While this space usually features my health and fitness journey, including my progress with personal trainer Matthew R. Lister at Align Private Training in Redding, I also like to share others' paths to success, too.
Today, please join me in welcoming 21-year-old Jason Brown, whose story about his journey to health and happiness is sure to inspire you.
Q: Hi, Jason. Welcome to A News Cafe.com. First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Hi Doni! Thanks for having me on A News Cafe.com. A little bit about me. Well, to start off my name is Jason Brown. I am an only child and I grew up in Mt. Shasta. When I was younger and in the 4th grade we moved to Happy Valley. I attended school there and graduated from West Valley High School in 2014.
Currently I'm 21 years old, and attending Shasta College to get my associates degree in Business Administration. I will be transferring to Southern Oregon University in Ashland, Ore., to attain my bachelor's degree.
Q: Thanks, Jason. I think you're the youngest person I've interviewed for The Weight is Over. But the reason I'm talking to you today is because you're an inspiration to so many people, of any age. But before you get to that, can you tell what you were like when you were younger, up through high school, in terms of health and fitness?
Growing up I was always one of the biggest kids in my class. I remember the freshman orientation. When the football coaches saw me they immediately wanted me to play football, but I wasn't sure if I really wanted to.
I saw a lot of my friends were going to play and so I decided to give it shot. It was very difficult and I quickly realized how out of shape I was when running in the Redding heat over summer, drenched in my own sweat and chugging endless amounts of water. Being one of the linemen was perfect for me because it involved a lot of guys that were my size, so I struggled with them together and developed great friendships over the years. During high school I knew I was overweight but I didn't see it as much of a problem during the time because I was trying to stay big for football and not get tossed around by our opponents.
Q: You had a lot of success in high school because of being athlete. Did you change after high school?
I would say a part of me did change and some parts didn't. What changed for me, now that I'm out of high school, was my focus for football. I started to realize that it didn't fit the needs that I wanted in my life. Football was something I really enjoyed, because I was with my friends, and building bonds with people, but I knew it wasn't something I wanted to do the rest of my life.
I knew I needed to make my own path, and always had a goal to graduate college, but wasn't sure what I wanted to major in. So I went to Shasta College, which is the closest community college around Redding.
What didn't change after school was my eating habits. I was still eating the same as I did before, but because I was not working out or going to practice, I started to put more weight on.
Q: For many people who go through a major health and fitness and life transformation, there was a pivotal moment that caused something to click in the brain and just say, OK, no more of being like this. I want to change. For me, it was seeing a horrible photo of me on FB. That did it for me, to see how I really looked. How about you? What triggered your desire to change?
It was in January of 2016. I remember my best friend Marc and I were watching TV and talking about New Year's resolutions and stuff. We both agreed that we really didn't have any, and then he looked at me dead in the eyes and said, "Can I ask you a serious question?" I told him go ahead, and he told me he noticed I was getting a lot bigger. He asked if I wanted to make losing weight a New Year's resolution. He said he would help me lose weight if I needed, too.
I agreed with him, and said, 'Yeah, that would be cool," but figuring it was just something to be said at the moment, but not really putting any action into it.
For the next couple weeks after Marc said that, it hit me really hard. It made me realize how much I was really gaining weight, and it made me feel disappointed in myself. I knew I needed to start making changes with myself in order to be happy with who I am.
Q: That was pretty neat how your friend reached out to you. That took a lot of courage on his part, too. Then what? What changes did you make in your life?
Well, I knew I needed to exercise a lot more instead of being on the couch. My first day I told myself to try and run to my mailbox, which is little under a half a mile from my house. I ran to the mailbox and almost passed out because I was so exhausted. Then it hit me that I still needed to make it back home. Walking back home, soaked in sweat and dragging my feet, I had a smile on my face, knowing that I needed to start pushing myself more to achieve my goal.
I started to push myself more each day. Instead of trying to exercise three times a week, I made it five days a weeks. Also I knew I needed to eat a lot healthier and to avoid fast food as much as possible. I cut out sodas and other sugary drinks and focused on drinking a lot of water. I started to limit my food portions. I started to figure out when I was actually hungry, and when I was just craving food because of boredom, or seeing other people eat.
Q: The fact that you were able to tap into the awareness of when you were hungry and when you were eating for some other reason, that's awesome that you figured that out. And I also know what you're talking about regarding seeing other people eat. I don't know about you, but sometimes seeing a skinny person eat something that's on my no-eat list will make me think, 'Look at that skinny woman. She gets to have ice cream. Why can't I have ice cream?' That's a slippery slope that can lead to straying away from healthy eating. So, good for you!
Can tell us about the before-and-after Jason ... meaning, what was life like before, and what's it like now?
Life before my weight loss was a lot different than it is now. It's been a year since I decided to lose weight, and I've lost a little over 100 lbs.
Last year I was not happy with my self image and knew I needed to change. One thing I've really noticed is my self confidence has dramatically changed. Before, I always put myself down, saying I couldn't do certain obstacles because of my weight, or of some other excuse.
I didn't do any crazy diets or insane workout plans. I knew what I needed to eat. I figured out that I'd set limitations for myself that I needed to break in order to be happy.
I never knew I could lose this much weight in a year, but I'm happy I did, and I strive to complete more goals that I put my mind too.
Now I'm able to stay a lot more positive, be able to push through, and if that fails, I'm able to find other ways to make it work.
I've found out a lot about me through this weight loss, such as being way more active and having more energy to be able to do more things throughout the day. I found the love for the outdoors, and have been hiking a lot more.
I also love to adventure out and find cool places such as waterfalls or places with killer views of nature. Overall. I'm happy with myself and stopped trying to compare myself to others, which can be difficult.
Q: Yes, I know what you mean, and I have a favorite saying that addresses it: 'Comparison is the thief of joy.'
But you must hear this all the time now: You look awesome, Jason!
And I'll bet you feel it, too. How have people reacted to the new Jason?
Thank you! I do feel better about myself. When I posted that transformation picture on social media, I was blown away by all the comments I got. I never excepted that to happen. When people said I was an inspiration, and that I looked great, it hit me really hard.
It made me feel good and made me proud of the people I have in my life. Some reactions of people seeing me in person can be funny to me. Some people I've approached, just saying, "What's up," and they look at me like, 'Who is this guy?' and then it clicks, and then they freak out and say they didn't recognize me.
A lot of my friends that I hang with daily forget I was that overweight until I show them old pictures. Then they are blown away.
I'm very thankful for the support people have given me through this whole process. Their support helps me keep going when there are moments I want to give up.
Q: Jason, that's pretty profound. I know that for me, and many of my work-out buddies, we know that a lot of our success has been because of our relationships with one another and emotional support. It's been crucial to my success, and it sounds like it's true for you, too. We can do the work alone, but having the support of people who care about us makes it so much easier.
Back to you, though. What's been the most difficult part of this transformation?
The hardest part of my transformation was breaking the mental barriers I had for myself. When I'm running to a certain location, and know I want to give up and stop to catch my breath, I keep saying in my head, Push, keep going, you're almost there. Although this is the hardest, it's the most rewarding as well.
One thing that was difficult was trying to not to binge on food when hanging with friends. A lot of my friends are fit, so when they eat huge meals or want to get fast food I have been able to try and find healthier alternatives or not eat and just go with them and drink water, which sucks, but I get used to it.
Q: That last sentence just about sums up this process, and the "secret" to your success, right? Working hard, making sacrifices and resisting temptation sucks, but you get used to it. And it's worth it. You are living proof that it's possible. You're doing it! I'm so impressed.
So, how about current goals? What's next?
With all the hiking I've done lately, I've wanted to hike Castle Crag since it's pretty close to Redding and it has some amazing views. Also one goal of mine is to visit some national parks, with Yosemite being the first park on the list. Many of my friends have explored some of those parks and have shared with me all the experiences they have had, which makes me super jealous! I'm planning to go check out Yosemite for my spring break.
Another goal I'm working on is trying to go to the gym more often and get my body more defined. Slowly but surely it's working, but I want to keep pushing.
Q: Those are admirable goals, Jason.
What would you say to someone who's where you used to be, who feels frustrated and hopeless?
I would say keep embracing the change and focus on why would it be good to do all this in the first place. At the moment of struggle you want to give up, but do not let yourself get beat.
My transformation was more a battle mentally than it was physical. If you're not happy go find ways to make you happy and do it. Do not push it off to the next day, because that next day of change may never come.
One phrase that stuck with me was, 'Every day you wait is just another day wasted.' I remember hearing that one day when I didn't want to work out because I was being lazy. It made so much sense to me that it actually made me get up from my bed and go work out. I've done that a couple of times now, just inspired by those words.
One thing I have learned, too, is that not all your days are going to be perfect. Of course there are days where you can binge on junk food, but it takes self discipline to able to get it out of your system once in a while and maintain the goals you put for yourself. The only person who can make you truly happy is yourself, so keep pushing and you'll be happy with the results that come from it.
Q: That totally makes sense, Jason. Anything else you'd like to add?
I would like to say thank you, again Doni, for contacting me for a interview. Also a huge thank you to my Aunt Teresa for telling you about me so I could do this Q&A.
I would like to say that I couldn't have done this transformation without the support of family and friends. Especially my Mom and Dad, without the support of them I have no clue where I would be right now in my life and I'm thankful for them every day.
I'm happy with how far I've come, and I'm still striving to become better each everyday.
I hope our conversation helped someone out there who is struggling with their own personal goals, and help push them to become what they have set out to be, and just be over all happy with the choices they have made.
Q: You are wise beyond your years, Jason, and I thank you so much for talking with me today. I wish you all the best with not just your health journey, but college, too. Keep up the great work! No pressure, but you have lots of people watching you and wishing you the best, including me.
I look forward to seeing photos of your trip to Yosemite. Feel free to check in every so often to update us on your progress.