My story is pretty simple. I was a very active young man, running everywhere, and served as a volunteer in an elite Navy unit. After my discharge, I worked as a bouncer in bars from Florida to California, then as a professional entertainer and songwriter.
I gradually put on about 100 pounds after leaving the Navy and quitting smoking. I had active hobbies, including backpacking and martial arts.
Then, 30 years ago, I was badly injured in a mine pad accident and was unable to walk for six months. I was on oral steroids for a spinal injury and gained another 100 pounds. So there I was, over 400 pounds and I let myself stay there.
I was working on loading docks and in parts rooms, on my feet all week, but the weight did not come off because I was not counting my calories or working out. I had tons of excuses.
I joined a local chapter of Take Off Pounds Sensibly in 2015 at 415 pounds and had some initial success, even winning a state division award. But an emergency surgery in late 2017 set me back. I backslid very badly all through 2018, gaining back all I had lost, plus more. It goes on so fast.
On Nov. 4, 2018, weighing 425 pounds, I was visiting a friend and realized that there was not a single chair in his house I could sit in without breaking it. Reality check — better late than never.
I joined MyFitnessPal that day and began doing the numbers on my calories.
I got my doctor involved and my TOPS chapter never gave up on me, even when at times it seemed I had given up on myself.
After dropping about 50 pounds early in 2019, I began daily workouts. Small ones at first, maybe 30 minutes two or three times a week in addition to my day job, which is mostly manual labor with a lot of walking.
The progress was very fast at first, sometime dropping three or four pounds per week, and in June 2019, I had dropped 145 pounds. This was the lightest I had been in 35 years and I intend to keep training and become even more fit.
My doctor says I should be healthy when I reach my Keep Off Pounds Sensibly goal weight, which I plan to do this year. To get there, I train at least 60 minutes every day, and 90 minutes three days a week. I do this first thing in the morning, before I can change my mind.
I use MyFitnessPal to track every single calorie and weigh myself every morning on our “unofficial” scale because my weight can increase very quickly.
I weigh in weekly with my TOPS chapter. I am now in for the long haul.
Editor’s note: James Gahar of Mesa lost 108 pounds through the nonprofit Take Off Pounds Sensibly support group. He was named the 2019 TOPS Division first place winner, meaning he lost the most weight when compared to all other male TOPS members in the U.S. and Canada whose starting weight for the year was at least 300 pounds but less than 400 pounds.