How Jeff Schmelz raced his way to better health—and dropped 170 pounds along the way.
Name: Jeff Schmelz
Lives: Chicago, IL.
Pounds lost: 170
Kept it off: 15 years
I had been on the larger side for most of my life—I was 6 ft tall and 186 lbs when I entered the 6th grade. Health struggles as a child combined with depression led to eating for comfort and coping. By college, I was also drinking to excess and was an alcoholic as well as obese. I was well over 300 lbs by graduation. My peak weight was over 350 lbs—I’m not sure how much over, because that was as high as my doctor’s scale would go.
After graduation, I moved to Chicago to try and start anew. With the help of a particularly kind professor and a fellow student and friend, I quit drinking and began eating better. I ran my first race when I weighed close to 300 pounds—a guy from a local running store stayed with me so I wouldn’t be last. Someone believed in me. Because of him, I ran races every weekend that summer. The going was slow since I was working and in graduate school, but in a few years I was down to around 200 lbs and felt like a completely new man.
There have been many things that have helped over the years but I think the most notable are that I have kept a journal (including what I eat, my activity and how I am feeling) to help keep me focused, I drink only water when out socially, and I try to choose the more active option whenever possible (stairs instead of elevator, walk or ride my bike instead of driving, etc.). The journal is a "mirror" that makes me face the choices I have made each day. I don't count calories or weigh food, nor do I try to measure every calorie that I may burn. I only try to stay balanced. If I want to eat some junk while watching a game (as I did last night), I know I need to do a little extra exercise to counteract it. The water-drinking habit I picked up when a friend asked me what my favorite thing to eat was. I responded that I love ice cream, pizza, etc and she said that since there were no drinks on my list there was no reason to waste calories on drinking that I could use for eating more of my favorites. It sounded like a good idea and I have stuck to it for the most part for almost 20 years. Lastly, I realized that even if I worked out for two hours a day there were still 154 hours every week that I was doing something else. So if I did not make good decisions the rest of the time I would easily undo all the good I may have done during my workouts.
I still have my moments where I feel like eating myself into a coma and I think I will always wish I was skinnier than I am, but this past year I finished my second Ironman triathlon and fit into size 32 jeans for the first time in 30 years! Now, as a personal trainer, I try to help everyone I can to feel the joy of being healthier.My motto: You can say you won’t, or you don’t want to, but there’s no such thing as ‘can’t’.”