Have you seen this latest and greatest You Tube sensation? Meet Ben, who slimmed down from 360 pounds to 240 pounds in 21 months and fell in love with running. He ran a 5K, a Half Marathon, a Marathon, and then… Well, you should really just watch the video to find out!
I watched the video and sobbed hysterically. Then I immediately e-mailed Ben to see if he’d like to be featured on Healthy Tipping Point as a success story. Here he is!
1) In your video, you said you "got big" and then you "got sad." What do you think were the triggers for becoming overweight in the first place? Was your family active? Or did the weight and the emotional component of it just compound on itself?
Oh, man, I don’t think there were any emotional triggers as much as it was just a situation where I love to eat awful (health-wise) foods. Growing up, we just always had food to snack on. Cereal, chips, Kool-Aid, etc… I’m the epitome of “couch-potato;” give me a chair and a T.V. with some cereal, and I’ll be a happy man. Constantly eating, and never moving is what did it to me. My family has a history of addiction and I got the food one. It’s still there, definitely, and I still battle with it every day. Luckily, now I’m moving a lot, so it’s not as bad. But it’s always there.
2) When you "got inspired" was there a particular trigger that you can recall? A Healthy Tipping Point, if you will?
Yep. A few actually, and they all happened within a couple of months. I was dating a girl at the time, December, 2008, and one night she ran and jumped in my arms and did that cute, girl-thing where she wrapped her legs around my waist and went to latch her feet in the back to complete the embrace, but her feet couldn’t touch each other because I was so big. It was awkward and embarrassing. It still sucks to think about. And then a couple weeks later, I was at my grandmother’s house — she’s always been a huge proponent of me getting my life together. She would always talk to me about my health, and offer me tips for weight-loss that I appreciated, but never utilized — and this particular time, Christmas of that year, I realized I was unhappy with my life, and just being there being with her, I realized it was the time to do something about it. So I started my blog, BenDoesLife, wrote the address on the card, and gave it to her as a Christmas gift. She got me a shirt, which was two sizes too small. I told her rather than take it back, I was going to work on fitting in it. And eventually I did.
3) Why running? I’m sure it was incredibly hard at first. Why were you drawn to running? Did someone help you get into it?
This, I can blame on my brother, Jed. As I was driving home from Meemaw’s house that year, I called him and said, “Dude… I have to get my life together.” A few minutes later, while still on the phone, he said, “I just signed us up for a 5K.” I figured he meant a 5K that would take place in two or three months. Nope. It was 17 days away. But a few days after the phone call, I jogged for 8 minutes without stopping. It was hard, but I did it. Then a few days later I jogged a mile without stopping (12 minutes, 40 seconds) and then, we finished that 5K. It was slow, but we did it. Crossing that line was the proudest moment of my life at that time and I was hooked. I was hooked to improving myself and my times, I was hooked to the race atmosphere, and I was hooked to the feeling it gave you when you finished. It’s just the right discipline for me. I’ve been doing it for 21 months now, and it’s still awesome every time.
4) Why racing? When you ran your first 5K, did you EVER think "Maybe one day I’ll do a marathon and an Ironman"? When and why did those things become possibilities? What do you love most about racing?
Racing was a perfect fit for my personality. I love statistics, and I love seeing exactly how far I can push my body. That’s the thing about racing at this level. You’re not racing the other people unless you’re running 5-minute-miles, which obviously most of us will never be able to do; you’re racing yourself.
Prior to the moment I decided to change my life, marathons were in my head as “Wow. I can’t believe people can do that,” but never as something I thought I could do myself. I was clueless to the whole world of marathons. I didn’t know there were specific training plans for everyone to look to. I just thought there was a select few people in the world that could do them, and no one else could. Like contortionists, I guess. You either have it or you don’t. But once we started researching them, they slowly became a dream for us. Until one day, we decided to sign up.
I didn’t even know Ironmans existed until about six months into my “doing life.” Jed and I were doing our first triathlon, and the announcer came over the intercom to let us know there were a few dozen people that were competing that had done a half-ironman the day before. As we were clapping politely, I asked him what a half-ironman was. He told me the distances. Then I calculated that a full would be double that. I was stunned. I couldn’t fathom it. I wrote it off as something I would never be able to do. Then a few months later, after we finished our first marathon, I began to get curious. We researched it and signed up in February of this year.
5) What’s been your proudest moment? When did you think, "OK, I’ve changed my life"?
By far it’s the moment we crossed the finish line at Ironman Louisville. Yes, finishing the first marathon was huge and emotional, but the thing about training for a marathon is, most of the training plans call for a 20-miler, which ours did, so we kind of already knew we were going to be able to finish the marathon, it was just a matter of doing it. But Ironman is a different beast. Our biggest training day was a 75 mile bike ride followed by a six-mile run, which isn’t anywhere near an Ironman, so it was still iffy on whether or not we had it in us to actually complete the Ironman. But, man, finishing that damn race, crossing that line together, Jed, my dad, and me. It was incredible. Really incredible. The emotional highs and lows you go through in the six months of training and the 17 hours on the course, it really makes the finish worth it. And it was.
6) Who’s the lucky lady? :) Is she into running, too?
The lady is April. She’s way out of my league and yes, she runs. She’s been running for about nine years. We’re all training for the Las Vegas Marathon in December. It will be her first.
7) How was your eating before you lost weight and what’s your diet like now?
Diet is my downfall. I really have no rhyme or reason to my eating. I’ll have streaks of good and streaks of bad. Good months, bad months. I try to be reasonable, and sometimes I fail, but I’m not nearly as bad as I was in before I started this. It’s very much a work-in-progress.
8) How has your mental state changed?
It’s drastic. The two years before I started, I was locking myself in my room and playing computer games for 12-15 hours a day. It was a really dark time in my life. I would have fake happiness when I would be with my then-girlfriend or my friends, but I was constantly depressed, and it all had to do with my health. I couldn’t fit in movie chairs, or airplane chairs. I broke wooden chairs. I was always tired and out of breath. It all starts to take a mental toll. Now, I’m happy. There’s really no other way to describe it. I enjoy life. I enjoy going out. It’s incredible.
9) How long did it take you to lose 120 pounds and can you give me a breakdown of how long it took you to get up to 5k, Half Mary, Mary and Ironman distances?
I went from 360 to 220 in 11 months. So 140 pounds in 11 months. Since then, I’ve gained 20 pounds (a mix of muscle gained from Ironman training, and fat gained through some bad food choices.) So 120 pounds in 21 months. I’m on my way back down to 220, though, through better eating and marathon training.
As far as running, it went a lot quicker than I thought it would 5K took 17 days. Half Marathon was 6 months in. Marathon was 10 months. Ironman was 20 months. I’m not sure a doctor or sport’s physiologist would sign off on going that far that quickly, but it worked for us.
10) Do you still struggle with negative behaviors? Which and why? What would you say to someone who is in your situation a year ago?
I’ll have small bouts with sadness. If I have a bad week food-wise, I’ll start doubting myself and getting sad, but I recognize it and I fix it. That’s where I’ve changed. I’ve trained myself to recognize bad behavior and find means to work through it.
As far as someone is struggling, here’s the thing, just find a spark. Fall in love. Start a blog. Do something drastic. But do something. Don’t go in half-heartedly and tell yourself you’re going to try to be healthy. And the big thing, I’ve found, is TELL SOMEONE. Tell everyone if you have to. The natural thing might be to be too embarrassed to tell people, like they’ll know you’re overweight or something, but that’s the thing… they already know you’re overweight, and they will be thrilled when you tell them you’re changing your life. I promise. Oh, and take lots of pictures. You may hate them now, but they’ll be awesome in a few months.