John Lanoue, 45, had always struggled with weight, but about 10 years ago he fell into a pattern and put on about 4 to 5 pounds a year. “It snuck up on me. I didn’t pay much attention to it, but then one day none of my clothes fit,” he says. “I remember thinking, ‘even my eyelids feel fat now.’” He was heavily medicated for asthma, so he’d traded the activities he used to love, like biking, running, and windsurfing, for a more sedentary lifestyle and had adopted unhealthy eating habits—like nightly gin and tonics to unwind from his high-stress job.
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The Turning Point
In 2009, two events served as John’s wake-up call. While undergoing a minor surgical procedure for an umbilical hernia he had a massive asthma attack in the operating room that almost killed him. “It was directly related to how out of shape I was,” he says.
Then a few months later at his 25th high school reunion, he ran into his old friend, Billy Mac, who had accompanied him on a 150-mile bike ride to Cape Cod in 1982. The two reminisced about their trip, and decided it might be fun to try again. “Over a beer it sounded like a great idea, but the reality was we were both tragically out of shape.” The two agreed that if they could lose a combined 100 pounds they’d give the ride another go .
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At the beginning of 2010 John and several colleagues decided to start a reality show–style contest at work that they called the “fat club.” They set up a $150 cash prize, which would be awarded to the person who lost the highest percentage of weight after 12 weeks.
“I started by eliminating the obvious calorie bombs: muffins, fatty salad dressings, and MSG-soaked dinners.” After two weigh-ins he was in 10th place out of 26 participants, so he decided to ramp up his efforts. John put himself on a restricted-calorie diet and added 30 to 60 minutes of cardio each day. Eight weeks later he’d lost 32 pounds and was on the verge of breaking 200 pounds for the first time in years.
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During that time he also rediscovered his love for running. When he was younger, running was a huge passion, but he’d given it up as he’d gotten older. “I’d probably done a grand total of 2 miles in the prior 10 years,” he says. “It was very painful when I started again, but by the end of the diet I was running on air.
By the time the fat club wrapped up John had lost 53 pounds—and came in second place. “I didn't win, but I learned more in those 3 months about health and fitness than I had in my previous 44 years.” All together the club blasted 505 pounds.
John continues to weigh himself every day, so weight gain doesn’t sneak up on him like it did before. “It’s a lot easier to lose 1 pound than 20. I’m not going to wait until the moment I look in the mirror and say ‘holy cow.’”
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The high John gets from running keeps him coming back for more. “It’s an absolutely splendid celebration.” He also strives to set an example for his two teenage daughters with his commitment to fitness. In fact, John and his daughters recently completed a 30-mile bike ride together. “It’s good to know that they’re developing healthy habits,” he says.
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John and his high school buddy (who ended up losing close to 40 pounds himself) were fit enough to ride in the 2011 MS Cape Code Getaway. Not only did the pair complete the 150-mile ride, but also their team raised over $5,000 for MS research. “Between the two of us we’ve come a long, long way,” he says.
About 6 months into John’s weight loss plan his doctor was able to take him off his asthma medication, which he’d been on since he was 18 years old. “My doctor said he’s never seen someone who went from having treatments twice a day to no need for them at all,” John says.
He’s also found renewed confidence in his abilities—physically and otherwise. “I don’t think there’s anything I can’t do now. Any challenge I’m presented with I think, I could do that.”
Do it for yourself. “If the desire comes from within, I don’t think you can fail. If you’re doing it for a spouse or significant other then you’re likely to fail.”
Stop eating when you feel full. “Eat until you're full, not until there's no food left in front of you.”
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Healthy Weight Loss Success Story: John Lanoue
He Finished a 150-Mile Bike Ride
After a brush with death, John Lanoue, 45, started a weight loss club with his colleagues, rekindled his love for running, and dropped 60 pounds
Photo courtesy of John Lanoue