ivWho: LeeRoy Allan Swackhammer
Occupation: Personal Support Worker
City: Prince Edward County, Ont.
By The Numbers: 367 pounds at my heaviest, 236 pounds currently, for a total weight loss of just over 130 pounds.
The Weight Gain: From birth up to my mid-teens, I was a normal, average weight. I was very active, involved in baseball, soccer, volleyball and wrestling.
In my mid-teens, I started to put on weight. At the time, I didn't know or understand what was going on. As a child, I was emotionally, physically, and sexually assaulted. As a result of these traumas, I acted out and took on the crown of class clown, keeping everybody at a safe distance. I turned to sports as a temporary relief to the turmoil and pain inside. I pushed my emotions and feelings down. I was confused and embarrassed and felt guilty and ashamed.
Final Straw: Over the years, there were multiple final straws. In my early 30s, I met my intelligent and beautiful wife. In April 2009, I had the first of three heart attacks. Later that year, my wife started having seizures due to a brain tumour. She's no longer able to live at home. So, for all intents and purposes, in 2016 I became a single parent of seven children. It was the year of discovery and the beginning of recovery.
The Plan of Attack: I had to stay focused, develop discipline, and be honest with myself. I learned to accept help and compliments.
It took nine to 10 months, but in that time I lost more than 70 pounds.
The biggest motivation for me was my own well-being. I had always been busy taking care of my family, my friends, and my community. This is good as long as it's not detrimental to myself, my wife and children, and my fellow TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) and KOPS (Keep Off Pounds Sensibly) members. In one small way, it helped when I encouraged others that there is hope to meet your goals.
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The Exercise Factor: I made a tough decision to hire a trainer for eight weeks. The goal was to make sure I was doing the right amount and type of exercises safely. Providing for seven children and helping my ill wife and on a fixed budget meant sacrifices not only by me but also by my family.
Before I got a trainer, I believed I was very active. In reality, not so much. On one hand, I was busy running around taking care of seven kids, but unfortunately, that doesn't equal exercise. In those days, I would often fall back into bed and sleep the day away.
"I was confused and embarrassed and felt guilty and ashamed."
The Food Element: I started to drink lemon water (lemons, cucumber and mint) and eat real, unprocessed food. I ate less food overall and found real food filled me up better than junk or processed food.
I set a goal of 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day, depending on the level of my activity.
I have a sweet tooth and as a result, I cut out desserts completely. I could only do this because I knew it was temporary and that I would bring back my desserts once I developed a good discipline of healthy portions. I used desserts as a motivating reward.
"I deeply regret the time I spent being angry at God. I regret that my children didn't have the full attention of their father. I regret not asking for help sooner. I regret not being honest with myself."
The Current Day-to-Day: These days, I exercise six days a week. I walk twice a day for 30 to 45 minutes each time three times a week and do a 45- to 60-minute workout with light weights.
I no longer fall back into bad habits for the day and I now have an abundance of energy. I can keep up with most of life. I'm also off my insulin for diabetes.
Being mindful of what I'm eating and why helps me maintain my weight. I don't beat up myself up anymore, but work to build myself up.
Looking back on my journey I can admit I have some regrets. I deeply regret the time I spent being angry at God. I regret that my children didn't have the full attention of their father. I regret not asking for help sooner. I regret not being honest with myself.
With that said, I am thankful and I'm excited and a little bit nervous that now by the grace of God, I have family, friends, and a great medical system helping me on my road to success! I'm thankful for my fellow TOPS and KOPS members.
My advice for those struggling is: be willing to embrace change. Ask for and accept help. Take small steps, one at a time. Keep going and don't check out of life. Find something that you are thankful about. Find something that you can be excited about and be willing to share your journey. It's in sharing that we help each other reach our goals.
Oh and for those who hate drinking water, add lemon, cucumber and mint. You can add other fruits, too.
Note: This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
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