Brendan Romele can’t remember a time when he was within a healthy weight range. Even as a kid, he was always the “bigger” guy in class. This fact never really bothered him until his late twenties, however, when his weight climbed to nearly 285 pounds. That’s when he truly started feeling it: The extra weight that made his body behave like a much older man’s.
Between the backaches and the shortness of breath, Romele decided it was time for a change. He also had his family history to consider: “My mother suffered from heart failure at an early age that almost cost her life, and my grandfather had diabetes,” Romele says.
Romele started by investing in a good scale—the Fitbit Aria 2, which synced up wirelessly with his daily fitness tracker, allowing him to monitor his progress without manually entering it into the device’s app. “Even though it was scary at first, I began to track my weight and body fat percentage,” he says. “When I started, I was 285 pounds with 37 percent body fat, which is in the obese range.”
Romele also tracked his step count using a wearable, the Fitbit Versa. He went on walks every day to make sure he hit at least 10,000 steps, and quickly realized that fitting in physical activity didn’t have to mean hours and hours in the gym.
“These walks would often be at lunchtime where I would go with coworkers to pick up healthier lunch alternatives, even to places a little further to get those extra steps,” he says. “I began to take advantage of Fitbit’s [coaching program], too, which helped motivate me through guided workouts and eventually became a regular habit.”
With his workouts building momentum, Romele moved on to overhauling his nutrition. He started tracking his food, and to his great surprise, he had been eating around 4,000 calories a day thanks to copious amounts of takeout. He decided to start cooking for himself. Just four weeks into his new routine, Romele had already dropped 20 pounds.
“As a very data and visually focused person, once I started to see the downward trend in my weight through app, and I wanted to keep it going,” he says.
Beyond losing weight, Romele also eased his back pain and found his lung capacity increasing. He even added running a few miles a week into his usual 10,000 steps a day routine. By combining tracking his calories and working out more, Romele was able to drop 100 pounds and 20 percent of his body fat to hit his new weight of 185 in just one year.
“A lot of friends and coworkers have told me how they have been inspired by my journey and helped them to lead a healthier life, which is great because so many have inspired and encouraged me,” he says. “I feel better, mentally and physically. I’ve noticed I have more energy compared to when I started.”
For people looking to follow his lead, Romele advises them to first get over the dread of exercise. “What I came to realize is that any exercise is better than no exercise, even if it means going on daily walks or doing as little as ten squats,” he says. “Be patient, and stick with it. A lot of people are in the old mindset of thinking diet means temporary, but it simply isn’t. Don’t try to change everything at once—take it day by day.”