It took the unexpected offer of a new job for Clayton Gee to realize he could change his life. A 31-year-old regional safety coordinator from Breckenridge, TX, he’d been obese for most of his life. At 12 years old he was 200 pounds; he graduated high school at 220, with a BMI of 32.5, making him obese. He cycled through fad diets that made his weight yo-yo; after becoming a parent at 25, he felt overwhelmed and turned to food for comfort. He hit 365. He was 27.
Then he happened to mention to an old manager that he was job hunting. Soon he had a job offer. “That sparked a change in me that maybe life wasn’t destined to remain the same forever,” he says.
He started on another crash diet—nothing but chicken and broccoli this time. A month in, he started to waver. But he’d started reading Reddit, which is where he first learned about calories. Over the following years he downloaded MyFitnessPal, bought a food scale, and really focused on viable changes to his diet. He aimed for a 500-1000 daily calorie deficit, as long as he was above 1500.
Gee also started to reflect on his self-image. Researching cognitive behavioral therapy and acceptance and commitment therapy helped him understand and mitigate the negative feelings he had toward himself. A book called Brain Over Binge taught him about food cravings.
It was slow going, but he wasn’t in a hurry. He didn’t work with a trainer, but learned everything from reddit and YouTube, especially Alan Thrall for weightlifting, which he started doing two years ago. “It wasn’t until the last year or so that I’ve been able to be consistent in my workouts,” he says, thanks to a squat rack he bought on sale and some cheap weights and a barbell. He uses 5/3/1 program designed by powerlifter Jim Wendler. Every accomplishment, no matter how small, kept him motivated. “Over time I’d learn that even though a setback happened it doesn’t mean you can’t keep moving forward,” he says.
In four years, Gee lost 185 pounds—more than half his bodyweight—and now weighs in at 180. He’s maintained that for 6 months. And he’s added running to his repertoire, starting with the Couch to 5K, graduating to Bridge to 10K. “I feel great,” he says. “Before I could barely walk the stairs to my apartment without being winded for 30 minutes. Today I have a medal on my wall where I placed first for my age class in a 5K.”
He’s more confident in himself, even as his family and friends haven’t quite known what to make of his radical change. He admits some people weren’t supportive. “I’ve had acquaintances I’ve known most of my life start commenting on my body like they get an opinion,” he says. Those people are no longer in his life, and he’s surrounded himself with supportive friends.
With his goal weight in sight, he’s looking to bulk/cut and keep up his endurance with running. His 400-pound max deadlift has him well on the way to the 1000 pound club, and he’s hoping to complete a half-marathon. He’s in it for the long haul. “You didn’t get to where you are overnight; you aren’t going to hit your goals in one sprint,” he says. “It’s a journey, not a race.”