In 2012, when Edward Maar weighed over 410 pounds, he decided to start changing his lifestyle for the better. He started walking, then running, and before he knew it, he was addicted to his new hobby. In fact, running helped Edward lose over 200 pounds in 13 months — and he just completed his goal of running a half marathon at this month's Airbnb Brooklyn Half Marathon. Read on about how he's maintained his new 190-pound figure for over two years, then check out our other Before & After weight-loss stories here!
POPSUGAR Fitness: What made you decide to start?
Edward Maar: I had been helping my mother and spending time with my father who suffers from Alzheimer's. He had been a tough Marine and lived the hard life eating red meat with an indomitable swagger; that was until the dementia began to strip away at him. During this time I was big, very big. I didn't even know what I weighed. Spending time with a loved one who suffers from dementia you become informed about the disease and causes. A little-known fact is that the disease begins 20 years prior to the first symptom appearing, and genetic predisposition aside, one of the best ways to mitigate this disease and many other issues people encounter later in life is to live a healthier life style when you are younger and live that out into the golden years.
When I decided to ask for help, I did not intend to lose all the weight I would end up losing. I started by just asking for help. I engaged a new primary care physician who worked in a collaborative practice. I weighed in at 410 pounds when I began, and my doctors offered me two paths from which they would care for me either way. One path was staying overweight and managing that with medication for hypertension, cholesterol, and the looming prospect of diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. The other path was to just try and lose some weight by working with my primary care, internal medicine doctor and the endocrinologist mostly; however, throughout the early days of the journey, I would work with various other doctors too. I started down the path to limit medication and try to take some of the weight off. They were candid about the situation and were encouraging. They were going to work with me but it would be up to me to make the most of the tools that they shared with me.
They helped me learn about me, my body, and its vitamin and nutrient deficiencies. They also taught me about food and how I was interacting with it and misunderstanding it. I learned about how to treat food as fuel and not comfort. The simplest form of the model I worked with was low-sugar, low-salt, low-carb, low-fat and how to identify that in foods. I learned the glycemic index chart, and that lean proteins, nuts, seeds, olives, and avocados are positive fats. I was being open and receptive to this process, which is how I learned to commit to it. I embraced a positive mentality, believing that a negative mentality can create a vicious cycle. While becoming positive, I did not focus on things as, "I can't." I looked at it as how "I can" do things, be it rework recipes or spending time exploring new foods and spices. This started to make the process fun, and the weight literally began to melt away.
PS: What's your favorite way to work out?
EM: My doctors encouraged me to begin working out, and at 400 pounds it's not easy. I simply started by walking, just to move my heart. I walked a little at first, then farther and farther, until I could speed walk farther and farther. Then I added interval jogging. Five months into my weight loss, I was down 90 pounds, and I entered my first 5K. I couldn't run the whole way, but I was proud to cross that finish line the best I could. I continued this path with the speed walking/mixed jogging, but I felt something was holding me back. I remember the first time it happened. I was on the East River and the momentum was there and suddenly I was running harder and faster than ever. It felt like I was about launch into flight. I became hooked; I was a runner . . . I was free. I look to running as more than exercise; it provides me time to think, time to wonder, and generally makes me feel much more positive.
PS: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
EM: I try to work out five to six days week. I get up early in the morning, and I run four to seven miles four to five days a week, with typically one longer run each week on top of that for 8-12 miles, and a day of rest. I combine this cardio with core training, crunches, planks, push-ups, dips, leg lifts, etc. Also some light weight training to build strength; not looking to gain mass but keep lean.
PS: How do you keep workouts exciting?
EM: By having goals, it encourages the reasons why I run and train. The Airbnb Brooklyn Half was a really exciting event — a full half marathon taking me through the heart of Brooklyn to the original beach vacation getaway of Coney Island. That's really exciting, the sights and sounds out on the streets with my fellow runners. I stay positive and focused, and I keep on running and training for this event, and on to the next one. I now #RunforLife.
PS: How much weight have you lost?
EM: In 13 months, I had lost 210+ pounds; since that time I have spent almost two years in my new, or renewed life, as it were.
PS: What was the first big difference, other than the number on the scale that really made you feel proud and excited?
EM: Just to go shopping. It was like a play land. At 400+ pounds, I was XXXL – XXXXL, and there are not many clothing options available. When you down size to XL, to L, to M, there is a whole world of clothes to try on that not only fit but look really great and fun. It was really nice to be able to go in to any store and feel like, "I think I will try that on for size."
PS: How do you track your weight loss?
EM: Every two weeks I would return to the doctor and I would weigh in and review my food diary. I learned in the process to not be afraid of the scale but to use it as a tool, to keep me in a proper frame of reference. Weight is not a single number; it's going to fluctuate. It will live in a range. For me it was about finding the range I wanted to be in and how to stay there. I check in on the scale regularly and keep myself focused in the moment. I still follow up with my doctors on a regular basis about every two months to check in and see how things are going and to let them know how I am feeling.
PS: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
EM: I have become a creature of habit with regard to food. I start the day with a whey protein shake mixed with ground psyllium husks, chia seeds, and sometimes a piece or fruit or berries. Lunch is often a salad. Greens (spinach, kale, mustard greens), a mix of veggies (carrots, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, jalapeños, etc.), a little fat in form of olives, avocado, or almond slivers, and a protein – grilled chicken, dry tuna, or egg whites. Snacks: whole fruit such as an apple or pear or Quest or Pure Protein bar (200 calories or less) Dinner: Often homemade; a large portion of fresh seasonal vegetables and lean protein (fish, skinless chicken, turkey, fat trimmed pork.) Dessert: fat-free cottage cheese with some berries or a small portion of fruit.
PS: What's the range of calories you eat per day?
EM: 2,000-2,200 calories a day.
PS: What are the healthy staples that are always in your fridge?
EM: I try to keep food in the fridge that needs to be prepared, such as vegetables or pieces of fruit, to limit my ability for grab-and-go snacking.
PS: How do you strategize for meals out?
EM: It often depends on why I am eating or if it's a special occasion. I tend to treat that as something special and indulge as such. However, if it's a work function or date night with the missus, I follow my basic rule of thumb: low sugar, low salt, low carb, and low fat. Using the tools that my doctors helped me with, I try to make the best choices I can. I am not afraid to ask to make substitutions or clarify how a meal is prepared. Chefs are going to cook with olive oil and salt, and there is no harm or shame in asking them to use it sparingly or lightly. I try to avoid the bread and butter and will often start with a salad.
PS: What advice do you have for anyone starting out on a weight-loss journey?
EM: That it is a journey to be taken one day at a time. Every day you try again and it is about stringing personal good days together as best you can. Be mindful of your immediate goals and what you are trying to do. Do not let the past depress you or the future create anxiety, because it is happening now. Live in the moment and work on it in the moment. I did not start out to lose all this weight, but by staying positive and keeping it in the moment, it happened one day at a time.