A cancer diagnosis is a devastating moment for anyone, and when it happens to someone you love, the effects can be far-reaching. Dave Hudson, a 48-year-old electronic security installer based in Great Britain, experienced this first-hand when his mother was diagnosed and he slipped into a deep depression, making it difficult for him to take care of himself.
When his mother passed in 2005, things only got worse. Hudson, who was already living on a diet of take-out and junk food, began to gain weight rapidly. Eventually, he could only walk a few steps before needing a break to catch his breath.
“My knees and hips were in constant pain, and I really struggled to do my job, since it could be quite physical,” says Hudson. “I also suffered from sleep apnea and found it a constant struggle just to breathe normally.”
Eight years later and sitting at 484 pounds, Hudson reached his breaking point. During a doctor’s visit to address his swollen ankles, his physician noticed the massive strain he was putting on his heart and wasted no time mincing words: If he kept going down this road, Hudson would not live to see his 50th birthday.
A new grandfather, Hudson says it was the just the wake-up call he needed. “I wanted to be around to see my grandson, Malachi, grow up, but most of all, I wanted to do granddad stuff with him like take him to the park, kick a ball around and play games,” he says. “I just couldn’t do any of that.”
Right then and there, he committed to getting in shape, and his first step was to throw out traditional dieting entirely. He had tried and failed at numerous diets in the past, and he knew this time he needed to make a permanent, lifelong change to his lifestyle.
Hudson began by focusing on his nutrition and making sustainable adjustments to his daily intake. He cut out alcohol, stopped ordering take-out and began to cook everything at home using fresh, non-processed ingredients, which he credits as being the biggest difference maker in his health. He also found new ways to hold himself accountable. He downloaded MyFitnessPal and planned all of his meals, while also joining his local Slimming World, a UK-based weight-loss organization, which helped him stay focused with weekly weigh-ins.
Hudson also joined a gym and slowly became more comfortable using the equipment. “I found doing impact sessions with free weights was really starting to tone my body and chew off the fat,” he says. As his fitness improved, he even started training for a 5K.
His body began responding positively to his efforts. While shopping one day, he spotted a 2XL sweatshirt he liked and decided to buy it as motivation. Hudson, who typically needed to go to a specialty shop or order clothes online to fit his 6XL frame, was shocked to find the sweatshirt already fit perfectly. It was the first time he knew, without a doubt, his body was changing.
“I loved that new top so much that I took the wife for a night out, which we hadn’t done for a very long time, just because I didn’t feel ashamed of myself anymore and I wanted to show off my new top,” he says. “It fit for about four weeks, and then even that started to look baggy.”
Hudson eventually lost a whopping 238 pounds, and in June 2014, he was a finalist for Slimming World’s Man of the Year award. But the biggest reward for Hudson has been corresponding with those who also want to overhaul their lifestyle. “It feels great to help others who are in the same situation I was in,” he says.
His top tip for anyone who wants to get in shape is to join some kind of group, like an online weight-loss community or in-person club, to swap ideas, motivate each other and even share failures in a supportive space. And for those who have an especially large weight-loss goal, just as he did, Hudson encourages those people to focus on putting one foot in front of the other.
“Set mini goals each week instead of fixating on the mammoth loss in front of you,” says Hudson. “When I did this, I was easily achieving my goals without getting overwhelmed at how much I had to lose overall. You’ll be surprised how much it all adds up.”
Hudson continues to focus on his health by staying active, monitoring his weight and logging his nutrition on MyFitnessPal, where he has found another supportive community. “A lot of the friends I’ve recommended it to love it, so we swap our saved meals and have friendly competitions between us to see who burned the most calories or walked the most steps.”