For some, the struggle to maintain a healthy weight is tied to specific life events, such as the birth of a child or death of a loved one. For others like Jon (WEWRTFO), weight loss is a lifelong battle. Jon recalls weighing 320 pounds in the ninth grade, with his weight steadily climbing from there. The tipping point came in his early 40s when Jon's weight ballooned to over 500 pounds and even daily tasks became a struggle.
Instead of taking the attitude that he was destined to be heavy forever, Jon decided to take control of his life and his health. After successfully losing 260 pounds, he wants to inspire others to believe that it's never too late to make a change.
Life Before Weight Loss
"I've always been a big (6'4") strong farmer," Jon explains. "Exercise was never a problem, since I've been working hard all my life as a hay farmer. I carried my weight well through the mid-400s, but things went downhill fast after a leg injury in my early 40s. I gained an additional 100 pounds, which meant that by the end of the day, I was completely exhausted doing less than what I used to do."
From there, Jon says his health declined rapidly with sciatic nerve pain, chronic lower back pain and numbness and tingling in his limbs. Sometimes he would wake up in the middle of the night gasping for air or with incredible joint pain that made sleeping impossible. "I felt helpless and blamed myself for a lack of willpower, not understanding I was trapped in a sugar food addiction," Jon recalls.
Jon realized he had reached the point of urgency with his weight and his health. "I knew I was on the path to an early death, no longer being able to farm and confined to a wheelchair," he says. He also wanted to lose the weight so he could be there for his three daughters, who have been the source of his motivation along this journey.
Jon knew he had to take a different approach after more than 40 years of failed weight loss attempts, so he decided to focus on eliminating sugar and artificial sweeteners from his diet. "I quickly noticed how much better I felt in general," he recalls. "I was no longer waking up in the middle of the night unable to breathe, I felt less hungry and lost 30 pounds without much effort."
His next step was a 30-day challenge to eliminate added sugar from his diet, similar to SparkPeople's Tame Your Sweet Tooth Challenge. Jon had few expectations, recalling that he had tried this several times in the past with little success. But this time was different.
At 500 pounds, Jon started his "no sugar" challenge. "That's when everything changed," he explains. "My lifetime of constant hunger was gone. For the first time in my life, I could go long periods of time in between meals without being hungry. Within days, the most surreal feeling of overwhelming joy, excitement and a sense of relief came over me."
After years of struggling to find the solution, Jon sensed a clear understanding that this had been his lifelong obstacle, and now he was going to lose the weight and keep it off forever. In the process, he's had to re-learn eating habits to understand how food affects him. By focusing on eating real foods, he's noticed a change in his taste buds and finally feels free from a lifelong sugar and food addition—plus, he managed to lose 260 pounds in the process. "I am enjoying food more than I ever imagined possible," says Jon.
Jon has now been losing weight steadily for almost four years without a relapse. He says that when he started his "no sugar" challenge, he made it non-negotiable for life. He believes that making this pact with himself is the difference between losing the weight forever and gaining it all back.
"One of the best parts of freeing myself from past sugar addiction is mental clarity and endless energy," he explains. "I have transformed from socially awkward to socially confident. I am twice as productive at work and in life as I've ever been. At the start of my transformation I could barely walk and planned on cutting back my cash crop hay production to 10,000 bales per year. Instead, I have more than doubled it to 35,000 bales per year."
While he's lost weight, Jon says he's gained an entirely different perspective on and appreciation for life. With his old eating habits stuck firmly in the past, his greatest happiness now comes from knowing he has extended his life and will be there for his daughters as long as possible.
Jon's Advice for Others
"I believe there is a good possibility that anyone with significant weight to lose is unknowingly trapped in a sugar and/or food addiction like I used to be. I urge anyone, regardless of how much weight they have to lose, to try a 'no sugar' challenge without artificial sweeteners and see how they respond. Focus on eating real food and avoid processed foods and anything in a bag or can. Set goals so 100 percent of your food intake is quality food—no empty calories," Jon recommends.
While his transformation is still in the early stages, Jon is looking forward to learning more about his body and accomplishing the goals he has set for himself, including losing the last 50 pounds and helping to inspire others. He believes that weight loss is not a race, since the time spent losing weight is very short compared to all the years required for weight maintenance that follow. Losing slowly has allowed the time he needed for mental adjustments and has given his skin time to adapt (he has very few loose skin issues, a common problem which can affect those with significant weight to lose). Looking back, it's almost difficult to remember how it felt to be 500-pound Jon. Now with a strong support and accountability system in place thanks to real-world and SparkPeople friends, Jon's future is all about health, happiness and family.
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