In March 2009, Joseph Coleman weighed 415 pounds.
About a year later, he’s down to 220.
You read that right. He lost 195 pounds in about 13 months.
His success has nothing to do with weight-loss surgery or appetite suppressants or fad diets. It has everything to do with hard work and commitment — and just a little fear.
Early last year, when Coleman’s waist measured 64 inches, he received some tragic news: A friend who was a little older and heavier than he was had died of a heart attack.
"That was kind of an epiphany,” said Coleman, 27, of Midwest City. "I told my wife we had to do something to change our lives.”
Coleman, a software testing engineer, had been a lineman on his high school football team. After graduation, he said, he "just blew up.” By the time he was hired by Software Development Technologies in downtown Oklahoma City, he was so large the mere thought of physical activity was daunting.
His work requires frequent travel. For the past two years, he has been spending every other week in Chicago.
"I hadn’t flown for a long time before this job,” he said. "It was hard for me to squeeze into an airline seat. There were even times that I would get home on Friday night, and I’d have bruises on my legs from being squeezed in so tight. I had to use a seatbelt extender, and it was stretched all the way so it was really uncomfortable.”
News of his friend’s death awakened Coleman’s inner drill instructor. If he wanted to avoid a similar fate, he knew he’d have to make drastic changes. He just wasn’t sure how.
He turned to the Internet for advice. After checking various sites, he decided to eat a high protein, low carbohydrate diet and limit himself to 1,800 calories a day. (I checked with Karen Funderburg, my registered dietitian, about this. Under ordinary circumstances, she said, it’s a bad idea to create such a massive calorie deficit. It’s difficult to get adequate nutrition — especially for a very large person — while consuming so few calories. The safest bet is to allow a doctor or dietitian to help you with your diet plan.)
On Mondays and Saturdays, Coleman worked out for up to four hours. He exercised an hour or two most other days, pushing himself as much as he could.
"At the beginning, it was kind of hard because I was so out of shape,” he said. "I would get on the elliptical and do some treadmill and some weights and stuff. ... I lost 15 pounds the first week, and after that I was losing seven to 10 pounds a week.”
Leading by example
His co-workers couldn’t help but notice as Coleman turned into the Incredible Shrinking Man.