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How This Busy Dad Lost 43 Pounds and Built a Whole New Body

Men's Health logo Men's Health 6 days ago Jordyn Taylor

a man holding his hands up: Donald Gross was eating 3,850 calories a day to cope with his feelings. He decided to lose weight-and pulled off a dramatic weight loss transformation. © Donald Gross Donald Gross was eating 3,850 calories a day to cope with his feelings. He decided to lose weight-and pulled off a dramatic weight loss transformation. Donald Gross-a husband and father of three working full-time as an assistant manager at Walmart-is a self-described "typical guy." But in the past nine months, he's pulled off something extraordinary: a 43-pound weight loss transformation that completely changed his body. This is his story.

The basics

  • Age: 45
  • Height: 5'8"
  • Heaviest weight: 196 lbs.
  • Weight now: 153 lbs.
  • Total weight loss: 43 lbs.

Looking back on his lifestyle before his weight loss transformation, Gross remembers high-calorie breakfasts, lunches and dinners-and plenty of snacks in between.

"[On a] typical day, when I figured it out, I was eating 3,850 calories. [I was] drinking a gallon of sweet tea a day ... When I would get home late at night from work, it didn’t matter the time-I would still eat a large dinner and then add a bowl of ice cream and/or a snack, and then go to bed. We would go out to eat a lot, grabbing our favorites like burger and fries, pizza and wings, and our favorite meal was Chinese with an order of crab rangoon-not thinking about how it was effecting our bodies, health or weight."

He realized he was eating food to cope with the loss of his parents.

a close up of a sign: For each day of January, we’ll spotlight a new story of physical and mental transformation. Click here for more. © . For each day of January, we’ll spotlight a new story of physical and mental transformation. Click here for more.

"In 2012 I lost my dad to cancer, and then 16 months later, I lost my Mom ... she had several health issues, including diabetes. I guess with all of that subconsciously, I was using eating food to comfort me in my loss.

"... I knew that I was overweight, but I just kept going on with life, enjoying it, no worries. I felt bloated, shortness of breath, [had] no extra energy and [was] tired all of the time ... I was diagnosed with GERD (acid reflux), high blood pressure, and my cholesterol was not in good range; I was taking medicine for all three. But in my mind, I felt pretty normal-so I just enjoyed everything I ate and didn’t worry about the consequences."

a group of people standing in a room: weight loss transformation © Donald Gross weight loss transformation

In February of 2018, a routine checkup made him decide to take action.

"My doctor said [I looked] pretty healthy, but mentioned that I needed to get my blood pressure and cholesterol under control. And like all of the past several visits, he again tapped me on my stomach and said, 'You might want to work on that.' Any other visit, I just heard him and went on about my business. But this time, something in me said, 'He is not going to do that to me again.' That was my ah-ha moment.

"... So when I got home, I was talking to my wife, and I said to her, 'Let's start something, let's get healthy. I told her that after the first week if I didn’t see any results, I was done. I felt it wasn’t going to be worth it or my time. So we set a date to start, which was March 10, 2018."

To get started, he didn't join a gym or sign up for a paid diet plan-he just downloaded MyFitnessPal and turned to an old exercise machine.

"[The app] started me at 1,800 calories a day-that is a big difference from my 3,850 calories that I was eating. [I thought,] How am I going to survive?

"We purchased a Sit N Cycle stationary bike way before I thought of starting my transformation. We said, 'This will help us get in shape!' Well, just like anything else, it sat there as a dust collector-until I started in March. My exercise [consisted] of riding the stationary bike for 10 miles (20 minutes) burning 180 calories. In the past several months, I have increased to riding for 20+ miles (55 minutes) burning 530 calories. I do this 2-3 times a week.

"At night I would do sit ups, crunches and push-ups, and lift 40+lb. dumbbells. I also used my Fitbit as a tool to help track my steps; I started with my daily goal at 6,000 steps, moved it up to 10,000 steps, and now my daily goal is 12,500. In the evenings, my wife and I take a mile walk around our town. I [also] purchased Gold's Gym XRS 50 Home Gym equipment, which helps with doing leg lifts and bench presses."

And he found a helpful way to manage his new calorie intake:

"I started looking at it as money. In my mind, I had 1800 "dollars" to "spend" a day. How was I going to spend it? I would look at the cookies and candy bars I would eat each day: each cookie had 200 calories in just 1, and I would eat 2- 3 a day; the candy bar that I enjoyed had around 300 calories. In my mind, a typical balanced meal would be around 500 calories, so I needed to spend my calories wisely to balance my budget to get through the day."

Gross lost 3 lbs. the first week. The second week, he lost 2 more. That's when he realized: "Something is happening."

"I was talking to someone at work, saying, 'I have only lost 5 lbs.' In my mind, that wasn’t that much. They said, 'Go over and pick up that 5-lb. bag of potatoes and carry it around- that’s what you lost.' That got me thinking: It was more than I thought. So I continued my transformation, and continued to lose 2-3 lbs. per week, keeping with my 1,800 calories a day."

a person standing in front of a mirror posing for the camera: weight loss transformation © Donald Gross weight loss transformation

Sometimes he hit little bumps along the road, but he never gave up.

"There were some weeks that I maintained my weight-didn’t lose anything. While on vacation, I gained up to 3 lbs. It was very disappointing when each week I wanted to see the scale go down. How I dealt with it: I thought, 'What did I do differently to maintain or gain that week?' And then I would work on it and fix it."

His wife has been an excellent source of motivation.

"One day I was out of town for work and I went over my calories for the day. I told her in disappointment, and was waiting for her to say, 'Shame on you,' but instead she said, 'It's okay, tomorrow is another day.' The motivation that my wife and others give me is what helps me to stay focused and continue."

Gross can't pinpoint the day his stomach disappeared: "One day, it was just gone."

"Now I feel like I have more energy than ever. When I look in the mirror now, all I can do is smile-not out of arrogance, but out of the feeling of accomplishment. I don’t know who that person is. I feel and look like a totally different person.

"... Mentally, my way of thinking is so much different. I plan and care now [about] what I eat and put in my body. I feel like I am walking on air. I am not winded like before, and ... I feel happy now in my own skin."

a group of people standing in a grass field posing for the camera: weight loss transformation © Donald Gross weight loss transformation

Gross says it's never too late to adopt a new, healthy lifestyle.

It doesn’t matter who, what, or where you are at in your life. You can make a better you ... I just turned 45 in October, and I never thought at this age I would care about eating healthy and enjoying weight lifting and exercise. Its my new way of life, and I can't see myself doing anything else.

He also has a new motto:

"My life had a hold on me. Now I have a hold on my life."

Video: We Try Out the 'Tonal' Home Gym

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