Weight Loss Transformation Drew Hess — Run to Lose Weight

Name: Drew Hess
Age: 42
Occupation: Teacher
Hometown: Trenton, New Jersey


Start Weight: 275 pounds
End Weight: 170 pounds
Time Running: 5 years

My 20s were a tough decade for me. When I graduated from Temple University at 25 years old, I wasn’t able to find employment with my English literature degree. I spent a lot of time waiting tables and parking cars, but I also drank and ate way too much.

One day, I realized that I was heading down a dangerous path, and at 275 pounds, I was bigger than I was comfortable with. When I was visiting my mother around Christmas in 2008, we went on a hike together in California, and I was spent halfway through. My mom is in great shape, but she’s also 30 years my senior, and I couldn’t keep up. That’s when I first decided that I needed to make a change and lose to some weight.

I decided to start running and change what I eat. Running seemed like the way for me to burn the most calories. I worked as a valet at the Loews Philadelphia, and I’d use their treadmill after my shifts. I couldn’t make it half a mile before I was winded and gasping, which was extremely humbling.

I started using the exercise bike and progressed to fast walks before building up my cardiovascular capacity to really run. It was a struggle for a while, but I soon reached three to four miles a day on the treadmill.

Before I changed my diet, I ate a lot of Philly cheesesteaks and pizza, and I always had a fourth meal before bed every night. I didn’t think anything of it at the time.

As a single guy, it was tough to find a routine that worked for me. I’m a creature of habit, so I wanted the same things every day. I chose to eat a breakfast bar every morning before work, and I would eat a salad at the cafeteria for lunch. For dinner, I’d have grilled chicken and corn. I also cut out the late-night eating completely.

These simple changes did wonders, and I lost 75 pounds by Christmas 2009. Being 200 pounds made me feel great, but then I got complacent.

I was nearing 30 years old, and I wanted to get married and start a family. Beefing up my social calendar meant more days off of running, or more excuses not to run. I also didn’t eat grilled chicken and corn for dinner every night, and I was no longer really counting calories.

I found someone amazing in 2010; we got married in 2014 and soon after started a family. Even thought I kept up running, it turns out it wasn’t enough. I went to the doctor for the first time in a decade at 37, and I was shocked to see that I weighed 235 pounds. The doctor told me that my blood pressure and cholesterol were high enough to warrant prescription medicine.

As a new, older parent, this was a huge wakeup call for me. I knew that I needed to make a more complete change than I did the first time around.

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I was surprised to have gained 35 pounds, because I had been running three to four miles a day, five to six days a week. So, I stepped up my routine. Every week, I tried to build up my mileage. It wasn’t long before I was doing eight to nine miles a day. While doing that, I also rediscovered how fast I could be.

In addition to being more conscious about what I put in my body, I felt so good that I signed up for my first half marathon in 2015. I was already training, but paying for a race ensured I wasn’t going to slack off or get complacent again.

By the time I finished the Philadelphia Half Marathon, I felt like I could’ve kept running. I think my time was around 1:50, but it didn’t matter because I was hooked. I signed up for the Love Run Half the next spring and cut 20 minutes off my first race.

The next November, I ran my first marathon. Now, I’m thinking of going for a Boston Qualifier. I’m getting close. I ran a 3:16:30 a couple of weeks ago, but I need to be under 3:10. I’m hoping when I turn 45 in a couple of years that I can do it, with the extra 10-minute cushion for a qualifying time.

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Five years after I started this journey, I’m down to 170 pounds—I’ve lost more than 60 pounds twice! I got off medication by the time I hit 190 pounds, and I feel healthier than I’ve ever been.

Plus, my kids love that I run. They’re the reason I do this, and I hope they learn from an early age the lessons it took me a while to find out. The best thing about distance running to me is just pushing your body to points you didn’t think possible before. I’m hoping they learn that they can achieve anything they want and that hard work is rewarded.

If anyone wanted to go on a similar journey, start out by setting small, achievable goals. My first goal wasn’t to lose 100 pounds or run a marathon. It was to lose weight and run more.

From there, I progressed to more specific goals as I learned what I wanted to do with my new possibilities. I went from running one mile to three to finish a half to finish a marathon. Weight loss goals are the same. It’s a series of small accomplishments that led to a cumulative payoff. I tried to lose a pound a week. This allowed me to celebrate an accomplishment nearly every week while also dealing with and analyzing any setbacks as not catastrophic occurrences.

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