Shawn Tyler Weeks was always the heavy kid in class, despite an active lifestyle that included sports like basketball and soccer. “It seemed like I never lost the baby fat,” he says. As an adult, his weight jumped 30 pounds once he got married, going from 280 to around 310. Unhealthy habits, like “chugging soda and playing video games” eventually tipped his scale to 344.
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The Turning Point
One morning in January of 2009, Shawn was making a routine stop at the Burger King drive-through. He ordered his usual—a large French toast combo with Coke—but was served a Diet Coke by mistake. (Search: How many calories are in soda?) “When I went to tell [the drive-thru attendant] and hand the Diet Coke back, she laughed,” he remembers. “It was a terrible, terrible feeling.” He took a few bites of his breakfast, and threw the rest away.
Small lifestyle changes—like walking down his driveway to get his mail instead of grabbing it from his car window—coupled 30 to 45 minutes on the elliptical every night helped Shawn drop around 90 pounds in 18 months. At that point, he hit a plateau, but integrating weightlifting into his regimen reinvigorated his weight loss.
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Shawn also made changes to his diet. Once a drinker of 10 Mountain Dews a day (really!), Shawn switched to water. At the start of his weight loss journey, he also counted calories, but now can simply eyeball proper portion sizes. “At the beginning I was a lot stricter than I am now,” he says. “I still eat. I just won’t be gluttonous like I used to be,” he says.
For example, Shawn no longer douses his salads in ranch, his favorite dressing. Instead, he’ll ask for it on the side, dip his fork in it, and use the ranch-coated utensil to stab the lettuce and other veggies on his plate. This way he gets the satisfaction of eating one of his favorite foods without all of the calories. Similarly, when he goes out to eat, he’ll ask for a to-go box and pack up half his meal before he finishes eating. “If I wait, I’ll end up eating the entire dinner,” he says.
Shawn’s hard work brought him down 136 pounds. “I also have become a better person and a better man,” he says. “Instead of sitting on the couch all day, I spend time with my wife. You only get one body, and you do it a disservice if you treat it like crap.”
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Shawn knew he’d maintain his new lifestyle only if held accountable, so he began blogging at 344pounds.com—named for his starting weight—and emailed the link to all his friends and family. “I live in the country, I didn’t have a workout buddy, and my wife didn’t need to lose weight, so I thought I’d create a blog and post a picture of myself shirtless.” he says. Now in its third year, Shawn’s blog has drawn a loyal following (about 10,000 readers) and become a full-time job. His readers continue to help him stay on track. “I can’t disappear,” he says. “If I go a week without posting, readers know I’m off the wagon.” Plus, it’s given him a space to share his experience and tips with others.
In addition to the obvious improvements in his quality of life, Shawn is relieved to be able to do things most people take for granted—like fit into a booth at a restaurant. “I used to have a list of which restaurants I could go to and which I couldn’t,” he says. He doesn’t stress about squeezing into the seats at movie theaters or concerts, either. Additionally, Shawn no longer has to shop for specialty clothing. “I love to be able wear Ralph Lauren, Banana Republic, or J.Crew. I couldn’t do that before,” he says.
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Don’t restrict any food or food group. “That’s not permission to pig out,” Shawn says. “But if you tell someone they can’t have a certain food, they’ll just want it more. That’s how I was. Eat what you want in moderation.”
Set realistic exercise goals. “You don’t need to spend two hours in the gym every day—you’ll burn out,” Shawn says. Make sure whatever workout routine you start is something you can see yourself doing four years from now, he suggests. “You have to create a sustainable way to lose weight.”