How I Got This Body: Using Weight Watchers to Take Control of His Health before Turning 50

All photos courtesy of Jonathan Padget.

Who: Jonathan Padget, 48, communications contractor at a federal agency
Lives: Dupont Circle
Height: 6′
Start weight: 298 pounds
Current weight: 215 pounds (goal of 190)
How long it took: 11 months (still in progress)

Turning point: My weight has been all over the place over the years. In fact, a decade ago, I managed a similar substantial loss, well over 100 pounds. I worked nights in the Washington Post newsroom at the time, with stress and weird mealtimes (and so many huge buyout cakes!) that made the loss challenging for me. But I did it, so I knew I had it in me to take weight off, yet clearly I hadn’t mastered a strategy for keeping it off for good.

My motivation had always been superficial—just to look better—but a few years ago, I had a health crisis, and I soon learned that my obesity significantly increased my risk for recurrence. A physician encouraged me to lose weight before I turned 50, because he said it would get much harder the longer I put it off, and I finally tackled it last year by joining Weight Watchers. There’s nothing like a deadline for motivation.

Exercise: I focused on what I ate for the first several months—and that still gets the bulk of my attention—although I did eventually join a gym, which I go to three times a week for basic strength training and cardio workouts. Outside the gym, I look for ways to move more—longer dog walks, getting more steps in, not just standing on Metro escalators (even Dupont!)—but all in all, I’m definitely a work in progress.

Diet: The program I follow is primarily concerned with calories, saturated fat, sugar and protein. I avoid foods that are higher in sugar or saturated fat, and I favor lean proteins. I used to be really careless about condiments like dressings and mayonnaise, and I had no sense of portion control. These days, I’m all about things like fruit, vegetables, beans, eggs, nonfat Greek yogurt, seafood on occasion, and soy-based meat alternatives.

Fave splurge: A pint of Enlightened red velvet ice cream.

How he felt before he made the change: Before, I felt stuck, discouraged, out of control—and fundamentally exhausted. I had let weight hold me back for so long, and I knew the toll it was taking on my health would get worse. But it was daunting to make a change. Because what if I failed?

How he feels now: I’ve lost 83 pounds so far, and I really see the difference in my clothing sizes: going from 2XL to L in shirts, 44-inch waist to 36 in pants—and I don’t even have to recoil in horror when I see the word “slim” on a label! Things look great from a health perspective, too, and I certainly feel better, stronger and more vibrant than I have in a long time.

I finally realized that doing nothing was not a viable option, so I took the plunge, I’m succeeding, and it’s so much easier to sustain healthy habits than it was to sustain unhealthy ones. Now I feel unburdened, proud of my progress and optimistic about the future.

Newfound body love: I’m mainly thankful that it’s as forgiving and resilient as it is! I haven’t always been kind to it. But it hasn’t given up on me yet, and I’m determined to take much better care of it from here on out.

Workout wisdom: Know that when you start, there are new ways of eating and moving that will seem impossible and uncomfortable. If you’re someone who enjoys eating a big bag of chips, or a whole package of cookies, it will be hard at first to imagine yourself not doing that. But better choices feed better choices, and once you give your body a break, there are bad habits you won’t even miss. Plus: It’s. Just. Food. You’re in control of it, not the other way around. Take time to carefully examine your indulgences and overindulgences. What do you truly enjoy in those moments—and how do you truly feel afterward? A lot of what I was overeating, I wasn’t even that into, and it made me feel awful. Explore healthier options for what you do crave—salty, crunchy, sweet, creamy, whatever. And believe that you’re capable of so much more than you give yourself credit for, because it’s true, and you will get there if you just get started and keep going.

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

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Kim Olsen

Kim Olsen ([email protected]) is a freelance writer in Alexandria.