Zach’s journey started at 420 pounds when he was “as fake happy as a person could be…”
Weight Gain Background and Contributing Factors
Zach says he had been overweight since junior high school and has spent a lot of time trying to discover the source of his weight gain. He says he can remember eating for comfort when he was younger, but the memories are not specific. Zach shares that he weighed about 200 pounds (90.9 kg) when he was in eighth grade.
He does remember a specific instance during his freshman year of high school when he was talking with an older classmate he looked up to and Zach made a goal for himself to get to under 200 pounds during the upcoming summer.
He shares that, not only did he miss that goal, but he ultimately gained up to his highest weight, 420 pounds, in 2011 on his 6’2” frame. (190.9 kg)
How Being Overweight Impacted Zach’s Life
Zach is a very social person, and he feels he was lucky growing up in that he ended up with a good group of friends who “looked past” his weight and liked him for his personality.
He does say that in dating it always took a special person who was willing to get to know him despite his size. He realizes that sometimes he would have been challenging to hang out with because in all honesty he simply “didn’t want to do active things.”
Zach recalls that late in high school and early college his family would travel on a ski trip, and he just didn’t want to go along. He remembers that he had fears related to his weight—airplane seats, hurting himself skiing, not being allowed on certain equipment due to his size. Zach explains that he would always have a reason he didn’t want to participate, but the truth was it just wasn’t fun to be active at his size.
He adds that although he loves being around people, his mood was definitely low when he was alone and since he didn’t enjoy being active, when he was alone he ate to combat boredom. Zach says about himself at his heaviest:
“I think I was probably as ‘fake-happy’ as a person could be. And at the time I didn’t think it was fake.”
Over the years Zach says he tried many different dieting plans, from Atkins, vegetarianism, calorie restriction, South Beach, to biggest loser-style competitions.
Zach can point to the 3 primary factors that were obstacles to his staying on these plans at the time: friends (going out for beers and burgers to watch the game), holidays with family (plentiful rich food with large family gatherings), and work (client dinners and drinks out 2-3 times each week).
The Turning Point
Zach’s fiancée at the time (now his wife) had gained around 10-15 pounds on her petite frame. She could feel the weight gain, and didn’t like it.
At this point Zach says he had dieted, dropped 80 pounds, and just regained 40 when his wife told him: “Enough!”
Zach says that they had been a couple for 8 years at that point, and it was his wife’s extremely honest conversation of her concern for his health and weight that was the wake-up call Zach needed.
Starting The Weight Loss Journey
A friend of theirs worked for this company called Take Shape For Life by Dr. Wayne Anderson, and they went to learn about the program. Zach is the first to acknowledge that the plan he and his wife undertook was “extreme,” and he went into the process with many doubts.
Their coach told them: “I need one of everything from you.” (One birthday, one Thanksgiving, one Superbowl Sunday…) but that if they stuck with it they would see results.
He and his wife would weigh in once each week. While Zach still had his doubts he started the program, in 30 days he lost 20 pounds. (9.1 kg)
Zach finds having an “accountability coach” very helpful for his continued success. In this plan, every meal is packaged and has the same ‘virtual nutritional footprint.’ The breakdown of the meals allows Zach to eat every 2-3 hours. Then he eats one ‘lean and green’ regular meal each day for dinner, such as 6-8 ounces of protein and vegetables that equals about 500-700 calories.
Zach acknowledges that this plan is very calorie-restricted at first, at around 1100-1250 calories daily. However, Zach liked the fact that since the plan is scientifically designed, he was getting all the vitimins and minerals his body needed even though it was low calorie. Zach says this gave him confidence that his body was burning fat.
Zach didn’t want to expose himself to food temptations, especially at the beginning of the program, since he was witnessing such good initial results.
“I basically jailed myself, and that’s not a good way to go about it.”
It’s inevitable that you eventually have to go out with your friends, and otherwise deal with ‘real life.’ His coach gave Zach advice on how to deal with his most difficult challenge, turning down food and drink from friends. She told his he had to learn to say no twice. If friends were asking him if he wanted wings, beer, etc., he had to tell them no two times.
A year ago Zach and his wife moved to a new city, and while he says he “fell off the wagon” during the move, he knew all along that he was going to get right back on his plan. With the new group of friends he made after his move, Zach was able to get to know them with his clean slate of health habits. Zach’s ‘new normal’ is the only context in which they know him, which feels liberating to him.
Zach says he and his wife pushed each other in their journey.
“I don’t know how people do it without support.”
Zach thinks his wake up call (from his wife) wouldn’t have happened except for the fact that he had dragged them into a set of unhealthy habits in the first place.
“I need an accountability partner.”
Early on in his journey Zach was not advised to strenuously exercise, since he was starting out morbidly obese. He was advised to walk 10,000 steps per day, but not to perform “real cardio” or significantly elevate his heart rate. Now that he has lost almost 100 pounds he is allowed more calories each day and can actually run a little bit. His calories and activity will both continue to increase as he progresses in this plan.
What Zach Learned About Food, Exercise, and Himself
Zach says he notices how easily he falls asleep and wakes up every day now, and he can also feel a sense of sustained energy. He says that today he is able to work with more intensity and creativity at the office, which leaves him more time at home not needing to catch up on work.
As the energy he feels build on itself he is able to seek out new activities and routines that are energizing rather than taxing. When Zach is asked to contrast the “fake-happy” of his past with himself today, he says he’s: “…totally more self-confident. 1000 times more self-confident.” He says it took his coach being confident in him and then that caught fire and he caught the confidence for himself.
“I know I’m going to hit my goal.”
Looking back, Zach thinks that in his teens his dad would try and give subtle hints about his weight, like “are you sure you need two sandwiches?” which he would just ignore.
At the time Zach says he felt very angry, but now he realizes his dad was just trying to help. Zach says that now he can see that he reacted the way he did with his dad because he was just so obsessed with the food in front of him. There are other instances in which he can see other warning signs and conversations with people he wishes he hadn’t ignored.
“Why couldn’t have I just realized it then?”
Zach says that being present and energetic for his family (his wife is pregnant with their first child) is his primary motivation now to stay healthy. Additionally, he loves his new level of energy, and says he doesn’t ever want to feel as lethargic as he did before.
Zach never misses his 10,000 steps each day and has a goal of weighing 250 pounds by early July. He and his coach have a tentative long-term goal of 200 pounds.
Zach’s Advice For Your Journey
Zach’s perspective on the right time for getting healthy: If you think it’s a sign, it’s a sign. If you think it might have been a sign, it is.
Zach thinks anyone trying to lose weight would be smart find an accountability partner of some sort—a friend, a spouse, or even someone over email—who you know you have to report to each week.
Resources Discussed In This Podcast
Zach personally recommends the Take Shape for Life program created by Dr. Wayne Anderson.
- Take Shape For Life website
- Habits Of Health book by Dr. Wayne Anderson [ Amazon ]
- Fitbit activity tracker
- Miracle Morning productivity system & book by Hal Elrod [ Amazon / iTunes / iTunes Audiobook ]
- Food journaling! Zach and Sam discuss the “don’t break the chain” method and an app called Streaks
On Zach’s Workout Playlist
Zach says that lately he’s been “totally geeked out on podcasts,” but he also enjoys these songs:
- GDFR by Flo Rida [ Amazon / iTunes ]
- Sing by Ed Sheeran [ Amazon / iTunes ]
- Shake It Off by Taylor Swift [ Amazon / iTunes ]