Todd D. was taught as a college football player that the bigger you can make your body, the better off you’ll be. “I played offensive line and the wider you were, the harder it was for the other team to run around you,” says the 39-year-old from McCalla, AL. “So I was big and strong—weighing 350 pounds at 6’4.” Todd stayed that weight after college and felt pretty good about himself until an injury at work sidelined him three years ago. “After I got hurt and went on disability, I put on a lot of weight, getting close to 500 pounds,” he says. “I ate like I was still a college football player—downing two whole pizzas in one sitting—but I wasn’t moving at all.”
The weight gain really got to Todd. “I was in pain because of my surgery and ate a lot because I was depressed, but then I hated the person I saw in the mirror, which just made me want to eat more,” he says. “Bread, pasta, chicken alfredo, pizza—I couldn’t get enough of carbs.” On top of that, it was incredibly hard for him to move. “After I got hurt, I had to learn how to walk again,” he says. “It was such a struggle and I had no desire to do anything because I was so far down.”
It was a family member who ultimately inspired Todd to change his ways. “My sister had a Fitbit tracker and lost 160 pounds,” he says. “I really wanted one, so my wife got me a Fitbit Flex for Father’s Day that year.” Todd still remembers his step total on that first day: 288. “I walked to the end of the driveway and back,” he says. “When that’s all you can do, you realize how bad things are—it was just crushing for me.” But he kept looking forward. “I said to myself: Just do a little better tomorrow,” he says. The next day, Todd was up to 360 steps, and he told himself he was going to do a little better tomorrow. “That’s been my philosophy this entire journey,” he says. “It’s about being better tomorrow than I was today.”
As Todd started moving more, he also had to deal with his biggest issue: He loves to eat. “I started logging my food and realized I was eating up to 7,000 calories a day!” he says. “I cut it down to 2,000 calories and immediately the weight started falling off me.” He needed to figure out a way to still feel full on fewer calories, so he made swaps like taking mayo and cheese off his ham sandwiches, bulking them up with spinach, and eating a lot of soup.
Todd slowly walked longer and longer distances, ultimately getting to where he is now: hitting 20,000 steps most days. By taking things step by step and doing a little better every day, Todd lost 200 pounds in one year. “I didn’t think I’d ever get there, but now I know what I’m capable of,” he says. “I used to have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and pre-ventricular contractions in my heart. Now there’s no signs of any of those health issues—I feel awesome!”
Todd’s Advice for Others
Remove calories you won’t miss. “I love sandwiches so much and needed to figure out how they could have fewer calories, so I looked to the bread,” he says. “I found bread with only 35 calories in a slice, which instantly cut my calories from bread in half and I never noticed the difference.”
Bring healthy food with you. “My mom makes delicious food, but those are the dishes that helped me get to 500 pounds in the first place,” he says. “Now I pack my lunch when I go to my parents’ house so I know what I’m eating.”
Lift up your whole community. “I started posting about how I was doing on Facebook and people started asking me how I did it,” he says. “I’ve told so many people in my hometown how they can lose weight too. I even check in on some people every two weeks to make sure they’re still on track.”
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.