Steve’s story completely blew my mind. He lost more weight than any of our other testimonials, in the least amount of time. When he told me his original goal was to “get back to 300 pounds,” and by the end he dipped into single digits in body fat, I couldn’t believe it. People say all the time, “I weigh less than I did in college” or “I weigh less than I did in high school.” Steve weighs less today than he did in the EIGHTH GRADE. His advice? Don’t doubt yourself: you can do ANYTHING for just 30 days. Thanks so much for sharing your story Steve! Kara
What was your life like before Paleo?
I had always been on the bigger side. In high school, I was a three sport athlete. I was active, I worked out, but I was still a bigger guy. When I got out of high school and went off to college, I wasn’t as active as I had been. I put on some weight, so I started doing a few things to increase my activity level. I played rugby in college. I started lifting weights and running. But I was still one of the biggest people around.
As life got crazier and stress levels got higher, I put on even more weight. I was working full time AND going to school full time. I would literally just eat whatever was in front of me. I ate a lot of fast food, or whatever was convenient. At home, I ate anything that came in a box. I ate a lot of mac n’ cheese, and a lot of hot pockets. I was staying active, but still putting on weight. I knew I was getting bigger. I would make small efforts, but then something would come up and I would get sidetracked. I would have to work more hours, I would have a project for school…something was always getting in the way.
Finally in September of 2011 I had the mindset that I was going to re-prioritize my life. And being healthy was going to be high on that priority list. So I started to change my old ways.
I wasn’t feeling good. I couldn’t sleep at night. I had joint pain that was never there before. I was a park ranger so I was constantly on my feet, and it was getting to the point where I couldn’t do my job. I knew I needed to do something. I was coming home and was just physically exhausted.
Another thing that happened was my sister had gotten married that spring. That was the first time I saw pictures of what I actually looked like. I looked horrible. And I knew there were MORE weddings coming up which meant more pictures. When you don’t actually see yourself, it’s pretty easy to make excuses. You come up with all kinds of stuff: “Well that was a small shirt.” Or “Ohhh that chair was super small” or this or that. Then you finally see a picture of what you look like and those excuses don’t work anymore.
I was 29 years old, and with my 30th birthday approaching all I could think was “I look horrible, I can’t do my job, I can’t sleep, I’m in pain all the time. Ok I can’t do this anymore.” If I was going to be healthy, this had to be the time to do it.
There are a million different diets out there. Why Paleo?
It’s not like I had never dieted before. I was a wrestler in high school as well as college, so I knew how to cut weight. I just didn’t know how to do it for the long hull. Finally, a guy I worked with gave me The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf. He handed it to me and said “Listen. This worked for me. I don’t eat perfectly on it, but it’s helping me. Check it out.”
So I started reading, and while I was reading I found Crossfit. I wasn’t entirely convinced, but the one thing the book kept coming back to was “Just try it for thirty days.” I thought to myself, “Well, I can do ANYTHING for thirty days.” I had nothing to lose. So I tried it.
That was in July. By New Years, I was down 98 lbs. And I just kept going. I went in not knowing if it would work or not, and it demonstrated itself VERY quickly. It was obviously working.
What challenges did you face?
The big challenge was the whole ‘changing your mindset’ thing. You basically have to give up what you’ve been taught or experienced your whole life, including that whole grains are good for you. You are basically jumping ship on what everyone else is saying or believing. I couldn’t grasp giving up all grains, even “healthy” ones like rice.
What went through your head when the weight started to come off?
When I first started, I honestly didn’t think I would lose that much weight. My original goal was to get back to 300 lbs. I thought “Oh, I’ll lose maybe thirty pounds, I’ll get back to 300, that’s my ‘healthy weight.’” At least I would be able to shop at a clothing store again.
Once I started losing, I couldn’t wrap my head around it. Every time I turned around I was smaller than I was before. I was using a smaller belt loop almost every week. I went from a size 44 to 36 pants by New Years. I kept putting off buying new clothes until the last possible moment, and I still had to buy new clothes THREE TIMES. I was afraid to buy more than a few shirts at a time because I had no idea when the weight would stop coming off.
People kept asking me when I was going to stop losing, and I didn’t know how to answer. When I hit 240 I thought “Ok. I haven’t been 240 since I was 15. This HAS to be where I stop. There’s no way it will keep going.” Then I hit 210 and all I could think was “Do I even have anything else TO lose?” I did the second Paleo challenge of my life and dropped to 8 percent body fat. This whole time I had no idea where I was going to end. All I could think was “I’m just going to ride it out. I’ll stop losing when my body wants to stop. I’m on board, I’m following the rules, I’ll leave it to my body to decide how much muscle or how much weight it needs.”
If you could give a “Paleo Newbie” any advice, what would it be?
Honestly? I would have to resist the urge to say “Suck it up.” It’s not the easiest thing in the world. You have to change a whole lot in your life in a rather short amount of time. Just start at 30 days. It’s not going to be an EASY 30 days, but very soon you will start to see and feel the results.
It’s like the movie “What About Bob?”: Take EVERY victory as a little baby step. You might not be perfect, but make every victory a victory. Take care of yourself. Put the blinders on, focus on yourself, and forget about what everyone else is saying. People will make comments, and you have to just let it roll off your back. At my birthday, my family bought me a birthday cake that I couldn’t eat. I blew out the candles, and then they ate the cake.
What would you say to someone who is frustrated, or someone who is skeptical?
If someone is frustrated, my suggestion is to experiment. When I started Paleo, I took a low-carb approach, basically because I had so much weight to lose. That didn’t work once I got down to 200 pounds. I realized I needed more carbohydrates, and I felt much better when I increased my intake. Find out what works for you, but understand that “what works” might not always stay the same.
For someone who is skeptical, I would say just follow the rules. Even if you aren’t convinced, just try it for 30 days and see what happens. But I don’t push Paleo on anyone. If someone asks me a question about it, I’ll answer but I don’t push them. I just take care of me, because I know it worked for me and I know I’m happier now than I’ve ever been. I am literally smaller now than I was in the 8th grade. And to be 31 and be lighter (and way more athletic) than I’ve ever been, is an amazing change for me.