Name: Jim Tucker
Occupation: Middle School Reading Teacher
Hometown: Crown Point, Indiana
Start Weight: 230 pounds
End Weight: 160 pounds
Time Running: 8 months
Toward the end of May last year, I stepped on the scale out of the blue and noticed a number that was higher than I had ever seen—230 pounds.
I’m a teacher, and the school year had just wrapped up after 12 or 13 weeks of virtual learning due to COVID-19. While in quarantine, when I wasn’t teaching or coaching baseball (which didn’t happen in the spring), I spent the bulk of my down time playing video games for hours on end with my buddies and living a very sedentary lifestyle. I was drinking of ton of sodas and juices, and eating tons of frozen and processed foods. Also, I was stressing about not having a baseball season, which made me move less and eat more.
When I saw 230 on the scale though, I stopped weighing myself because I didn’t want to know my weight. Members of my family, including my dad, have a history of heart conditions, and my blood pressure was sky-high—both problems that are exacerbated by being overweight.
I was trying to lead young people as their coach and teacher; I didn’t think I was sending a tremendous message to my baseball players or students by being overweight.
I knew that the pandemic might be the only time in my life where I had days, weeks, and months to fully dedicate myself to a change in lifestyle. So, I decided to focus on eating better and running.
As a baseball player in high school and in college at Chicago State University, I ran a lot; jogging was one of our main forms of recovery as a pitcher. So when I thought about an activity to help me get into shape, running was an easy, accessible choice.
I already had a pair of running shoes, so I went out for a 1.75-mile lap around my community. My goal was to see if I could run without stopping and I did, running an 11 minute per mile pace. I was extremely sore and quickly fell in love with stretching and recovery.
Over time, that 1.75 miles turned into three miles, making a left instead of a right at the big turn. That loop changed again when I upped to to 4.7 miles by going straight instead of turning.
When summer returned, I ventured to new areas and trails. Those early runs were extremely important to me because I enjoyed the feeling of accomplishing something. Whether it was a long distance or not, I had a goal and stuck to it, even if I could barely move the next day.
After seven months, I’m now running 12 to 13 miles at a time, hitting well over 100 miles total a month, and my weight keeps going down. Currently I sit at 165 pounds which is more comfortable for me than the 160 I hit at my lowest in December. I wasn’t concerned about my time at first, but I now enjoy pushing both my pace and distance.
Running has been a huge help physically, but I also credit changing my eating habits. My diet before I started consisted of tons of convenient, processed foods; I wanted food fast. Eating was a challenge of sorts. I wasn’t satisfied until my belly felt stuffed. I drank a ton of soda and snacked throughout most of the day.
Now, I drink mostly water. I track my calories each day and prepare most of the food I eat now. My wife, Mysta, and I have enjoyed trying new recipes and cooking together throughout this journey. I also give myself room for a meal or two each week where I can go out to a restaurant or enjoy something sweet. The biggest change I’ve made is actually tracking and considering what I’m putting in my body.
My life has changed so much in a matter of months. Not only am I proud of what I’ve done from an achievement standpoint, but my body also feels so much better. I don’t have lower back pain. My blood pressure is stable and normal. My knees and hip flexors feel great. I’m proud of the progress I’ve made and hope to inspire others to do the same.
I always ask my students and athletes to set goals and complete tasks but found specific satisfaction when I was able to complete those longer runs and be able to say each day that I accomplished something. I think my baseball team sees a coach that’s now doing more than talking the talk. I’m showing them what an active, healthy lifestyle looks like and have encouraged conversations on the nutritional front as well.
My family is especially proud of me, too. I’m excited to show my parents that I’m taking care of myself, and my wife and I have enjoyed going on this journey together. She supported me through the triumphs and setbacks. Together through this, I think our relationship and marriage is the best it’s ever been.
There’s a lot of uncertainty in the new year with coaching, races, and most things you want to plan for. I am hoping to do my first half and full marathons this year. I’m signed up for the Chicago Marathon, running for the American Heart Association.
If someone else wanted to go a similar journey in their life, my advice is to start. So many people, myself included, look at a fitness or health journey as trying to climb or overcome a huge mountain. Take it one day at a time and pay attention to the choices you make. You can be healthy and fit by making small changes that build habits. It doesn’t have to be a crash diet or complete 180 of your lifestyle. Just go for it and remember to celebrate your achievements along the way.
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