If you tune in to ABC tonight at 9 for “Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition” the man you’ll see at the beginning is weak.
He found the strength to admit that, and it might have saved his life.
Jonathan McHenry is a 32-year-old Port Orchard resident who weighed 543 pounds when he submitted his video application to the show in 2010. The two-hour program will document a year in his life in which, for part of the time, show host Chris Powell moves in with him and introduces him to the tools he needs to reclaim his life.
Because of his contract with ABC, McHenry can’t share exactly how much weight he lost or a current picture. But he says the experience went well and he lost more than 200 pounds (his employer’s website site says more than 250 pounds).
The breakthrough, he said, came when he admitted to himself that he wasn’t strong enough to get fit on his own.
He was a “75-percenter.”
“I started things but didn’t finish them,” McHenry said.
As a member of the South Kitsap High School football and track teams in the 1990s, the 6-foot-1 McHenry weighed 230 pounds, but jobs at fast food and pizza restaurants put him face-to-face with temptation he couldn’t resist.
McHenry gained weight every year, telling himself he could lose it whenever he wanted. But he couldn’t.
He married his best friend from high school when he was 22, and they had two boys. When he turned 29, he decided something had to change.
“There where people who died who weighed less than I did,” he said. “I realized I was living on borrowed time. I was starting to feel like my kids were going to be raised by somebody else. I wasn’t going to live to see them graduate, and I wondered if they would even remember who I am or would I just be a picture on the wall.”
He signed up for gastric bypass surgery, but ABC called before he could go through with the procedure. “I wanted to do it naturally,” McHenry said.
Losing the weight naturally required taking a nice long look in the mirror.
“I’m a man in this world,” said McHenry, referring to his ability to provide for his family and find professional success. “But I am not a strong man. I could keep telling myself, ‘I’m strong enough’ but I’d be kidding myself.
“It wasn’t because I didn’t want to lose weight. It’s just the way it was. I needed help.”
As so many people learn at this pivotal juncture, embracing the truth and asking for help can be as empowering as it is humbling.
McHenry set one simple goal working with Powell: Do the work. He did as much as three hours of cardio each day and watched his body slowly start shrinking.
He no longer feared the too-small seats on airline flights. He no longer had to show up early for meals with friends to make sure they got a booth seat. He no longer had to concoct stories to hide his pain.
The shame is still almost tangible when he tells of taking his boys to a Sesame Street show and realizing the chairs could not support him. He had to stand behind the crowd pretending as if his youngest boy was misbehaving when others offered him a chair.
“It hurts when you do things like that,” McHenry said. “When people you love suffer because of the lifestyle you decided to live.”
Those days are history, McHenry said, and now he wants to help people in similar situations.
McHenry is taking the skills he learned on his journey and his inspirational story to Annapolis Fitness, a new Port Orchard personal training studio.
“My niche is to give people the opportunity to train with somebody who knows what it’s like to be where they are,” McHenry said.
He is somebody who knows that dropping weight is as simple as burning more calories than you eat, but also much more complex.
“Consistency is more important,” McHenry said. “You’ll have some bad days, but as long as you have more better days you’ll make progress. Set some easy goals and then maintain your momentum. There are no magic solutions.”Craig Hill’s fitness column runs Sundays. Submit questions and comments via email@example.com and twitter.com/AdventureGuys. Also get more fitness coverage at blog.thenewstribune.com/adventure and thenewstribune.com/fitness.