Steve Youngkin, 49, didn’t start putting on weight until his mid 20s. But from there, the weight never seemed to come off. During his first marriage and soon after it ended, when Youngkin was in his early 30s, the weight seemed to go up even quicker. Each year came with new pants and new shirts, at one-point in size 6XL.
Youngkin weighed 421 pounds at his heaviest. Ask him then, and he probably would have never imagined dropping as much as 30 pounds, let alone the 240 pounds he would soon shed over the next few years.
That transformation began slowly.
With the 421 pounds had come also sleep apnea and high blood pressure. Youngkin, a computer consultant often on the road, found travel increasingly embarrassing, as he began having to ask flight attendants for a seatbelt extender.
But Youngkin’s moment of clarity didn’t come until a few years ago, when he and his girlfriend attended a Billy Joel concert. Youngkin found himself literally unable to fit in his seat, forcing an usher to seat him in the handicapped section.
“It was humiliating,” says Youngkin, “sitting there solely because of my size.”
He decided to see his doctor about bariatric surgery.
But Youngkin didn’t wait for surgery to alter his own habits. He began cutting out sodas and sweets, limiting all sugar and sodium. When he traveled for work, he would make healthier restaurant decisions, trading greasy burgers for grilled chicken and salad. He carried a thermos with flavored water to curb snacking temptations, the thermos a substitute for candy bars of road trips past.
He also began walking a few miles every day using the Couch to 5K app.
These efforts alone helped Youngkin drop 83 pounds before surgery.
After surgery, Youngkin gave himself a new goal: get down to 230 pounds within a year. He switched from walking to jogging and kept up his low sugar, low sodium, and high protein diet. He was down to 230 within the first seven months. Jogging then turned to longer jogging, and Youngkin began entering 5Ks, at first just grateful to finish.
“But as I got faster, the weight came off faster,” Youngkin remembers.
By the one-year mark, Youngkin was down to 173 and looking ahead to the New York City marathon. He started running six miles and doing over 40 situps, pushups, and squats daily.
Last November, he completed his first marathon in New York.
“I have more energy, more confidence now,” he says. “If you had told me five years ago that I would be doing a marathon, I would have laughed.”
Youngkin also says that surgery was only the beginning for him.“This is the biggest thing I always tell others about getting surgery: This is not a cure. It’s like a tool you buy at Home Depot. If you don’t use the tool correctly, then it’s not the fault of the tool; it’s your fault.” Consider the tool well used.