May 28, 2009

400lbs to 300lbs - How I did it

I posted this picture on facebook last night:

Circa 1996 - my heaviest weight ever, ~400lbs

And someone asked, "how did you do it, steve?"

... and I figured it was time to briefly chronicle the last 12 years of my life.

(not really)

But I am going to briefly chronicle the various things I did over the last 12 years on my journey from 400 lbs to my current weight of 300 lbs, with 269 lbs in between. I am only going to write about the things that I was able to stick with for more than a month, and, which thus worked.

I resolved, probably shortly after that photo was taken, to run a marathon. That was 1997. I didn't change my eating habits, just started running. I didn't run a marathon until 9 years later, but I did run a couple of 5Ks. I pushed really, really hard and several times found myself on my back, on the living room floor, for 20 minutes or more, trying to catch my breath after a particularly hard run..

So in 1997, I went from about 400lbs to probably about 355lbs until burning out.

Then, in 1999, I went on a program called body for life, which was just a diet/exercise plan and it had amazing results for me - in about 2-3 months my weight dropped from 355 to about 310. After 12 years of reading on the topic, I'm still convinced that a sensible program like BFL is the ideal way to get fit for just about anyone and still recommend it to people.

Body for Life results

In late 1999, I moved to New York and put on about 40lbs over the next few years. I ran a few races during this time, including a half-marathon, but not consistently and certainly not effectively.

By 2004, I was between 350 and 360 lbs.

In 2006, I registered for the Las Vegas Marathon and started running seriously again. I probably dropped about 30-40 lbs, yo-yo'd a bit that fall, and by December 10th (date of the marathon) I'd say I was around 325. It took me about 7 hours to run it. That winter after the marathon, with no training, nor regard to what I ate whatsoever, I probably put on another 20-30 lbs.

In march 2007, I starved myself. Spent a month eating no starch, and another month eating less than 1000 calories per day. Having started around 350, I lost a lot of weight. This is when I went under 300lbs for the first time since high school. I was able to maintain 280-290 most of that year, ran three marathons, and after the third did a brief 3-week stint at 1000-calories and actually broke 270 for one day before leaving on vacation on december 15th. By mid-January when I returned to NYC, I was up over 290 again.

September 2007

I didn't really gain or lose weight in 2008. I ran about 600 miles in the year, which isn't a lot but it was enough to maintain the weight I was at while not paying attention to what I was eating. This is the year that I ran my first ultramarathon, a 50K in March, then a 50-mile in November. I also ran a traditional marathon or two.

Early on in my first Ultramarathon - April 2008

In the first 3 months of 2009 I was really consistent in my running and, while I didn't lose any weight, I started producing some excellent results in my running in terms of speed. I got a nasty respiratory infection in mid-march, however, and didn't run at all for a month or two. Then, I went on vacation, returned to NY, stepped on a scale and was horrified to see 310. My running has taken a significant hit - times are much slower, and i feel very sluggish.

May 2009

So now, with my next race (a 32.6-mile unsupported trail run through the adirondacks) a couple of months out on July 18th, I'm back to starving myself - <1000 calories per day, but this time I'm doing something a bit different by running at least 1 mile every day. I'm going to do this until July 4th and see where I'm at - I fully expect to get back to under 270, and I'm hoping to actually break 250. We'll see.

Having said all of that, I'd like to point out that starving yourself and running ultramarathons probably isn't an ideal way to lose weight. It probably won't work for you. I'm not even 100% sure it works for me. If you're serious about losing weight, check out body for life and let me know how you're doing.


  1. Great story Steven... thanks. I think the key to any life change is focused intensity. .. and obviously have it.

    My wife and I did the Dave Ramsey program with regards to strict financial budgeting... and it took us 2.5 years but we paid off 90K in debt. Now we are debt free, except for the house, and the house is next.

    I think the concept is similar. I salute you. If you ever make it down to Charlotte, please look me up.

  2. Dude, I applaud your committment. But 1000 calories a day? I can't see that being good. Bob on Biggest Loser was getting mad about his guys not eating enough.

    You need fuel for the furnace, specially when you're running. I went from 270 down to 210 currently. I try to stay under 2500 calories a day. My running is 40 miles a week.

    Your drastic diet change is probably contributing to the yo-yo weight pattern. So think about it and check with others for wisdom. We're all an experiment of one so try to find what works for you long term.

    Best of luck and I'm looking forward to more.

  3. Hi David,

    I have found that, as long as I run, I can maintain the weight I'm at and eat whatever i want, within reason. I'll fluctuate wildly within a 5lb range, but I suspect that's just water weight.

    It's when I stop running that I put on weight quickly, and that - to me - is more of an explanation for the yo-yo tendency than the crash diet (although I'm sure that doesn't help.)

    Mainly the reason for this right now is so I can have fun at wakely - that is - run it without getting into trouble, to do well at the 24-hour race in July, and also to be in well-enough shape to properly train for what I have coming up in the fall, starting with unfinished business in the Tetons, then some pretty ambitious things I'm thinking about for October. But we'll see.

    What makes it possible is I sat down and defined a beginning, a middle, and an end. This is only for a month and a half..