It was the first day of football practice. I was 10 years old and in the 5th grade. My Dad, the head coach, stood next to a scale while one-by-one my teammates got weighed in. Finally it was my turn. I step onto the scale and my dad says “weight”? “206”, I say. And I’ll never forget the look on my Dad’s face when he looked up from his clipboard with a look that I can only describe as disappointment. His realization was probably the same as mine; It was in that moment I knew I was different and that something wasn’t right. That’s when I realized that I was really overweight.
Being overweight is something I have always struggled with. Growing up I loved to play sports. Anything with a ball and I was hooked. However, due to being so overweight, many of those activities were more difficult than they needed to be and more painful than they should have been. My knees hurt, my back hurt, I would get more easily winded than the other kids, and I dealt with terrible plantar fasciitis for years. To be honest though it never really effected me emotionally. I’ve always been a pretty happy-go-lucky kind of guy and would always do my best. Despite my best efforts to fit in, kids in middle school and high school can be pretty cruel if you are different, and at 304 pounds in high school… I was often made fun of or ignored. College was a great change of scenery as you are really more on your own… I liked that. After the first year of college I topped out at 314 lbs.
I was fortunate enough to attend the amazing University of Texas A&M. The school had a phenomenal rec center that made it really easy for me to stay active. 4-5 days a week I would play full court basketball for an hour, hit the treadmill for 45 minutes, and pound out some weights for another 45 minutes or so. Over about an 18 month period I slowly shaved off pound after pound until I got down to about 228 lbs. I had so much more energy, and I was playing sports and enjoying life at a level I hadn’t ever before. Then, probably like a lot of people after they graduate college, real life sneaks up on you as do the pounds. I was not nearly as active or eating as well. Over the next several years my weight yo-yo’d from 250-300 several times in a constant cycle of drastic dieting, followed by the inevitable weight regain.
Soon after moving up to Wisconsin, I met the love of my life, Melissa, at a weight of 255. One of the many, many aspects of my wife that I love is how comfortable she always made me feel. When she looked at me I knew she didn’t see my weight, she saw me… accepted me… loved me. I had never felt that before her. As you can imagine that means more to me than I could ever express. We got married on June 21st, 2014; at the wedding I weighed in at 270 lbs. (this was after losing 30 pounds on a series of extreme diets). For a while after the wedding, it was the proverbial fat and happy… all the way up to 331 lbs. That’s when the happy part fell by the wayside.
So, I decided I needed to make a lifestyle change. Something had to give. For my own well being, for the wellbeing of my wife and our life together, something had to change. So out of the blue I told my wife I wanted to enter a race. I told her “I’m going to find one and just sign up for it. If I don’t I’ll never be motivated enough on my own”. I’ve always been a little extreme in my choices, and knew that I really wanted to push myself. So with the support of my wife, I decided to skip the 5k and sign up for a 10k. I told a good friend of mine about it, and fortunately enough for me, Jim was in! So we signed up for the Don Reilly Memorial, 10k run for cardiovascular health. Seemed fitting seeing as how I was concerned about my heart health after being overweight most of my life.
I started running 3-5 miles, 3 times a week. My training really started off as running 1 minute, walking 2 minutes, over and over again. The Don Reilly was really hard, but the feeling of pushing myself further than I thought I could go, and accomplishing that goal, was irreplaceable. I knew I was hooked and looked to sign up for my next race!
The Don Reilly race was on September, 25th 2016, and I weighed in at 325 lbs. Shortly after this race my wife and I found out we are expecting our first child!!! I already felt a renewed focus on my health, but with the news we are having a baby, the urge, importance, and necessity to get in shape has really taken on a new life. I want to be there for my children and my wife for a long, long time. And I want to be able to play with my kids as much as possible.
But then… the real kicker. I scheduled a doctors appointment to review my lab work. Uh oh. Not great news. According to my labs, I was pre-diabetic, had high-blood pressure, and high cholesterol. My doctor is really great at explaining why the numbers are the way they are and he knows how much I don’t want to take medicine. He explained that all of my issues would take care of themselves if I lost weight. So, he did “prescribe” a new diet. He instructed me to eat low carb while ramping up my activity level. I had just started running, and loving it, so the activity part was there. Since then I’ve followed a more low-carb diet that has really helped me so far.
As of March 17th, 2017, I’ve lost 40.6 lbs! From 331 lbs. to 290.4 lbs… and counting.
I’ve never been the self promoting type. I’ve never liked being on display or drawing attention to myself. So putting my story out there is difficult for me. However, once I completed my 7th race in 6 months and really established a new lifestyle and passion for running, I felt this calling to make my story public, start a blog/brand, and look for a global source of accountability. I also hope that while I document my personal weight loss and get-fit journey, I can help others do the same.
We get one chance at this life and through the grace of God we have the ability to get up every time we fall. And the ability to make this life what we desire it to be.
At the end of the day, I Run My Journey.
Thank you, God bless, good luck, and run hard!
~ Jay Cunningham