When you find someone who loves you for who you are as a person, no matter what you look like or how much you weigh, hold on tight and never let them go. Lee Jordan learned this lesson over the course of the past 30 years, when he found love again at 450 pounds.
We had the chance to talk with Lee about love, life, and a stunning 300-pound weight loss. But his health journey was about so much more than the numbers (although the numbers are inspiring). Let's take a look at his transformation, his healthy tips, and his epic, movie-script-status love story with Beth.
Lee's struggle with obesity peaked at 450 pounds around 2007, but his story begins long before that; in fact, it begins in the early '80s with his high school sweetheart, Beth.
They met at their church when they were 15 and 16, and Beth always saw Lee for who he was on the inside: a goodhearted person with a passion for helping others. It probably didn't hurt that in the early '80s he had "flowing golden-blond hair" and was in "great physical condition." The two were so inseparable that Lee followed Beth to college, and they were a couple throughout those years as well.
Nearing senior year, it became evident that the two were headed down different paths. Lee noted that he was into a "recreational party lifestyle" centered around drinking that tore him away from Beth, who had been focused on school and a future career in the FBI. It was that rift in lifestyles and change in direction that caused this meant-to-be couple to split up, in what he called "a clean break."
Lee and Beth: College
Decades went by, and there was a void in Lee's heart. Feeling he had missed his shot with a dream girl, he focused on his career and didn't date, all the while pining for Beth, kicking himself for making such a mistake. "I let partying get in the way," he said. "I lost that love . . . it was earth shattering."
"I don't know how many 5-foot-8, 450-pound people you know, but at that weight, you're a walking prison."
During this time, Lee also turned to food as an emotional comfort. Through yo-yo dieting, Lee dealt with severe weight fluctuations. "I'd gain 100 pounds, lose it, then gain 200 pounds, lose 100, gain another 300 . . . I was at my peak at 450 pounds."
That's when things got bad; Lee was dealing with morbid obesity. "I was on every kind of medication; I had high cholesterol, hypertension, full-blown diabetes, COPD . . . I was a train wreck. I don't know how many 5-foot-8, 450-pound people you know, but at that weight, you're a walking prison."
At the same time Lee was hitting his peak weight and worst health, Beth reached out with a hand-written letter — after 20 years. Through a bit of back and forth via "snail mail," as he called it, Beth told Lee she wanted to see him.
As you can imagine, Lee didn't really want Beth to see him in such a state. "At that weight, you can barely move, you can barely get up a curb, you can't get into most cars . . . just walking, sitting in places, being in places . . . everything is a train wreck." He mentioned that his flowing golden locks were gone, and he was now bald, too. This was not the Lee that Beth would remember from college.
"It's hard to understand unless you've experienced it," he said. "People look at you, and they can't hide it. They look at you with shock and horror, or distaste and disdain, or terrible pity. It was difficult for me to handle emotionally. I wasn't willing to face that." And who could blame him? All these years he was pining for Beth, and finally, two decades later, she was ready to see him, but he wasn't ready to see her. "The last time she had seen me was 1985; I was 165 pounds, with long, flowing blond hair; now I'm 450 pounds, lugging an oxygen machine, and bald." The irony in all this? Beth was in town for a fitness convention.
After a bit of resistance and Lee telling Beth he couldn't see her a couple times, Beth persisted. She wasn't ready to give up. "The turning point was when we met at Starbucks," said Lee. Terrified to see what her expression would be upon seeing him, Lee mustered his courage and headed to coffee with his long-lost love.
"She looked at me, and she just saw Lee Jordan . . there was no pity, there was no shock, there was no horror . . . there was just love and acceptance of me as a human being." (It's OK if you're crying; we are too). "Beth has this unique ability to see people from the inside out, and that's what she did with me."
Lee and Beth: Their Wedding
Lee describes this moment as a turning point thanks to "the transformative power of hope." He told us, "People always say that when you hit rock bottom and when there's enough pain, you change. That's not true."
"Hope is the transformative power that gets you through the door of change. Beth gave me the hope to turn the corner . . . she gave me a reason to live."
It's not true for Lee, because rock bottom did nothing to help him change. "Pain might get you to the door of change . . . I was given two years to live; if pain was going to change me, pain would've changed me the first time I was hospitalized, or when the heart surgeon walked into my hospital room and said, 'You're too big to fit in the machine.' If embarrassment was going to do it, it would've been done. Pain only gets you to the door."
"Hope is the transformative power that gets you through the door of change," he said. "Beth gave me the hope to turn the corner and to move down the path; she gave me a reason to live, something to move toward. Her ability to accept me gave me hope."
Lee had come to find out that Beth had gone through some serious physical hardships, too. A few years prior, she fractured her L5 vertebra in her spine and herniated a disc, leaving her unable to walk. She was told she needed surgery, but the surgery would affect her physical abilities for the rest of her life. Beth refused, and instead turned to an "anti-inflammatory diet" and exercise. Her holistic approach had allowed her to completely rehabilitate herself (unreal!), and as such, it ignited a deep love for health and fitness. She was the perfect person to help Lee get healthy again.
Lee and Beth: Now
Through years of work together, Lee and Beth are in the best shape of their lives. "In the process, Beth and I grew closer, and ultimately became man and wife," Lee told us.
With the help of coaches, Beth, and a whole lot of determination, Lee lost all the weight — starting with the smallest of baby steps. His first form of exercise? Walking down the hall for 30 seconds. "When you're that big, it's an Olympic event to put clothes on," he said. He recalls his first victory: "Walking 0.15 miles down the road to Starbucks from my apartment. It was such a big deal that my close friend drove over an hour to come do it with me."
"I was trapped in a body like that, but because Beth came into my life and looked at me and said 'I just see you, and we can do this,' . . . my life was able to change."
Over the course of three years, he continued to build strength, and now his favorite forms of exercises include "interval bodywork training," TRX, boot camps, and cross training. Today Lee weighs 150 pounds.
"I was trapped in a body like that, but because Beth came into my life and looked at me and said 'I just see you, and we can do this,' . . . my life was able to change. How could I not invest everything I have to helping people?"
After pursuing a degree in behavioral science, Lee decided to take what he learned to help others who were dealing obesity. Now, Lee and Beth are both certified trainers, and in addition to their own individual programs and clients, they run a women's boot camp together in Florida called Beth's Boot Camp, which has been sold out with a waiting list for the past four years.
Lee's advice for your own journey? Forget the "go big or go home" mentality. "You actually accomplish extraordinary things with ordinary actions done daily. It's consistency, not intensity . . . it's frequency that makes the changes happen. I'm sure you've heard go big or go home; we like to say go small or go home." Beth echoed that sentiment, saying, "Consistency is your BFF." All it takes is showing up regularly to your workout and giving it a good, moderate intensity. "I'm a firm believer in just showing up. Just show up every day."
It's hard to sum up how astounding and unreal Lee's journey is, but we think he did a pretty good job of it himself: "I went from morbid obesity, having two years to live, and being connected to oxygen, to being a subject-matter expert with American Council on Exercise, writing a new certification program on weight management, and being a featured industry speaker at Idea World on health coaching."