How did Phillip Brenneman go from 400 pounds to being a guy who’s not fazed by holiday temptation?Literally, one step at a time – and in the beginning, not even that.
Brenneman’s first attempts at exercise took place in his chair at home. Arm circles and leg lifts were about all the Garrett man could manage when he decided, the morning after a Super Bowl party in 2015, that he had to make changes or risk missing his daughter grow up.
He never went on a diet, per se. But he did start reading labels and buying healthier food. In the beginning, that meant Lean Cuisine and Skinny Cow chocolate treats in addition to fruit, veggies and lean grilled meats. In the process of dropping 200 pounds, he’s since moved away from even so-called "healthy" processed foods and now prefers natural, organic fare he mostly prepares himself.It’s not the quick fix that people want to hear, says Brenneman, 46, who’s appeared on CNN and NBC’s "Today" show, along with being selected as fitness company XOSkin’s "Featured Athlete of the Month." But because he simply began to eliminate unhealthy behaviors and consistently worked to slowly improve his diet and exercise habits along the way, he now finds himself doing things that feel both comfortable and sustainable.
Having gotten used to the way premium foods fuel his body, treats that used to captivate him no longer seems so alluring. For Thanksgiving, Brenneman mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes and concocted a mushroom-and-cauliflower stuffing to go with the roast turkey.
Celebrating holiday meals at home, as he did this Thanksgiving, is much easier, because his family is on board with his lifestyle changes. His wife has lost 60 pounds, and his daughter, now 5, is learning to love exercise.
"We don’t even plan on desserts," he says.
But even when the family travels to celebrate with out-of-state relatives, Brenneman says it isn’t hard to stay focused because he knows what’s at stake.
He wasn’t just overweight. He’d developed type 2 diabetes. He had watched his mother die from complications from that disease. Before his post-Super Bowl premonition, he’d been on that same path – and just a few years away from the age at which she died.
Brenneman has since managed to get off insulin, metformin and the medications he was taking for cholesterol and blood pressure.
In October he completed his first half marathon, the Freedom’s Run event in West Virginia, where he was invited to share his transformation tale. In November he recorded his best 5K time yet in the Auburn Lions Club Turkey Trot, finishing third in his age group.
Though he’s backing off his training a bit before selecting his next fitness goal, he still awakens at 3:30 a.m. at least a couple days a week to get in his workouts at the DeKalb County YMCA before heading to his IT job at LSC Communications in Kendallville.
Some days he’s tired, but he reminds himself "that’s just a mindset." He knows his body will respond once he begins working out.
"Most people know what they’re doing wrong," he says. "You’ve got own up to it. I’m the one who put all that unhealthy stuff in my body."
Now he’s taking responsibility for what he eats, all year round.
Tanya Isch Caylor blogs about postfat living at www.90in9.wordpress.com. Contact her at email@example.com. This column is the personal view of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.