Ian Sullivan was working four jobs, spending long hours away from home, and he still wasn’t getting ahead. In fact, his routine was killing him. While working at the local mall, Sullivan relied on an expedient diet—fast food and sodas—just to get himself through the day. By the time he came home each day, he was spent. Some days, he was lucky to get home, as he found himself nodding off at the wheel on his short drive. He wasn’t going out. He wasn’t spending time with his wife. He was 320 pounds and miserable.
Over the next four years, Sullivan would drop almost 150 pounds. His moment of clarity came in October 2015 when his doctor informed him he was pre-diabetic. The doctor’s prescription: Lose 20 pounds by the end of the year. Sullivan wasn’t able to do it. Then he lost his job. He took up work in a factory. “It was a blessing in disguise,” he says. “This was where my weight loss journey began; I made the decision never to exceed 300 pounds.”
Sullivan set a small goal of dropping 2-3 pounds each week. At first, he was overly restrictive, his calorie deficient diet, he admits, stemming more from fear than health consciousness. So he and his wife set out a plan. They determined Sullivan’s ideal diet: oatmeal and yogurt for breakfast, grilled or baked chicken with jasmine rice and veggies for lunch and dinner. Snacks would be limited to fruit, granola bars, and rice cakes before 4 p.m.
“I’m a creature of habit so I literally ate this same combination for multiple years since it was working,” says Sullivan. But that discipline required practice. “I had to build discipline to turn down foods and be strict. I always would say my lunch box saved my life. I would carry it everywhere to ensure I didn’t make mistakes.”
His diet under control, Sullivan then hit the gym. He hadn’t found results doing simple cardio and strength training, so he joined a group bootcamp at work. The HIIT training of the bootcamp did what strength training alone couldn’t. Sullivan had a trainer make copies of the workouts, which he would perform 2-3 days each week. The more weight he lost, the more active he became. And then, to Sullivan’s surprise, he started to enjoy it. HIIT became addictive.
There were, of course, sacrifices. Sullivan had to find time for his workouts that wouldn’t cut into family hours. He decided to wake up at 4:30 a.m., work out, and then return home before work. But it helped him build discipline and drive, he says.
As the months ticked by, his clothes became baggier, his energy became higher, and his spirits lifted. He felt less depressed and less anxious. His self-esteem had never been higher. “My relationship with my wife is better than ever,” he says. “I have two kids that I can be present and active with. These things I couldn’t imagine would happen four years ago at 320 pounds.”