed every day without fail.
A fad diet will probably help you lose weight initially, but it’s simply not sustainable.
My first trip back to the gym was easier than I thought it would be; I know that means I’m simply not pushing myself hard enough. My daily gym routine for the foreseeable future is going to be the following:
Monday: 30 minutes cardio, upper body weights
Tuesday: 30 minutes of cardio, lower body weights
Wednesday: 45 minutes of cardio
Thursday: 30 minutes of cardio, upper body weights
Friday: 30 minutes of cardio, lower body weights
It’s a pretty simple gym regimen. The cardio is going to consist of a mix between elliptical and the stationary bike, but for now, it’s the stationary bike; the elliptical machine is known in diet circles as “Le Death.”
My official weigh-in is 344.2 pounds; I haven’t weighed myself since high school, half a decade ago.
I’ll weigh myself once a week, every Wednesday morning, and post the results here. I decided on once a week because it seems like everyone else trying to lose weight weighs themselves weekly.
The last time I was under 300 pounds, a lamp could get qualified for financing (probably); so let’s start with that as a goal.
Two hundred and ninety-nine pounds, here I come.
I just lived the first week of my new life.
It’s Friday afternoon, just got back from the gym — I had to step up to the elliptical machine today. I was pleasantly surprised — the elliptical burned loads of calories, about 320 for 30 minutes on a low-level setting. I’ll stick with the elliptical from now on.
I haven’t talked much about my “diet.” Well, that’s because it’s not a diet in a regular sense — it’s a lifestyle change. There are just a few basic guidelines I’ve stuck with this entire week (and hopefully for the remainder of my life):
Drink water all day, every day.
No sodas. Sorry, THAT MUCH sugar has got to go.
No white bread. Bread is fine, just eat wheat or rye.
Only low fat (2%) milk. Again, milk is fine, just moderation.
Butter is your enemy — handle with caution.
Use salsa as a condiment for everything. It’s really healthy.
Count calories at restaurants, they’re sneaky bastards.
My calorie intake hovers a little below 2,000 calories a day.
“My official weigh-in is 344.2 pounds; I haven’t weighed myself since high school, half a decade ago.”
January 28 Weigh-In Results
Drum roll, please…
Jan 21 weight: 344.2
Jan 28 weight: 338.2
I lost exactly 6 pounds in one week. Absolutely phenomenal.
That’s Some Good Eatin’
How’d I lose 6 pounds my first week? I did it by eating three square meals a day, including a healthy breakfast, fast food or leftovers for lunch, as well as a huge southern dinner complete with meat and veggies.
With this so-called diet, I’m also able to eat out several times a week. A few things I’ve ordered includes:
* Mushroom Jack Fajitas from Chili’s (700 calories)
* Hamburgers from McDonalds (2 for lunch, 500 calories total)
* Funk Meister tacos from Moe’s Grill (2 for lunch, 420 calories total)
As you can see, this isn’t rabbit food.
Healthy Choices at Restaurants
I look up calories on everything I eat these days. I’m not going to be a number cruncher for life, that’s just not sustainable — I consider what I’m doing now to be studying.
Even with common sense on your side, it’s extremely hard to recognize good restaurant food from the bad. I was watching Oprah (at the gym, not at home) and a guest asked the question:
What’s worse, an Arby’s roast beef sandwich covered with melted cheese or an Arby’s turkey sandwich?
Most of you would guess the roast beef slathered with cheese — I did too, it seems like common sense — right? Surprisingly, the Arby’s turkey sandwich has about twice as many calories as the roast beef w/ cheddar.
All the calories are hidden in the sandwich’s bread, ready to murder you and your loved ones.
Much like many of you that are reading this and are overweight or extremely obese, I was overweight through my childhood. While I was overweight growing up, I was also always active. I played sports all the time through school or through the YMCA. The Y was a big part of my upbringing — I played both soccer and basketball for three years during middle school.
During middle school and into my first year of high school I played basketball and football after school. As I said, I was always active, I just had a typical southern diet at home.
In case you’re not sure what a typical southern diet is for a teenager:
After school: Chips, cookies, whatever processed food we had
Dinner/Evening: Dinner w/ second helping, takeout, + 2/3 sodas.
After my freshman year in high school and completing my one year of compulsory physical education, I stopped exercising. Homework became the first-thing priority after school, followed by going to work to pay for car insurance and to have spending money.
At the end of high school I was probably 40-50 pounds overweight.
After High School
I’ve always been an entrepreneur — instead of going to college after high school, I decided to create my own business. I’m a self-taught guy. I have a library card, I read newspapers, industry magazines, non-fiction books, etc — but I digress.
After staying home for a year after high school and watching my business flourish, I moved into my own apartment. This is where my lifestyle and my weight finally decided to take the plunge into the third level of hell.
After working hard through high school and not having money my entire life, I finally had some money — and, being by myself, I didn’t cook much — so, you guessed it, I went out to eat.
Love and the Marriage
I reckon when I got married I weighed about 250 or 260. I’m tall and I have an athletic build, so it’s not like I was a butterball — even though it looked like I had a couple of them in my stomach.
Advice: if you don’t want to gain weight, don’t get married. Okay, I don’t actually suggest that, but it’s true.
After joining a new family, moving into a house with a new person, and realizing my life is now intertwined with someone else, my weight was the least of my concerns — and it stayed that way until last July.
In July of 2008, on my two-year wedding anniversary, I decided to enter into my 10th or so diet regimen (I wonder if I get a prize for my 10th try?).
Of course, that failed within a few days. It always does — except this time. I swear to God it won’t this time.
I’ve been on my new diet/exercise lifestyle for two weeks. That’s the longest I’ve ever made it before. And while I’m still obese for now, you sure as hell can’t call me sedentary.
My Mind’s on the Music
Why workout to music? It distracts you from all the pain while on the treadmill.
I need really loud and really fast music when I workout. What I don’t want to listen to though:
Ladies gossiping on the treadmills
35-year old drama queen on her cell phone
80’s and 90’s pop music being played on the PA system
The 17-year old 120-pounders grunting with every repetition
Court shows being watched by my fellow cardio colleagues
Did I mention I need really loud music to listen to when I workout? It’s an absolute must.
I was in the gym yesterday and I saw a “newbie” come in. We get a new one every other day.
This lady comes in, probably 400 pounds or so; she looks extremely uncomfortable. I know the feeling, it’s not about being nervous or afraid on your first day at the gym, it’s about knowing that you don’t “belong” there.
She comes in, doesn’t do any stretches, and sits on the ab crunching machine. She did ab crunches, continuously, for about 10 minutes. No sets, just nonstop — then she left the gym.
Spot training so doesn’t work. You can’t focus on one body part like abs and expect a few crunches to give you a six-pack, regardless of what the late night infomercials tell you. You gotta lose that fat first, man.
My healthy, extremely delicious Red Lobster meal:
Water: 0 calories
1 Pound crab legs: 180 calories (no butter)
Mashed potatoes: 180 calories
House Salad w/ a little ranch: 110 calories
470 calories — that’s some pretty good diet food.
I’ve found going to the gym early Sunday morning is extremely peaceful, as it’s always pretty quiet. I like working out alone, not really sure why.
I did nothing but cardio; I spent 40 minutes (plus two more for cool down) on the elliptical and burned 642 calories. That’s the longest I’ve ever spent on one machine.
Best of all, I wasn’t tired when I finished. Sure, I was drenched in sweat, but my lungs and legs could handle more. When I first started going to the gym two weeks ago, I could barely do 20 minutes on a lower resistance level (currently at 7 out of 20).
My how things change…
A recent weight-related embarrassing moment occurred just over this last Christmas. My wife and I were at her parents house and my sister-in-law wanted us to play their new Wii Fit game.
I heard about all the craze over Wii Fit, so I wanted to try it out. Well, to do so you have to step onto a “balance pad,” which acts as a scale. You step on and it can generate your Mass Body Index (BMI) for you — tell you about your weight, whether it’s healthy for your size, etc.
I should have ran away, but I didn’t. I stepped onto the scale, stood for about 10 seconds, then this huge error message appeared across their television and, worst of all, line of sight:
Sorry, you weigh too much to play this game.
Fast forward to this morning. I’m in my office planning my wife and I’s last Valentine’s Day alone together — our baby will be here on or around March 22, so I wanted to make this one pretty special.
I decided to look up the weight limit to play Wii Fit — 330. Know what that means? In late December my weight stopped me from doing something I really wanted to do — and only about six weeks later, that won’t be the case.
February 4 Weigh-In Results
It’s been two weeks since I started weighing myself. The results from this week were just as phenomenal as the first.
Jan 21 weight: 344.2
Jan 28 weight: 338.2
Feb 04 weight: 333.0
I lost 5.2 pounds in the past week! I’m so happy with myself, even considering my poor food choices while watching the Superbowl (cheeseburger and fries, anyone?).
I can start to see a slight difference. My arms seem skinnier, as does my face. It’s hard to tell if my stomach is shrinking, it’s so big to begin with.
On Tuesday, I wore clothing that was less than perfect-fitting to the gym. Without giving out too much information, my thighs were rubbing together while I was doing elliptical and I formed a severe welt on my left thigh.
It was hard to walk Wednesday without aggravating the welt and causing a lot of pain, let alone exercise. But, determined as I was, I hobbled into the gym, placed myself on the elliptical, and typed in 45 minutes into the machine as my duration instead of the usual 40.
These are the kinds of days people quit their gym routine. “Oh, I’m too tired,” or “Oh, I don’t feel well” — then they go home, relax, and go, “Wow, it’s a lot nicer not having to spend the time to go workout at the gym.”
“The cardio is going to consist of a mix between elliptical and the stationary bike, but for now it’s the stationary bike; the elliptical machine is known in diet circles as “Le Death.”
Puhlease. If I were a soldier, the elliptical would be my M-16 rifle. Below is the gym routine I’ve been on for a few days and will continue to be on for a while:
Monday: 45 minutes, level eight (out of 20)
Tuesday: 45 minutes
Wednesday: 60 minutes
Thursday: 45 minutes
Friday: 45 minutes + weight lifting
To give you perspective, the first time I got on the elliptical (a few days after joining the gym) I could only do 10 minutes at level five.
I’m still overweight, but I know I’m getting physically fit.
It’s easy to track calories burned while at the gym; digital displays are on most cardio machines these days. But how many calories do you burn when you’re walking through the parking lot to your car?
Or how about when you get home and watch television?
Everything you do burns calories. Everything.
Take a look at some common activities and the calories they burn per hour below. These are estimates from a person that weighs 150 pounds — if you weigh less you’ll burn less, but if you weigh more (generally) you’ll burn more.
Basketball (half-court) | 405
Biking (no incline) | 441
Dancing | 370
Gardening | 324
Golfing | 240
Cleaning (light) | 240
Cleaning (scrubbing) | 432
Jogging | 675
Moving (carrying boxes) | 504
Mowing (push mower) | 324
Office Work | 240
Playing w/ Kids | 216
Racquetball | 740
Sitting | 81
Skiing | 740
Sleeping | 45
Soccer | 468
Swimming | 603
Tennis | 549
Sweeping/Mopping | 150
Walking (brisk) | 297
Watching Television | 72
Yoga | 360
It would be impossible to precisely calculate the amount of calories you burn everyday, there are just too many variables. But, for entertainment purposes, here’s my day laid out:
12 hours of sitting | 972
8 hours of sleeping | 360
1 hour of office work | 240
1 hour of watching television | 72
1 hour at the gym | 750+ calories
30 minutes of of brisk walking | 148.5
30 minutes of light cleaning | 120
= 2,662.5 calories burned daily
Obviously, I’m not close to 150 pounds so that number is much less than what I really burn. Interesting.
February 11 Weigh-In Results
My favorite day of the week now: Wednesday weigh-in day!
Thankfully, more good news to report:
Jan 21 weight: 344.2
Jan 28 weight: 338.2
Feb 04 weight: 333.0
Feb 11 weight: 328.2
I lost 4.8 pounds in the past week and 16 total pounds in the past three weeks!
I’m shooting for another four pounds for next week making it an even 20 on the month. I’m going to hit it, just wait and see.
I can see subtle changes in body composition in the videos, but nothing that makes me jump out of my chair in excitement…yet.
I’ve only lost 16 pounds so far, and while that’s a lot, that’s in comparison to the remaining 328.2 pounds.
Sixteen pounds is only 4.6% of my starting weight of 344; not a big difference.
Consider this analogy: You have 80 gallons of water in your jacuzzi — someone stole (I hate thieves) 4.6% of its water, leaving you with 76.32 gallons in the jacuzzi.
Think you’d notice a difference? You probably wouldn’t.
While I was comparing the videos, it got me thinking: where do people lose fat from first? After doing a couple hours of research, I’ve concluded that generally speaking, people lose weight in the stomach and the face first — but it varies from person to person.
Personally, my family and friends have told me that I have a smaller stomach; although, I can’t say I notice much of a difference.
However, I know my face is shrinking.
Men: typically weight disappears first from our face, stomach and upper arms.
Women were in less of a consensus (just can’t ever make up your mind, can ya ladies?). I’ve read varying answers including their stomach, arms, chin, thighs, etc.
I am sad to report though (as were they) that the absolute first place where almost all ladies lose weight are their breasts.