When Jarred Aslett thought about losing weight, he had a dream goal: He wanted to hike the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, a 2,650-mile trek, which runs the length of the West Coast. At 480 pounds, Aslett couldn’t imagine it. But after losing nearly half his body weight, he’s training for the hike and he will start in March.
“The PCT was such a bizarre idea … It was something I wanted to do. But it wasn’t something that was concrete or something I even believed that I could,” Aslett, 33, of Twin Falls, Idaho, told TODAY. “I credit ... removing the option to fail from my mindset.”
Aslett started losing weight when his engagement ended and he took a closer look at his life. He had been slowly gaining pounds since graduating college and had weighed 480 pounds. That made doing things that he loved, such as hiking, surfing and snowboarding, too difficult. At times, he drank too much alcohol to cope. After evaluating his health, he reduced how much he was drinking and signed up for a gym membership while focusing on his mental well-being.
“I also went to therapy for the first time and started dealing with a lot of issues that led me to the over drinking and the unhealthy habits,” Aslett said. “I was able to just focus on my health and get after it.”
The first thing he did was skip the extra cocktails.
“A lot of my weight gain came from drinking, that was just drinking to escape reality,” he explained. “I never quit completely, just got it under control.”
At the same time, he joined his brother at the gym. The first time, they worked out for an hour and a half. While Aslett could move for 90 minutes, he still struggled both physically and mentally.
“I used to be an athlete, too, so I was familiar with the gym and lifting. But the first time in the gym was very emotional when it hit me how far I had let myself go,” he said. “I wasn’t lifting weights as heavy as I used to and it just all hit me that I have got a long road ahead of me.”
He continued going for five days a week and he’d focus on different muscle groups each day. He also started walking his dog every day.
“We just walked a mile and that would be good,” Aslett said. “Now we’re doing 4 or 5 miles a day, no problem, and I take her on hikes on the weekends.”
Eventually he started riding an exercise bike at home thanks, in part, to the COVID-19 shutdown. He started with a 5-mile ride and worked his way up to 30 miles.
“At the beginning I was doing a lot more cardio,” Aslett said. “Once I started working out, we went into lockdown so I built a home gym in my garage and 90% of the weight I’ve lost was done in that home gym with just very basic things I had.”
At the same time, Aslett also changed what he was eating, cutting down on junk and fast food and reevaluating his portion sizes.
“I wasn’t a binge eater or anything like that. I was just eating all the wrong things. I was eating just like convenient meals, like frozen pizzas or macaroni and cheese or fast food,” he said. “I started counting my calories and the whole time I didn’t do a specific diet — it was just a calorie deficit.”
Over the past year and a half, Aslett lost nearly half his weight and now weighs 245 pounds. He hopes to lose about 20 more pounds before he starts the PCT.
“My main focus now has been training and making sure that I have the ... strength and endurance and stamina to complete the trail,” he said. “I’m ready to go so I’m hoping that everything goes as planned.”
But there’s been a recent transformation in how he eats: When participating in such a long, grueling hike, getting enough calories becomes a priority. Throughout his weight loss, he’s been eating “high-volume, low-calorie foods.” While hiking, he’ll have to do the opposite.
“That’s been a very bizarre part,” he said. “It has to be high-calorie, low-volume because you want it as light as possible and packing as much calories as possible. Because you’re going to be burning anywhere between 5,000 to 10,000 calories a day hiking.”
Spending this time focused on healthy eating, though, has given him a better understanding of nutrition.
“I’m able to do the research but it’s a completely different way of eating,” Aslett said. “The mental aspect of it, I haven’t really tested that part of it yet, being able to consume that amount of calories and food and not worry about it.”
Being able to be active and enjoy life makes his hard work feel worth it and keeps him motivated.
“Being able to get back to doing things I love has, by far, been the most incredible part about losing weight. I’m snowboarding again and surfing and skating,” he said. “It’s all hitting me at once that this is really happening.”
He shares advice to others hoping to make changes to their diet or exercise routine.
1. ‘There’s no other option.’
Instead of wondering whether he wants to eat healthy foods or go to the gym, Aslett simply knows that he will.
“When I wake up every day it’s not ‘Am I going to the gym today?’ ‘Am I going to eat healthy?’ It’s, ‘I am going to the gym today,’” Aslett said. “There’s no other options. And I’m going to eat the right foods today because not reaching my goals is not an option.”
2. It takes more than one day.
While Aslett has been consistently losing weight and hasn’t hit a plateau yet, his weight loss has slowed. That can feel really frustrating, but he continues to focus on his healthy habits.
“If you go to the gym one day and then come home, you’re not going to notice a difference. If you go to the gym for two months in a row and come home, you’re going to notice a difference,” he said. “It’s having the mindset of knowing one day is not going to make or break you. It’s being able to do the right things a majority of the time.”
3. Cultivate a healthy inner dialogue.
When Aslett first decided to lose weight, his motivation came from a “darker” place. But with a lot of introspection he realized he wants to accomplish his goals to enrich his life.
“In the beginning, I was doing all of this because I hated the way that I was. I hated the way that I looked. I hated the way I was living my life,” he said. “It’s evolved … to where now I just want to be able to do the things I want to do. I never want to have to consider whether my weight was going to hold me back.”