In 1994, Steve Shaw left the U.S. Army in the best shape of his life. At 5’10’’, Shaw was a muscular 172 pounds. But, civilian life quickly got the best of him. Thanks to a decrease in activity, combined with a penchant for eating fast and processed food, he quickly packed on the pounds. By 2012, Shaw weighed 346 pounds. But funny enough, that fast food also saved his life. Here’s how a slice of pizza helped Shaw pull off a 100-pound weight loss transformation and gain a whole new outlook in the process.
“Slowly, somewhere around 2006-2007, the symptoms of type 2 diabetes revealed themselves,” Shaw told Men's Health about his downward health slope. “My blood sugar wasn’t right, and at any given time I would experience sweats, lightheadedness, headaches, and at times I would even feel like vomiting.”
By 2013, at the age of 46, Shaw said he was out of control and hitting his heaviest weight. Even walking to the mailbox became too much for him.
“I was also displaying severe signs of sleep apnea,” he explained. “Small tasks like tying my shoes or even cleaning myself after using the bathroom were extremely challenging.”
By then, he said, his belly was “huge,” and he grew a large beard to help him “hide from the world.”
For the last few months of the unhealthy phase in his life, Shaw said he’d regularly consume 6,000 calories a day in the form of ice cream, chips, late-night Ramen noodles, and more.
But that food also helped change him. In fact, his “lightbulb” health moment came while sitting in a booth at a pizza buffet.
“It was a cold Saturday afternoon. I promised my two young daughters a fun family day filled with pizza and a movie,” Shaw said. “After a large share of pizza, it was time for me to pay the bill. But there was a problem. The second I moved, every muscle group in my body seized.”
Shaw was experiencing charley horses from head to toe. It took him 15 minutes to make it to the counter. He pushed through his girls to the movies, but there, things went from bad to worse.
“During the two-hour film, it was impossible for me to stand up. Muscle cramps left me stapled to my chair. I had to hold my bladder and wait patiently,” he said. When the movie ended he almost called 9-1-1.
That night, he discussed the event with a friend, who warned him, “You likely have fatty liver as a result of type 2 diabetes. Your liver isn’t processing minerals properly, and they aren’t getting into your muscles.”
Shaw said his friend ended the conversation by telling him, “The heart is a muscle. You understand that, right?”
At that very moment, Shaw knew it was either change or have a heart attack.
So, he woke up the next day and immediately changed his eating habits. No more processed foods, canned foods, or fast food.
“I dumped all white poisons; I even have up healthy carbs. My diet moved strictly to meats, fruits, veggies, and healthy fats,” Shaw said. Everything he ate was a single-ingredient food.
But, what Shaw didn’t do was count calories. Instead, he focused on keeping his diet reasonable. He then combined his new food routine with resistance training and daily runs on the treadmill.
Within weeks his pants were looser, and his cramps were completely gone.
“Four months in, and without counting a single calorie, my weight had dropped into the 270s. I was eating healthy, consuming a ton of veggies, and trying every healthy, low-carbs recipe I could find on the internet,” he said.
For Shaw, the hardest part was regulating his food intake so he could maintain his new weight of 246 pounds. So, he set a goal never to go over 3,000 calories a day.
“I realized along the way that binge eating had become my acceptable form of self-medication,” he said. “It took me time, but I eventually discovered the value of food volume. Eating more veggies kept me satisfied, and fended off the desire to binge.”
He also found it imperative to avoid temptation altogether by refusing to bring junk and trigger foods into his home.
Beyond getting over his addiction to food Shaw had one more thing to overcome: His lack of self-confidence.
“Despite losing 100 pounds, I was saggy with no muscle mass,” he said. “I also found that I was still hiding behind an ugly beard and saggy clothes. My body had transformed, but I still had the mind of a ‘fat guy.’”
So, for two straight years, Shaw focused on turning his “flabby 246 pounds into a muscular 246 pounds” through weight lifting and exercise. Next, the saggy wardrobe went too and was replaced with clothes that actually fit his new frame. The one thing he kept was the beard, but at least now it’s “trimmed and contained.”
Now, at the age of 51, he says he “feels young again.” He even just completed his first trail marathon and met-and married-the love of his life Fiona, who also happened to lose 100 pounds too.
“She pushes me and I am one lucky man.”
Shaw had perhaps the most sage advice of all when it comes to weight loss: “Please don’t quit on yourself. Please don’t. Maybe you aren’t motivated. It doesn’t matter. Just get up today and take that next step; tackle that next choice. Keep your eyes down and focus only on the next choice.”
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