SPOKANE, Washington—John "Butch" Stokes is half the man he used to be. Acquaintances walk by without recognizing him, family members wonder whether he's sick, and his doctor is stunned by his plummeting numbers.
Butch himself couldn't be happier. "I feel good, and I want to stay that way," he says.
More precisely, Butch is 58 percent of the man he was three years ago, when he weighed a scale-busting 340 pounds—morbidly obese even for his 6-foot, 2-inch frame.
He'd had a weight problem most of his life (he's just shy of 49), but curbed it by jogging. That ended when he blew his knees out. His weight spun out of control because his appetite never got word that he had stopped running. "I kept eating like I was exercising," he says.
He knew he was in rough shape and heading further downhill. He tried crash diets. None worked, and all made him "no fun to live with."
Finally, Butch's doctor presented him with figures showing he was a heart attack waiting to happen. Although he had taken drugs for four years to tame a cholesterol problem, his lipid levels remained stubbornly stratospheric: His total cholesterol was 247 (anything above 240 is dangerous), and his triglyceride level was 885 (it should have been under 150). His waistline, at 56 inches, rivaled the width of a Toyota Corolla.
Moreover, he had become a grandfather, and he knew he was in no shape to spend quality time with the new additions to his family. The evidence, he says, was "life-altering." He decided to try something new.
During earlier diets, Butch had found it easy to cheat because there was no reliable way to keep score. He knew that if he was going to succeed, he needed a referee. And that's what he found in DietPower.
Developed by a magazine editor with a weight problem, DietPower is a computer program that keeps track of your intake of calories and 32 other nutrients as you record your meals. It also monitors calories burned in exercise. By comparing your calorie intake with your weight change, it calculates how much you should eat each day to maintain your weight—or, in Butch's case, to reach a goal weight on a target date. (For details, click here.)
On January 10, 2001, Butch began faithfully logging his foods and exercise and watching his Weight History graph and calorie budget with DietPower. "The program keeps it all visible," he explains. Even if he eats something as innocent as an orange, he charts it.
Besides calories, DietPower monitored Butch's intake of 32 other vital nutrients. These cover everything from vitamin A to zinc—including saturated fat, which is important not only for weight control but also for lowering blood cholesterol.
"I found that my diet, although I thought it was balanced, was in a shambles," he says. "I had been skipping breakfast and lunch thinking it was cutting back on my intake. Much to my surprise, DietPower showed I was sitting around at night eating anything I could get my hands on." He also learned that "ordering the chicken sandwich at Wendy's didn't necessarily mean I was getting 'health' food."
On the exercise front, Butch substituted walking for jogging. It started slowly, a mile or so a day, but then he got "hooked." He bought a pedometer to measure his speed and distance more accurately, and now he's up to six miles a day.
Then he discovered that bicycling wasn't so rough on his knees; now he'll ride between nine and 24 miles at a stint. Although he lives in the splendor of eastern Washington state, he had never been the outdoors type—until he started losing weight and learned that he could hike painlessly. Now he and his wife, Sara, are climbing just about everything in sight.
Today, Butch is down to 198 pounds. Friends "have seen me kind of dwindle away," he says. He tells people he's lost the equivalent of "one of the Backstreet Boys." His waistline is down to 36 inches. His cholesterol has sunk to 98, his triglycerides to 48 (both desirable). "I am off the medications for both," he reports. "My doctor is amazed."
He has no special secrets. "You have to watch what you eat and get exercise," he explains simply. And he knows he has to stick to it. When he was laid off from his job as an information-technology manager, "I knew it would be easy to sit home and snack," he says. But the lure of the outdoors trumped that of the refrigerator, and he kept his program going without a hitch. With his computer keeping an eye on his nutrition, the task was easier.
Today, Stokes has a new job managing 16 people at a local network design company. Although it's a desk job, he's maintaining his weight by using DietPower. "Best of all," he says, "my migraine headaches are virtually gone and my stamina is at a level that lets me get out and really enjoy life."
He does have one big problem, though: what to do with a closet full of 56-inch pants.
(To email Stokes, click here.)« Back To Success Stories index