Everyone has those weeks when they can’t seem to get with the program—one day you crush your fitness goals, the next you seem to lose all motivation. Next time that happens, try to remember Neal B., a 59-year-old from Chandler, Arizona, who lost 199 pounds and has since reached his daily goal of 12,500 steps for an incredible 243 days in a row. How? By making himself accountable, not just to himself, but also to a supportive community he’s built around him.
A little less than two years ago Neal had an “aha” moment: A little boy ran up to him and excitedly asked, “Are you Santa Claus?!” He was wearing a red shirt, and at the time, weighed 415 pounds. Neal was shocked and embarrassed at first, he says, “Then I said ‘Ho, ho, ho!’ and started making serious changes.” He joined a gym that offered a lot of support and trainers who knew how to modify exercises to keep him safe. He started taking small, coach-led group classes three times a week. Next, he began to track carbs, fat, and protein intake. He also saw a physical therapist to address achy joints and make sure he wasn’t overtaxing his body.
Neal worked hard at the gym and at weight loss every single day, even entering a six-week “lose big” competition at his gym. (He came in third!) Then in August 2016, after losing 160 pounds and feeling better than he had in years, Neal suffered a heart attack from a pre-existing heart condition. Surgeons saved his life, and put two stents in his arteries to keep things moving. But even that traumatic event didn’t slow him down for long.
“Nine days later I was back in the gym,” says Neal. This time, with a Fitbit tracker. “I give my Fitbit tracker a lot of credit for helping me reach a new set of goals. I’d never run before, but I started to then and within a couple of months, I’d run my first 5k.”
Today, Neal is a motivational speaker and wellness coach, known as the “199 Guy” (for the number of pounds he’s lost), who shares his story with corporate audiences and individuals he coaches. Neal insists he’s not “special” and that other’s can take control the way he did, if they find the right tools and motivation. “I’m just a guy who woke up with one foot in the grave and said it’s never too late,” he says.
Neal’s Advice for Others
Look for opportunities to move. Neal travels a lot these days, often by car. When he’s on road trips, he actively looks for safe rest stops where he can get out and get some quick exercise. “Parking lots are my best friends! I’ll run around a lot and get 1,500 to 2,500 steps before getting back in the car.”
Cultivate your tribe. Think you’ll poop out mid-race if you have to run a 5k alone? Ask someone to be by your side, even if it’s a similarly paced stranger next to you! Neil’s fitness buddies are the coaches and co-members at his local gym, who he sees five days a week.
Be accountable. It’s tough to reach a goal if you have no way to track progress. Food-logging was key to Neal’s success at changing his diet, and tracking his steps helps him not get complacent with his fitness plan. “I used to cringe when the hostess at a restaurant would ask if my wife and I wanted a booth or a table,” he recalls. “I didn’t fit in a booth. I didn’t fit in an airplane seat, I didn’t fit in a public restroom stall. I didn’t fit in my clothes. But my Fitbit tracker has helped me stay on track. It became one of those accountable measures to keep me honest about my process.”
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This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.