Jeff Hogan’s 150-Pound Weight Loss: ‘There Is No Comparison Between My Level of Happiness Now Versus Then’
Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo Health series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Jeff Hogan is 38, 5′11″, and weighs 185 pounds. But back in 2006, he weighed 335 pounds. This is the story of his weight-loss journey that took place over the course of five years.
The Turning Point
I always knew my weight was an issue. I started getting too heavy around 8 or 9 years old, and just kept getting bigger. I come from a family of athletes and have always played sports, but I also found joy in comfy couches and a family full of masterful southern cooks. I grew up being the lovable fat kid who was everybody’s friend, but would get picked on constantly about his weight — “lovingly,” of course. (As if there’s a lovable way to pick on someone.)
I can remember the day in June 2006 when my switch got flipped. It was the most horrible day I’ve ever had. I got hurt to my core when a revelation regarding my marriage surfaced, and at first I didn’t even know it was that which had finally caused my mind to change. But that was my rock bottom, and it changed everything about the way I saw myself. I had gotten my switch flipped and I suddenly realized there was no longer any time left to remain the same.
Weight loss is a math problem as much as it’s anything else. In other words, I found out how many calories I generally burned in a day’s time, and subtracted 500 calories from that for each pound I wanted to lose. My average resting metabolic rate is around 2,300 calories per day right now (but my calories burned can easily be as high as 3,000 when workouts are added to that rate). Knowing that a pound is equal to 3,500 calories, I simply had to eat 500 calories less than what I burned per day to lose 1 pound per week (500 calories multiplied by seven days in a week equals 3,500). So on average, instead of eating 2,300 calories, I’d eat 1,800 per day. But on a day in which I burned 3,000 calories, I could eat up to 2,500 calories. I had to measure portions to figure out what a correct portion was. The analyst in me got a bit detail-obsessed and created a few spreadsheets and charts to make sure I was eating the right amount of calories daily. It’s my belief that every “program” out there is a just a play on this basic concept: Burn more calories than you eat.
I started my exercise routine with a bicycle because I couldn’t run yet, or even really walk quickly for more than a few minutes. So I rode a bicycle every morning for about 15 minutes. That’s all I could manage. I rode during the very early morning, while it was still dark, to minimize the number of people who would see me. I biked like this and counted calories from June 2006 through the end of that year, even when it got really cold, through rain and snow. By January 2007, I had lost 50 pounds. When I saw myself in the mirror, 50 pounds lighter, it motivated me to keep going.
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I felt horrible and defeated when I started, and if it weren’t for that mindset switch that had flipped, I would have quit. Riding that bike hurt in the beginning, and eating what was the correct amount to lose a pound a week was even harder. I began to realize that I got as big as I did because I had been eating much, much more than I burned for years. In weight loss, I wasn’t just cutting out 500 calories a day, I was cutting out 500 from what I should have been eating all my life. Of course, eating fewer calories meant I was hungry a lot at first, until I acclimated. Even though I was miserable when I started, there was just no stopping. And a funny thing happens when you don’t stop: You get strong. Little by little, almost daily in fact, I could feel a touch more confidence. I wasn’t quite as hungry as before, I was even a little less sore. Once the mirror showed my progress, the misery turned into excitement and determination. Days, weeks, and months went by, and I was no longer the same person I had known all my life. I had never felt as good about myself as when I realized I had truly changed for the better. My blood pressure was good; my blood sugar was good; I could run; I could lift weights. I could look people in the eye.
I kept my eyes on the prize and relied on my ability to tinker with data. I had built myself a system of spreadsheets that eventually told me exactly what date I would reach my goal. It was clear, definable, and the finish line was just in front of me. The only difficulty was the fact that the closer I got to the goal, the harder it was to reach. Anyone who has lost weight knows that the last 10 pounds are the hardest to lose. I made goals, I had parameters in my spreadsheets guiding every step, and I was planning ahead. It didn’t really matter how hard it got because I knew (according to the data) that if I just kept going, I would get there. I tracked every calorie to the bite, which isn’t really required, but I was into the tracking of it. It was like a game, at times, or a puzzle, to make the caloric deficit per day exactly what I wanted it to be. I still ate anything I chose to, as long as the total calorie count didn’t go above my goal. Looking back, I wish I had started marketing my spreadsheets! They were before the popular fitness apps we have today and work just the same.
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It’s hard to wrap my head around all the psychological and emotional impacts of losing this much weight. I felt great and awful at the same time. There are even still lots of times now where I have the feeling I’m still the person I was, and it has a tendency to affect my confidence in social situations, my willingness to try new things, or even my ability to take my shirt off at the beach. Losing weight, I felt like I had to figure out who I am now, as opposed to the “old me.” After all, the old me was a likable guy and easy to get along with. I had lots of friends. After this change, though, there was pressure I put on myself to be more than I was before, maybe even to make up for lost time. I also fell victim to my own mind telling me that everything about my life would instantly become better just because I wasn’t grossly overweight anymore, but that’s just not true at all. Don’t get me wrong, there are all kinds of things that are better because of it, but it’s not as if I don’t still have hang-ups about things, self-esteem issues, and the like. There are moments now where I get caught up in the “fat guy syndrome” and other moments where I’m ready to climb Everest. My emotional life, in terms of how I feel about myself, can be a roller coaster, but it’s a million times better and more fun than before.
Jeff before, left, and after his 150-pound weight loss. (Photos courtesy of Jeff Hogan)
There is no comparison between my level of happiness now versus then. I wish everyone could know what it feels like to genuinely be told you’re physically attractive from people you didn’t know before, after spending half of your life never hearing it. There’s nothing like being flirted with when you lived for years as a person no one was ever willing to flirt with. And it took a while for me to even recognize what flirting was since it was so new.
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Today, exercise is actually enjoyable to me. I like to run, and I never thought I would. I’ve completed four half marathons and am considering a full marathon in the next year or so. Within the past couple of years, I started weight training and have come to the conclusion that weight loss (fat loss) will change your body to a certain extent, but then if you want to change your look, your shape, you have to get your muscles working. Currently, I’m running four to five days a week and lifting weights or doing high-intensity interval training (HIIT) three times a week.
Throughout this journey, I never stopped eating the foods I wanted or said “no” to anything. It’s unrealistic to swear off anything you enjoy. I am strategic about indulgent meals because they are dangerous. A meal like that can easily turn into a weekend, and then a month, and so on. I try to only eat that way on special occasions, holidays, or if it’s been a long time since I’ve let go. A high-calorie meal tends to also derail my exercise for a short while afterward, so I’m careful to make sure that what I’m eating isn’t stopping my other healthy habits.
I’ve been doing the math now for almost 10 years, so I know how much to eat and can recognize when I’m overdoing it. I’ve gained some weight back and taken it off again, but at this point, I don’t really fluctuate more than 10 to 15 pounds.
I do slip at times, and so far I’ve always gotten myself together and returned to my plan. I ask myself, “Do you really want to go down this road after everything you’ve done?” and “Are you really trying to turn that switch back off?” The answer is always no. When I catch myself having added those 10 to 15 pounds back and I’m not really putting in any effort to exercise, I will look in the mirror, get out the measuring cups, running shoes, and my spreadsheets, and correct my course.
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My body image is a big struggle. I’ve lost all of this weight and even added some muscle, but you don’t lose this much weight and wind up with a perfect body. That’s just the way it is. I tend to get down on myself for not looking like Mark Wahlberg. I still have to remind myself of where I was, and not compare myself to anyone else. I also have to remind myself that my journey isn’t over and I’m not finished — there is always more changing to do. I remind myself to remain consistent. It took years to become what I used to be, so it will take the rest of my life to be who I am becoming. I lean on friends, family, and prayer to keep me moving forward.
This is your life, so don’t expect it to work like mine or any other person’s. Your story and your journey might have similarities to others, but it’s uniquely yours and you need to treat it that way. Fail a million times if you want to; each one of those failures will be a part of your success, and when you’ve reached your goal, it will be the journey that gives you satisfaction. We live in a society of instant gratification, but allow yourself the pleasure of knowing what it feels like to work your butt off for what you want.
Weight-Loss Win is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative 135-pound weight loss of her own. Have a success story to share? We want to hear it. Tell us at YHTrueStories@yahoo.com.
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