Over the years, I slowly gained more and more weight and felt exhausted. Every day, I’d come home from work and nap. I coach football, basketball, and baseball, and usually, I’m very patient with the kids, but I noticed I was getting grouchy with them — probably because my knees hurt and my back was sore from carrying around extra weight. I was only sleeping five hours a night because I’d wake up from pain or snoring. It was a vicious cycle that I wanted to break.

The day everything changed started like any other.

I was taking a nap after work and I could hear my kids playing in the living room. My to-do list ran through my head — I had so much to do but no energy to do it. Then my wife came in asking for my help with something. That’s when I decided there was no time like the present! I was tired of life passing me by while I was napping. I had heard about the Challenge in general meetings at work and decided I’d start the next day to lose weight, gain energy, and be there for my family. 

I started by cutting out soda, fast food, and pizza. 

I had to. I weighed 350 pounds and my doctor told me, “You don’t have diabetes now, but if you don’t get yourself in line, you will.” I was drinking up to ten 12-ounce cokes a day and ate a lot of pizza. I decided to cut it out cold turkey. I knew if I did it gradually, my cravings would get the best of me. I don’t like vegetables, so I had to find something that worked for me, and that’s been intermittent fasting. Most of my meals consist of eggs, cheese, and sausage. I’ll occasionally have a turkey wrap and I’m drinking a lot of water.

It’s hard to find the time to work out with six kids, but I still head to the YMCA every day.

My wife has played a huge part in making that possible. I use the stationary bike and elliptical for 30 minutes each. Then I use some machines that target my abs. Sometimes my wife, older boys, or my brother-in-law will work out with me. We also go to the YMCA pool as a family — the kids love it and it relaxes my muscles. 

I’ve noticed positive changes in my kids

One of my older boys has lost 35 pounds and I see all of my kids getting stronger in their sports. Exercising together also helps us bond — it gives us something in common that we can do together and talk about. My intent wasn’t to make everyone else change, but that’s what’s happening and driving me.

I’ve lost a lot of weight so far, but at first, I didn’t realize how much I had changed. Other people were telling me I looked great, but it wasn’t until I compared two pictures of myself that I realized I’ve become a totally different person! I had worn XXL shorts for as long as I could remember — probably since the time I was 14. Now, I’m down to an XL and will be down to a large before long. It feels great to actually shop, instead of simply grabbing what was available because XXL clothing was hard to come by. And even better, for the first time since we’ve been married, my wife can give me a hug and actually wrap her arms all the way around me.

—James Hilsinger, Distribution Center #7055; Gas City, IN; $5K Winner

Through the Thrive Challenge, our community is making Better Choices, seeing big results, and winning big.