Losing over 100 pounds in a year may sound almost impossible, but it's Jeffrey Hadley's reality.
The 50-year-old landscaper from Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, topped 270 pounds four years ago, when a health scare that landed him in the hospital for almost a week served as a wake-up call. He was discharged with a diagnosis of adult-onset asthma, COPD, high blood pressure — and a determination to change.
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Today, at 160 pounds, his health issues have vanished, and he's never looked or felt better. Here's his amazing story, in his own words.
The Offhand Comment That Motivated Me to Lose Weight
Most of my life, I'd never had a weight problem. I worked as a landscaper, an active job that easily burned 10,000 calories a day. As a result, I could pretty much eat anything I wanted.
But in 2013, I got promoted to general manager at my company, a desk job that didn't involve much activity. I kept on eating the same way, though, and within a couple years I'd gained 100 pounds. The more weight I gained, the more sedentary I became, and over the months I noticed I was becoming winded doing relatively easy activities like walking across the room.
"A little lightbulb went off in my head and I realized that my health problems were most likely due to my being so overweight."
Then, in 2015, I ended up in the hospital for six days because I was having so much trouble breathing. My oxygen levels were hovering around 80 (normal is between 95 and 100). I ended up on oxygen 24/7 with constant nebulizer treatments and three inhalers. The doctors diagnosed me with adult-onset asthma, COPD and hypertension.
On my fifth day there, one of the physicians who came in to see me began asking me a lot of questions about my diet and exercise habits. Before he walked out, he turned to me and said, 'You know, if you just lose some weight, all of this would stop.'
A little lightbulb went off in my head and I realized that my health problems were most likely due to my being so overweight.
I was released the next day. The first thing I did when I got back home was to research the term 'clean eating.' I learned that all the processed foods — like pizza and calzones — that were the staples of my diet were loaded with calories, added sugars and chemicals that had caused all my weight gain.
How I Overhauled My Diet
In the beginning, I just ate a ton of fruit and veggies, some meat and eggs and lots and lots of chicken. I cut out starches like bread and processed food as much as possible.
Breakfast was usually eggs, oatmeal and fruit, while lunch and dinner were usually some type of lean protein paired with fruit and veggies. I only let myself snack on fruits and veggies.
I'm single and don't have much time or space to cook, but even when I ate out I focused on healthier choices: Instead of my usual cheesesteak, for example, I'd have plain chicken.
The weight came off fairly quickly, and I think it's because I had been overeating so much. I'd order a family-style Stromboli entrée at work, for example, and end up eating it all myself. I was consuming a ton of food without even realizing it.
It was tough at first, because although I wasn't really physically hungry, I was so used to snacking all day that it felt like a real void. I bought a motorcycle and went on a ride every day as my "reward" for clean eating.
'I Knew if I Wanted to Lose Weight, I Had to Become Physically Active'
When I first got home from the hospital, I was in bad shape. I was 270 pounds with a 48-inch stomach and I was barely able to climb three steps without getting out of breath. Just walking to the bathroom required a rescue inhaler. I knew if I wanted to lose weight, though, I had to become physically active.
I asked a friend who owned a kickboxing gym what I could do that would get me moving while being easy on my body. She told me to just walk. So that's exactly what I did.
At the beginning, I couldn't walk two steps without having to use my inhaler. It would take me an hour to walk a quarter mile. But I refused to quit, and as the weight came off, it became easier and easier.
Within a couple months, I was walking 2 to 3 miles a day, until I eventually worked up to 10 miles a day. Now, I regularly run 5Ks.
The medical problems that landed me in the hospital — asthma and hypertension — have vanished. It turns out all my excess stomach fat had been crushing my lungs and my heart.
"At the beginning, I couldn't walk two steps without having to use my inhaler. Now, I regularly run 5Ks."
The One Thing That Helped Me Succeed
Consistency was key for me. I never did cheat days, or cheat meals, or even cheat snacks. I made sure I was 100-percent dedicated to what I was doing. It wasn't easy — I'm normally a fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of guy.
I decided to keep everything very basic, with five main food staples: veggies, fruit, chicken, rice and eggs. I swear, I ate scrambled eggs with chicken every morning for a year, but I needed to keep it simple.
As time went on, I tried different diet programs, like keto and intermittent fasting, but I found them very restrictive and hard to stick to long term. I felt I was more successful if I followed what I dubbed JERF, or Just Eat Real Food!
Read more: How to Find the Best Weight-Loss Diet for You
'Focus Less on the Scale and More on How You Feel'
The first piece of advice I'd offer to others who are looking to lose weight is to simply cut out processed food. If it comes in a bag or a box, it's probably not good for you. I found I was more satisfied and naturally ate less if I just focused on fresh, real food.
Secondly, focus less on the scale and more on how your clothes fit and how you feel.
After I'd lost about 70 pounds, I decided it was time to start going to the gym. That was tough, because I'd never lifted weights before. I was scared to death. Again, I decided to keep it simple: the first time I went, I used three machines, and that was it.
But as I gained confidence and began using more machines (and lifting heavier weights) I realized that while my stomach was getting smaller and my shirts were fitting better, my scale wasn't moving as much anymore. I was losing fat, but replacing it with muscle.
I gauge my progress now by how my clothes fit. At my heaviest, I wore a triple-extra-large shirt. Now, I easily can slip into a medium.