Eric Jacobson was floored when his doctor told him he was pre-diabetic during a routine physical. After all, the 36-year-old Vancouver, Washington, native exercised regularly.
“I left my doctor’s appointment feeling dejected, frustrated and generally angry at the world,” he says. “I work out out seven days a week! What else was I supposed to do?”
The doctor told him that while the exercise was important, he still needed to lose a significant amount of weight if he hoped to head off a diabetes diagnosis. At 205 pounds, Jacobson was outside the healthy range for a man of his height (5-foot-9).
“I had always thought that since I worked out, I could eat whatever I wanted, but I found out that wasn’t true,” he says.
He saw the writing on the wall: He needed to adjust his diet — while still maintaining his dedication to the gym.
He started by simply cutting back on the most identifiable (but beloved) culprit: junk food. With that small (but significant) change, 10 pounds came off over the course of six months, but Jacobson wanted more. Around this same time, his wife, Chelsea, started using MyFitnessPal to track her nutrition.
Although initially skeptical, as a self-proclaimed “tech nerd,” Jacobson became engrossed by the statistics involved — and he was stunned when he saw how the numbers added up. It turned out he was consuming almost double the recommended daily calorie intake for a man of his size.
“Prior to using the app, I had no idea how many calories were in some of the foods I loved, and I also had no clue how much I was supposed to be eating in a day — and how much I was overeating,” he says. “It also turned out that I wasn’t burning as many calories through exercising as I thought.”
He knew he needed to make changes, but he didn’t want to deprive himself of the foods he loved. Instead, he decided to focus on portion control and making healthy adjustments to his meals.
For instance, at the fast-food Chinese joint he frequented, he started ordering steamed vegetables instead of noodles or fried rice and limited himself to one fried entree. Jacobson and his wife used the app’s recipe function when cooking at home. By choosing meals designed to be “skinnier,” they were both able to dramatically reduce their calorie intake.
Jacobson says this process has totally changed his relationship with food, making him not only more aware of unhealthy habits, but also more appreciative of the things he eats.
“I naturally fell into the concept of mindful eating because I read it takes 15-20 minutes for the food you eat to hit your stomach, so I started eating slower. Through this, I have found that I savor food more,” he says. “I won’t eat an entire pizza, but I will really savor those two pieces I allow myself.”
In the six months of food logging and mindful eating, Jacobson dropped an additional 35 pounds on top of the 10 he lost previously. Since then, he’s lost even more weight. Now, at 40 years old, he weighs 140 pounds — 65 pounds lighter than in his mid-30s.
His doctor was even more surprised by his weight loss than he was.
“His mind was blown. It was really cool to have my doctor be proud of me instead of how I had always felt previously at my annual physicals — like I failed a test,” says Jacobson.
Not only has he eliminated any sign of metabolic syndrome, his cholesterol and triglycerides — which had been high since he was a teenager — dropped to a normal range.
Now satisfied with his weight, his main goal is to hold steady. He continues to track his diet, often plugging in meals he anticipates eating ahead of time to help guide his eating during the day. He also continues to run and lift weights regularly.
“It was so easy to tell myself that 200 pounds was just the way my body was and that I wasn’t ever going to be able to lose weight,” says Jacobson. “Once I lost 10 pounds, then another 10 pounds, and another — without having to buy expensive food or a special book — it blew me away. It’s really transformed my life.”
Written by Mackenzie L. Havey, a freelance journalist and coach based in Minneapolis. She holds a master’s degree in Kinesiology from the University of Minnesota, and is a USA Track and Field certified coach. She has run 14 marathons and is currently training for her first IRONMAN triathlon. When she’s not writing, she’s out biking, running and cross-country skiing around the city lakes with her dog.