You have more to lose than pounds

Mike Wilber has lost more than 50 pounds. But the biggest changes, he says, have happened on the inside.

Story highlights

  • Mike Wilber knew he had to lose weight -- and self doubt
  • Wilber has lost 50 pounds by exercising and throwing out some emotional baggage
  • Follow Mike's journey training for a triathlon on Twitter @TriHardMike

One day last September, I stumbled upon an article about retired NFL linemen who were struggling with their weight. A study mentioned in the article showed the life expectancy for those former linemen was significantly shorter than their normal weight peers.

It made sense: How many older people do you know who are 6-foot-3 and weigh more than 350 pounds? People that size don't really grow old.

I had already decided that I needed to make some lifestyle changes regarding my own health. But as a former football player, reading that article hit me hard.

My first course of action was to buy a scale; I hadn't been on an accurate one in years. The scale in my doctor's office would only go up to 350 pounds. Just to be safe I looked for a scale that had a maximum of 400 pounds. I set the scale on my bathroom floor, and exhaled as much air as I could as I stood on it.

The next few seconds were followed by a rush of emotions -- shock, disbelief, frustration and anger. I weighed 383 pounds.

How did I get to this point?

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As I looked back on the previous few years, I realized that I was not a happy person. Within a year's time, I had turned 40, become a single father and lost my biggest supporter: my mom. I was disappointed in the direction my personal and professional life was taking. And I was using food to cope.

My name is Ron, and I am a food addict

I used to read a poem to my student athletes that said, "You can't fool the guy in the mirror." But yet that is what I had been trying to do.

I thought I was destined to be a large individual for the rest of my life, and I questioned my ability to lose a significant amount weight at my age. The self doubt was prevalent in my mind. The more I felt sorry for myself, the more I ate. It was a vicious cycle.

I realized that this decision to change my life was about more than just losing weight. I had to lose my inner critic. I had to lose the ropes that were tying me to the past. More importantly, I had to lose this black cloud hanging over my head.

I had only myself to blame, and I knew I was the only one who could fix it.

Exercise quickly replaced food as my comfort in life. Where I once turned to fast food in times of stress and frustration, I instead found myself going to the gym. The more I exercised, the more weight started to drop off.

From a minute to a mile: Learning to run

It was a slow climb out of the personal hole I was in, but I found that eating right and exercising were the best remedies to change my outlook on life.

When I got to the 50-pound milestone, I decided to look at my wardrobe. I had a closet full of bad memories and BIG clothes.

For instance, I had a shirt that I wore to my 25th high school reunion. I hated it when I saw pictures of how heavy I looked in it. So why did I keep it? I didn't have to think twice now about giving it away.

It took at least two hours to finish cleaning out the closet. When I was done, I had five heaping garbage bags full of clothes. It was a gratifying experience to lose that much clutter from my life.

The best part came when someone asked if they could take those clothes off my hands. I shared my story with that person when he picked them up. Maybe he'll be giving them away again in the near future.

I firmly believe that if I can make these lifestyle changes, that anyone can. We all have something to lose.

More from Mike: Why I gave up soda