For Tim Heffington and his family, Thanksgiving Day 2014 was particularly special — it was the beginning of the first holiday season for his first grandson, who was only a few months old at the time. But as the Kansas native looked his new grandchild, a difficult realization took hold.
“I knew that, at my size, I wouldn’t be around to watch him grow up,” he says, referring to his 357-pound frame. “That really hit me. I was only 55 at the time, so I should have been looking forward to decades ahead with him and with more grandchildren to come. But, instead, I just knew that wouldn’t be the case unless something changed drastically.”
Deep down, Heffington was sure that “something” had to be his weight. Although he’d been heavy for most of his life, this was his highest weight yet. In the past, he had modest success with weight loss — but like so many others, once he quit a certain diet, the weight would come back (and then some). When he quit smoking at age 35, the pounds seemed to get added even faster.
Fortunately for Heffington, he was quickly able to zero in on food and sedentary behavior as the big culprits of his weight issues. Although his wife successfully maintained her weight thanks to regular carb tracking, Heffington embraced fast-food and super-sized portions, along with plenty of desserts. His poor eating habits and a lack of regular physical activity caused his clothing size to continue creeping upward.
That Thanksgiving Day, though, seemed to snap him out of those autopilot habits and encouraged him to start thinking about the future — one where he would not only be around for his grandson, but would actually be able to get down on the floor and play with him.
His first action was to input his regular meals into MyFitnessPal as a way to gauge his current daily calorie intake.
“Wow, was that ever an eye-opener,” he recalls. “My wife has been using MyFitnessPal for a long time, but this was the first time I’d tried it, and I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I knew I was eating a lot, but I didn’t think it was that much.”
On top of his using grandson as motivation, the shock he received from the information in MyFitnessPal gave him even more reason to make permanent changes in eating and fitness behavior. Every day, his food choices got a little better. Instead of logging fast food and highly processed meals into MyFitnessPal, his daily food logs began to consist of healthier choices and smaller portions.
He also started walking during his lunch hour. At first, he notes, he could only go a short distance before he got winded. But every day, he went a little farther than the day before, showing continuous tangible progress. By tracking food and activity with MyFitnessPal, the app kept him accountable to his journey — and his grandson. Bit by bit, the pounds started coming off.
Now, at 180 pounds, Heffington still logs his food and activity daily as a way to maintain his weight loss. He has another grandchild now, plus plenty of energy to play with them without any struggle. He knows he’s significantly increased his chances of being there for them and for many more Thanksgivings to come.
“I was fortunate in that I didn’t have that many health issues to start, even at my size,” he says. “But I also knew that the longer I put off starting this change, the bigger my chances were of developing something serious and life-threatening.”
His advice for those who want to follow in his footsteps? To think of it as a lifelong, healthy change that takes time and consistency to implement. Despite that one huge realization, the key to Heffington’s success was the little-by-little progress he made over the past four years.
“Just keep going,” he advises. “Keep tracking your food, keep walking and you’ll find that, soon, you’ll be able to do more than you could before. And you just build on that.”