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3 steps this dad took to lose 55 pounds and become a better role model

When Joel West's son started playing sports, West realized his weight was holding him back. He started exercising and eating better and lost 55 pounds.
by Meghan Holohan / / Source: TODAY

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Adulting is hard, Joel West realized after he graduated from college, landed his first job and got married. Overwhelmed by all of his new grown-up responsibilities, West ditched the gym in favor of relaxing after work every day.

“Exercise was an easy thing to give up,” West, 39, told TODAY. “After work, you want to go home and eat dinner and watch TV.”

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As he took on more responsibilities at work, and he and his wife started a family, West kept gaining weight and overlooked exercise and healthy eating habits. In the back of his mind, there was always a voice reminding him he wasn’t happy he weighed 265 pounds at 6 feet tall. But he ignored it.

“I just knew I wasn’t healthy,” he said.

When his son started playing sports, West realized he needed to change. He wanted to play ball and coach his son’s teams, but being overweight made that difficult. He wanted to be a role model for his kids.

“I want to be better — a better human being and a better dad,” he said.

Skipping the gym and eating fast food and meals from restaurants made it easy for Joel West to slowly gain weight.
Skipping the gym and eating fast food and meals from restaurants made it easy for Joel West to slowly gain weight.Courtesy Joel West

In 2015, he decided to make some changes. He joined a D-1 Training near his home in Franklin, Tennessee, for a three-month trial. Still feeling crunched for time in his day-to-day life, he woke up early to take exercise classes at 5 a.m.

“That was literally the only time I could find time,” he said.

He visited the gym five times a week. Soon, he realized the early morning workouts were pointless if he was going to eat junk and fast food all the time. So he began focusing on eating lean protein, complex carbs, vegetables and fruit.

“You (don't) want to negate that work by going out and having a cheeseburger,” he said.

Almost immediately, West could tell his new lifestyle changed how he looked and felt.

“If I eat horrible food, I feel it,” he said. “When clothes fit better, that is also a great motivator.”

After starting his first job and getting married, West felt overwhelmed by his new responsibilities and let his health slip.
After starting his first job and getting married, West felt overwhelmed by his new responsibilities and let his health slip.Courtesy Joel West

After three months, he was hooked. In 18 months, West shed 55 pounds. He’s maintained his weight loss and now focuses on building muscle.

“Once I felt comfortable with where my weight was, I stopped stepping on my scale,” he said. “I am more in tune with my body.”

Here is his advice to those hoping to lose weight:

1. Accept that you don’t have all the answers.

Wanting to get healthy starts from a place of “self-defeat,” West said. He gained weight because he did not understand how to eat healthy or exercise properly. Some people feel overwhelmed by this and it stalls them. But West asked for help.

“You don’t go on a road trip without a map,” he said.

One of the reasons West dedicated himself to losing weight was that he wanted to be healthy enough to coach his son's sports teams.
One of the reasons West dedicated himself to losing weight was that he wanted to be healthy enough to coach his son's sports teams.Courtesy Joel West

2. Make yourself a priority.

Like many parents, West put himself after his family, which made it easy for him to justify skipping the gym. He simply didn’t have the time. When he started exercising and eating healthy foods, he realized he had more time than he thought.

“This provided me an opportunity to re-prioritize. I am coaching my son’s baseball and my daughter’s soccer (teams),” he said. “(I realized) it was all doable.”

3. Find what works for you.

“Find a system to help you with that journey,” he said. “For it to not just be a phase or a fad, I feel like there needs to be some structure of what you do.”

After losing 55 pounds, West loves having more energy to enjoy time with his family.
After losing 55 pounds, West loves having more energy to enjoy time with his family.Courtesy Joel West

For West, the instructors and the friends from the gym keep him motivated — and help him when he feels stuck.

For more inspiration, check out our My Weight-Loss Journey page. To start your own weight-loss journey, join our Start TODAY newsletter.

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