William Lockley is 35 years old and 6 feet tall. Back in March 2007, at more than 300 pounds, he began his weight-loss journey and spent the next nine months losing 140 pounds. But his good intentions took a turn for the worse: In his efforts to lose weight, he developed anorexia. By January 2008, he was at his lowest weight — 162 pounds. At this time, he realized he had developed an eating disorder, and he‘s since emerged from anorexia to adopt a healthy mindset around eating and fitness. Today, William weighs a healthy 205 pounds. This is the story of his journey.
The Turning Point
Some people try on pants that no longer fit and decide a change is required. For others, it takes much more drastic measures. My turning point was a sudden heart attack at 27.
I was overweight my whole life. As far back as early childhood, I was always the biggest of all of my friends and family. Despite being overweight, I remained active and played whatever sport was in season. But no matter how many sports I played, I never lost weight. So to me, as a young kid, this was just who I was. I felt I was destined to be fat. This is a mindset that a large majority of our population faces.
Having played football all throughout high school and college, a heart attack was the last thing I thought could ever happen. Once my college football career came to an end, so did my exercise. I ate a certain way my whole life to fill a need (playing offensive line), fill a void (the idea that I was “just the fat kid”), and as a way to cope with my perceived reality (that no matter what I did, I was destined to be overweight) — and my eating remained the same as it always had been. Within five years of my playing career ending, my weight ballooned to well over 300 pounds. I don’t know exactly how much over 300, because all of the scales I owned stopped at a maximum of 300.
The heart attack woke me up and set me on the path to change. I began my journey in March of 2007, and by Jan. 1, 2008, I had lost 140 pounds. But my story doesn’t end there.
Once I was able to work out, I contacted a good friend of mine who was active and worked out daily. What made my situation worse was that when my college career ended, I became certified as a strength and conditioning coach. So I had always known what to do, but with the demons of being overweight fighting in my head, I wasn’t practicing what I was preaching.
Like most people who start a new program, I was gung-ho — ready to take on the world! I didn’t take into account the fact that I’d been inactive for five years, or the fact that added weight made exercise more difficult. I felt defeated once again. I realized that where I was physically was not the same as where I was mentally. This was a lesson I learned day 1. Curled up in a fetal position, I felt like I was dying, but I knew that it wasn’t always going to feel that way. I had to push through and look at the big picture. Win the day, win the workout … win each set and build off of it. Learning how to balance my emotions took me further than any workout. One of my favorite sayings is, “Never let the highs be too high and never let the lows be too low.”
The way I approached my weight loss was with relentless optimism mixed with a dash of realism. I’ll be the first to admit that the way I lost weight wasn’t perfect. While trying to overcome one kind of eating disorder — the one that led to my obesity — I actually went to the other extreme and developed anorexia for a period of time. Fortunately, I no longer am anorexic and have developed a much healthier perspective of food and health — more on that later.
To me, “diets” will always fail because a “diet” is a set of rules and restrictions for what you can and cannot have. No one wants to be told that they cannot have something and the façade can only go on for so long. What’s necessary is a gradual lifestyle change.
My motivation was simple: I just didn’t want to die. During my weight loss, I originally set a goal of 215 pounds. Once I hit that, I reconfigured my goal and decided a six-pack was something I wanted to see if I could achieve.
Along the way, my friends and family would tell me how proud they were and what an inspiration I was. While this fueled me, it also added pressure to the situation. I didn’t want to let anyone down. Going back to balance proved incredibly difficult as my weight loss had become an obsession. It drove me to the point that I became a hermit. Friends would invite me out to dinner, and unless I knew exactly what was on the menu and I was able to count the exact macros I could consume, I wouldn’t go.
Baking and cooking became a hobby of mine. I would cook for everyone and when the time came to eat, I’d usually default to the excuse of not being hungry after being around the food for so long. Again, the method I used to lose the weight was dangerous.
It’s been years since I’ve lost and kept the weight off, but every day it’s a struggle to keep myself in check. I don’t really restrict anything that I’m craving but at the same time I don’t go all out and devour food the way I used to.
What pulled me out of anorexia in 2008 was having a close friend pull me aside and hit me with the hard truth. Yes, everyone was proud of how far I’d come, but whispers of, “Is he sick?” really got to me. And seeing a picture of myself at my extreme lowest weight slapped me back to reality. Not only that, but pushing myself during one workout to the point of extreme dehydration and dizziness — so much so that I couldn’t stand up to take a shower — all because I wanted to go out to dinner with my friends and enjoy a meal, made me realize how unhealthy I had gotten. I didn’t make it to dinner that night, and it was one of the tipping points that made me step back and question what it was all for if I couldn’t enjoy my life. Slowly, I began to change my eating and workout habits until I became more moderate, knowing that extremes are a dangerous place to live.
What I’ve learned about maintaining my weight is that it is only as hard as you make it. Sure, there will be instances where you slip up, but you must create balance or the scales will tip to the side of failure. I take one activity and create a habit from it. I make an effort to get at least 20 to 30 minutes of some physical activity a day, no matter how busy I get.
For someone who has always had weight issues, being on top of my daily activity is very important. Mike Tyson has a saying that I love: “Everyone has a plan until they get hit in the mouth.” This quote applies to every aspect of life, but especially health and fitness. For those of us who’ve struggled with weight issues, the line is a lot narrower. Being overweight is an addiction and it’s not easy to escape. It’s the daily checks and balances that help you manage the addiction.
William before his weight loss (left) and after (right). (Photos courtesy of William Lockley)
The way I eat now is that I try to keep food one step removed from its natural source. Instead of having instant mashed potatoes, for example, I’ll make them from scratch using real potatoes. The key here is to stick with foods that are as minimally processed as possible. One thing I’d recommend is to allow yourself to have treats. If you’re craving something, have a small amount to satiate you, and then move on.
In terms of exercise now, I train four to five times a week and my program depends on my specific goal.
I don’t plan out indulgences or “cheats” because if I’m craving something, I allow myself a little leeway in satiating it. There’s nothing worse than telling yourself you cannot have something that you want. Self-control is important, but restriction can be the killer of all programs.
The things I still struggle with to this day are savory foods! They’re just so good and many are so calorically dense, it’s frightening. Another struggle I have is body dysmorphia and realizing that losing 140 pounds isn’t going to be a quick fix. Although I know I’m not morbidly obese or anorexic anymore, sometimes it is hard to see yourself for the new you because you’ve been trapped in a foreign body for so many years. Over time, it will get easier and slowly fade. But, from my experience, there will always be some scars that never heal. It’s learning to manage the thoughts and emotions that will either keep them at bay or have you fall back down the rabbit hole into the vicious cycle of weight change.
Whenever I feel that I’m slipping back into old habits, I remind myself that this is not just about me anymore. It’s about anyone and everyone that I can inspire through my journey.
I believe we are all called to do something great in this world. We all have our gifts and skill sets. My mission in life is to be an example to those who feel like they’re destined to fail because they always have. I’ve been in their shoes and I made it through, and so can you. I’m no different. This is something a lot of trainers aren’t able to relate to and is one reason I think there’s a huge disconnect in my industry between clients and trainers. It’s hard to empathize with someone when you don’t understand their journey. Fortunately, I’ve been on both ends — obesity and anorexia — and through learning balance and understanding that every day won’t be perfect, change can happen if you get out of your own way and let yourself become the person you’re meant to be.
I currently work as Director of Personal Training for an on-demand training company called TRN. What we do at TRN is go to the members’ location of choice, whether it’s their home, a nearby park, or whatever location they want to keep it convenient, and so that we can eliminate that overwhelming feeling of being uncomfortable as a newcomer in a gym environment. TRN is basically like the Uber of fitness because we are completely on demand and convenient. I love being able to help people in this way.
One piece of advice I always give to people is to take things one day at a time. The weight didn’t pile on overnight and it won’t come off overnight, either. When setting out on a weight-loss journey, the overall goal may overwhelm you. Take each day for what it is … one day. Take each pound for what it is … one pound. Take each day and pound and string them together and before you know it, you’ll look back and be able to add up all those pounds into your goal.
“Your story is the key that can unlock someone else’s prison.”