Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Daniel Shuman is 30 years old, 5 feet 10 inches tall, and currently weighs 184 pounds. In 2017, after the birth of his second child, he realized he needed to change his lifestyle for the future of his family. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.
The turning point
I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. One recent low point was when, a few years ago, my family took a trip to Orlando. I was extremely excited to visit the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios, and to go on the rides. However, my excitement turned to shame, as I was kicked off the ride Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey because I could not fit in the seat safely.
My weight was a constant battle. Not a day went by that I didn’t hate my body and fear for my health. However, last September my second son was born. I feared that if I continued on the same path, there was a strong chance that I would be prematurely leaving my children without a father, and my wife without a husband.
Last Passover while visiting my parents, I watched the documentary Fed Up, which discusses obesity in the United States, and how we are losing a daily battle within a system in which we are designed to fail. Things such as processed foods and refined sugars make maintaining a healthy lifestyle extremely difficult for many Americans. I learned that these foods are almost inescapable, especially if you do not have the proper understanding of how these things are added into our food surreptitiously. I learned that we become addicted to these things at a young age. I was especially upset to learn that the formula that I had fed my boys had processed sugars added to it. It was at that time that I became angry and decided to take action.
I began by eliminating processed foods and refined sugars from my diet. I immediately saw results. I read Eat to Live by Joel Fuhrman, and finally found what I was looking for — a plan of the healthiest food you can eat, backed up by science and peer-reviewed studies. I used the book to design a diet that worked for me and my lifestyle, and the weight began falling off.
At the same time, I began walking. My stamina was poor, but I began incrementally, and gradually found ways to add physical activity into my life. I tried to do it in a way where I could experience nature and simultaneously engage in physical activity. I eventually acquired a beach cruiser bicycle to ride on the Rockaway Beach boardwalk. Slowly but surely, my stamina increased and I was able to increase the length of my rides. I found that I loved being outdoors, especially near the ocean. Eventually, a good friend gave me a multigeared hybrid bicycle and I was able to ride faster and longer. Once winter arrived and I could no longer tolerate the cold, I joined a gym and began walking and jogging on the treadmill. I was also able to incorporate some weight training. I purchased a pull-up bar and a kettlebell and began doing different exercises I found online. I’m about to begin the last week of the Couch to 5K program, and can already run over 3 miles without stopping. At this point last year, simply getting dressed could leave me winded.
For me, the biggest motivation was success. Once I experienced a little success and saw the weight begin to drop, I felt completely empowered and motivated to keep the momentum going.
The next and almost equally important factor was the support I received from my loved ones as well as support from complete strangers. My wife, family, and friends could not have been more supportive. That part didn’t surprise me. I’m lucky to have a wife who has always loved me for who I am, despite my weight. She chose to adopt this lifestyle as well, even though her issues with weight were relatively minor. What did surprise me was the support I received from complete strangers. Almost every time I was out, someone would see me and give me encouragement, and as the weight loss began to be more noticeable, I was getting approached by neighbors and strangers who were always interested to hear my story.
I feel incredible. I think it’s important to not view my journey as complete, as this is something I need to remain vigilant about. It would break my heart to go back to the old me. I am more active and am truly empowered. My emotional state has dramatically improved as well. I am more present with my family, and this state of mind has had a positive affect on my professional life as well.
My journey was full of surprises. First, I was surprised at the level of deceit present in the food industry. One example is cooking spray. Cooking spray is sold as a “fat free” food. However, cooking spray is essentially all fat (it’s oil that sprays nicely). There is a loophole in which if the serving size is small enough and the fat content is below a certain level, manufacturers are allowed to market it as “fat free.” The serving size for cooking spray is essentially the equivalent of spraying just one-third of a second. I challenge you to try to spray cooking oil on a pan for one-third of a second.
I was also surprised at how easy it became to maintain my lifestyle once the switch was flipped, so to speak.
During the week, I eat little to no animal protein (meat, dairy, fish), no processed foods, no refined sugars, and little to no oil. On the weekends, I still indulge in minimal amounts of lean animal proteins. When I do consume meat, it is not the main component of my meal but is added primarily for flavoring. As Dr. Fuhrman says, “Salad (or some form of it) is the main dish.” I try to exercise each and every day. In the past, exercise was a chore. Now it’s something I look forward to.
One of the the most important parts of maintaining my lifestyle is making sure I have a lot of healthy options. Planning my weekly menus and shopping on Sundays has made maintaining this lifestyle an attainable goal. If I maintain a healthy diet and remain satiated, half the battle is already won.
My wife and children inspire me to keep going. I love that I can keep up with my 5 ½-year-old. I love that I no longer overhear children whispering to their parents in the store, “That man is fat, Mommy.” I love that I can be a better husband, father, and friend. In the past, my life was defined by limits almost everywhere I went. No more.
I still struggle with cravings, especially at night. If I am surrounded by unhealthy food, there’s a strong chance I will eat it. The biggest thing is to just keep going. I view slip-ups not as cheats, but indulgences. In the past, a bad food day would cause me to give up. Now if I have a bad day, I try to make sure to make it right the next day.
Keep at it. You can do it. Educate yourself about the science of food and which foods are best for you. Do your homework. Find ways to be active in ways you find enjoyable. Experience the world, and begin to really experience life for all the beauty it has to offer. It’s never too late to change your habits. The hardest part is starting.
Need more inspiration? Read about our other weight-loss winners!
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