We had such a great response to David’s weight loss success story that we’re back with more!
This week we bring you the amazing story of Sean Willson of LearnFitness.com who has lost an eye popping 200 pounds and thanks to his weight loss he now runs triathlons. Without further ado, here’s Sean’s inspiring story…
Before & After Pictures
Can you tell us a little about your background story and what inspired you to start losing weight?
In college I was pretty much heads down in the books and jobs and as such started gaining weight due to poor eating habits and zero exercise. When I graduated from college it was compounded by a job that had food onsite and the increased stress of a job. I quickly ballooned up to 450 pounds in December of 1999.
Over that Y2K holiday break I thought long and hard about what I wanted out of life and what I envisioned my future like. I had no significant other, didn’t date, and rarely traveled yet that was the opposite of what I wanted from life.
I envisioned a wife, kids, traveling, sports and lots of new experiences yet at the age of 25 when I should be acting on those dreams I was light years from them.
I vowed then to make a change in the new millennium and begin to make those dreams a reality.
Did you lose any weight on any of the popular fad diet programs? If so what were your thoughts on them?
The closest I came to a popular diet was following Body for Life but that really just taught me about weight training, HIIT, and portion control. Yes they sold meal replacement shakes, which I still use to this day, but they weren’t required. To me they’re a convenience and taste great plus I still eat 4-5 other whole meals per day.
Many dieters struggle to find programs that work for them… How did you figure out what diet/exercise combination worked best for your body?
For me I discovered that my body loves circuit training. Ever 1 hour workout means ~1,000 calories gone, lots of sweat, and nice muscle gains over time. Add to that the variety, which means they’re never boring, and you have a perfect fit.
Straight cardio often times causes a loss in muscle which lowers your metabolism so keeping that precious muscle and gaining it if possible is ideal. The variety of weights & cardio in circuit training means you get the burn and the gain in one exercise which is ideal.
Your “eat whatever you want” approach to dieting is really great, but do you have any tricks to keep yourself honest with the small portions?
Second thing I learned, after far too many years, is that a free day once per week is too hard. It invariably turns into a free day and a half, a free weekend, and then free to eat whatever. For me a free meal + dessert (you can’t forget dessert) works best. For the rest of the week I eat healthy meals.
No, they’re not crazy meals but they are as healthy as possible. I find that ordering kid size portions or splitting an entree with someone is one of the soundest things you can do when eating out. Yes, I eat out … crazy ahe?
The final way I stay accountable is I blog about my journey. I’m open about my successes as well as my failures. I weigh in each week and share the number with the world and all 3 of my readers. The blogging community is amazing and very supportive. They’ve had a huge influence on my successes the past few years.
Did you set goals along the way? How did you reward yourself for meeting those goals?
When I hit the goal I used to celebrate with a meal, bad IDEA. See what I mean about lessons learned? Now I usually reward myself with a small gift like clothes, a new gadget, or just a hug from my wife (my biggest supporter).
It seems like exercise is a big part of your life now… how often did you work out when you first started and how often do you work out now?
I’ve tried to make workouts fun and as my kids get older I’m hoping to incorporate them more to teach them healthy lifestyles. Right now we run with them in a stroller and that’s fun but I can’t wait until we can do long family bike rides and things like hiking and skiing. Until then I’ve been doing triathlons and cycling rides to challenge myself and keep it fun.
As a someone who has battled weight all my life, I’m intrigued how you went from standard exercise to high cardio marathon training… what got you started with that and what difficulties did you have along the way?
I essentially start out training small and then get all excited when I succeed and then extrapolate that times 5 or 10 and then do that next thing. It’s kinda crazy but it’s what makes me tick and stay motivated.
Along the way I’ve certainly pushed too hard at times and injured myself, I think all athletes do at some point. For me I made the mistake of trying minimal running at the same time I was going from 5 km running distances to 10 km. I tried slowly getting into it but despite that the bottoms of my feet couldn’t handle the stress. My ankles are usually the sore things (the next day) after I’m running but with minimal running my feet blistered right away. I tried a number of items easing into it with little to no success so I just went back to running with solid form with normal running shoes.
For me running has been the most challenging exercise I’ve ever undertaken. I’ve had to learn what distances my body can handle and that I can’t run back to back days no matter how fit I am. I can run 3 miles thinking it’s short enough but if I run any distance the next day my ankles are dead for a few days. It’s taken me a while to figure out how to run properly as a heavy runner without hurting myself.
What advice would you have for someone who is frustrated with dieting and is ready to give up?
Whether its doing circuit DVD’s in your basement, running on a treadmill at lunch, or going for long hikes and short walks during the week just find what works for you and keep doing it. If you don’t enjoy it even a little then you will stop doing it and fall back into your normal rut.
Whatever you do don’t look for nor believe anyone that tells you they have an easy solution to losing weight, they’re either lying or in denial. You’re going to have to sweat and you’re going to have to make difficult decisions turning down that dessert from time to time.
You really can do this, you just have to make that difficult decision to make a change and then start making it happen. It’s so easy to keep saying tomorrow or next week that you’ll finally do it, trust me I did it countless times. Stop letting tomorrow be the keeper of your future happiness and make a change today.
How has your life changed for the better since you lost all the weight?
Another huge change for me has been my overall energy and confidence as a result of the weight loss. I can do things now that I’d certainly never have tried 12 years ago, like international travel. Try fitting into a airplane seat at 450 pounds, not a lot of fun. I can now sprint up 3 flights of stairs and not be gasping for breath, try doing that being even slightly out of shape … you’d be surprised how your confidence changes when even simple tasks like taking the stairs become challenging.
I’d like to give a really big thank you to Sean and his inspiring story. Sean proves that as long as you’re willing to keep trying, stay focused, and figure out what works for you and your body, dramatic weight loss really IS possible!