8:51 AM EDT, August 19, 2013
SOUTH BEND - It was a simple question that changed Jim Myers' life.
Eighteen months ago, the South Bend resident took a friend -- a breast cancer survivor with multiple sclerosis -- in for a CAT scan. While she was having the procedure, he stepped on the scale. It read 423 pounds.
The nurse asked him, "Who's going to take care of her, once you're dead?"Myers didn't respond.
That night, while checking his email, he found that Fiserv, his employer, was offering Weight Watchers for free to all employees. He took it as a sign and joined."Anybody that's overweight knows they've got to do something, but until you're ready, the best plan in the world will do nothing for you," he says. "Until you have a reason like that or some other similar moment that wakes you up and grabs you, you can't really follow through."
It's been 18 months and the 6-foot-3-inch tall Myers has lost 191.4 pounds. He's 8.6 pounds away from his goal, which was to lose 200 pounds.
"That's five bags of Morton Salt," he says, with a laugh.
This spring, he ran into a former co-worker, Dana Daniels, at their golf league at Elbel Park Golf Course. Daniels said in an email that he didn't recognize Myers at first.
"Now mind you, he had shaved his head and had dark glasses on, but he was my golf partner for many years and we had worked together for 15," Dana wrote. "Somehow something should have been triggered."
It wasn't until Myers spoke that Daniels recognized him.
"Stunned doesn't begin to define that moment," Daniels wrote. "I continue to be stunned every time I see him."
Myers, 58, is a computer programmer and spends a lot of time at a desk. So, early on he started wearing a pedometer and tracking steps.
"When I first started I wasn't getting 2,000 steps a day. That isn't even a mile," he says. "Now, I'm walking eight or nine miles a day."
He walks before work, puts in three miles at lunch and then gets the rest of his steps in before heading home. On weekends, he walks five miles along the river and the East Race in South Bend, listening to blues and jazz on a slow walk and Stevie Ray Vaughan when he wants to move faster. In fact, he can't remember the last day he didn't walk, he says. He even bought cold weather and rain gear for when the weather is bad.
"There is a fine line between being committed and having someone commit you," he says, "but I was out there because I thought if I find a reason to not walk today, there will be a reason to not walk tomorrow."
Before the program, he didn't have a lot of room on his plate for fruits and vegetables. When he had a steak dinner, he says, the meat covered his plate. Now, it takes up only one- third.
He has become so familiar with points tracking that he can look at a food's carbs and guesstimate the number of Weight Watchers points it's worth. And he usually pre-enters his meals online.
"I put my whole day in before I've done it, so I know where I am on my points," he says. "I can still go to Frankie's and get an order of rib tips. I just have to spend three evenings eating it and not one meal."
As he started to lose the weight -- an average of 21/2 pounds per week -- he began playing tennis again. He built a deck on the back of his house and did all the work himself.
"When I started, I'd do something as simple as going out to rake leaves for 15 minutes and have to sit for half an hour to catch my breath," he says. "Now I'm out working in the yard for five, six hours straight. ... I got my life back."
In June, he ran a couple of 5Ks -- Sunburst and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. It was something he'd never done before, but he plans to again.
And his new lifestyle won't stop when he reaches his goal weight -- something he expects to do in mid-September. He will still need to maintain, he says.
To help with that, he threw out all his old clothes. He now wears 1XLT tops and pants with a 38-inch waist, instead of his previous 5XLT tops and pants with a 50-inch waist. He's not going back.
Myers has a good support system, he says. About 20 people at his office are involved in the Weight Watchers group. Together the group has lost a total of about 1,200 pounds.
"We can give each other crap, but it's all with the best intentions," he says.
At 58, he's got another 10 years before he retires, but now, he says, he has a retirement to look forward to.
"I smile a lot more. I have a reason to look forward to things," he says. "I used to wonder if I'm just not going to wake up one morning. Now I wake up and I'm ready to go."
His advice to others looking to lose weight is simple: Find a reason.
"It's different for everybody," he says. "But you have to have a reason. We all know we've got to do something, and success stories can be a great motivator.
"But sometimes people don't think they have it in them. I think everybody does. You just have to start ... and then keep it up."