Name: Mike Murphy
Hometown: Chattanooga, Tennessee
Occupation: Vice President of Supply Chain
Start Weight: 280 pounds
End Weight: 170 pounds
Time Running: 1 year, 8 months
My struggles with weight started in elementary school. I had a very poor relationship with food, and I hardly exercised. I played a few sports, but mostly focused on those that didn’t require a lot of running. By the time I got to junior high, I was about 230 pounds at 5’5”. I experimented with fad diets off and on for the next 20 years, and most of that stemmed from looking for quick fixes—I had an event, a doctor’s appointment, or some upcoming travel that I wanted to lose weight for. I was never interested in a long-term solution.
However, I was completely embarrassed by my weight. I never wanted to be in photos, and if I was, I would be in the back row behind as many people as possible. I couldn’t find clothes that fit, especially business attire. I struggled going up stairs, and even walking very short distances had me winded.
In early 2019, I went to my doctor for a routine checkup. I knew that I had been slowly gaining weight over the past few years, but I wasn’t exactly sure how much. When I got on the scale, I was shocked. The bright, red numbers highlighted just how poor my diet and activity level had become—I was 277 pounds. I was on blood pressure medication already, and a second was prescribed that day. I was also told that if my cholesterol didn’t improve, medication was soon to follow. I left the office after committing to fixing these problems. But like so many times before, I did just the opposite, and I continued eating as I had been.
One of the greatest joys of being a parent is spending time playing with your children. My daughter loves to play and prefers to be indoors, so our typical play time consists of hide and seek, board games, joke sessions, or Lego building. On June 24, 2019, my daughter asked me to build her something. She wasn’t requesting anything in particular—it was just her way of asking me to play with her. I struggled to sit down on the floor, and when I reached toward her Lego basket to begin building, I couldn’t bend over far enough because of my size. I felt utterly defeated.
The amount of weight I was carrying was now preventing me from completing simple daily tasks like playing with my daughter. That was the moment I knew a change had to happen. I knew the following days had to be different than anything I had ever done before, or else I wasn’t going to be around for my family. The next morning was the start of the rest of my life. I woke up and went into the bathroom to weigh myself: 280 pounds exactly.
I had run in several long-distance races in my late 20s and early 30s. I was never “good” at it, but I loved it. There was something therapeutic about it for me—it was a way for me to gain mental clarity and focus. I knew I wanted it to be a part of my weight loss story, so in February of 2020 I signed up for a 5K. I wasn’t sure where running would take me, but I was determined to push myself beyond my comfort zone.
I had used the Couch to 5K (C25K) app before, so I was very comfortable with it. It starts you off with a walk/run three days per week and helps build endurance by adding more running each week. Nine weeks later, I was able to run the full distance. Unfortunately, shortly after I decided to begin running, my race was rescheduled due to COVID-19. It would have been easy to use that as an excuse to stop running, but I used it as motivation. I knew I would be able to race again at some point, and I wanted to be the best version of me for when that time came.
In the interim, I signed up for a couple virtual races. I also have a running buddy through I Run 4 Michael—a group where you can dedicate your runs to someone who can’t—and she played a huge role in keeping me motivated. I completed a virtual 5K at Thanksgiving and was thrilled to be able to send her my medal and bib.
Mike’s Go-To Running Gear
→ Apple Watch Series 3: I love the Activity app, and connecting with my friends helps provide accountability and motivation.
→ AirPods: I used to get whiplash from my corded headphones. It’s hard to describe just how freeing it is, but the best advice I can give here is to cut the cord!
→ Honey Stinger Salted Caramel Waffles: These are great for fueling up before a long run. All the flavors are delicious, but Salted Caramel is my favorite.
→ Goodr Running Sunglasses: These sunglasses from Goodr are low-cost, polarized, and they don’t slip or bounce when you’re running.
I currently run three days per week—5 or 6 miles on Mondays and Wednesdays, with a longer run of 8 to 10 miles on Saturdays. I just finished the Cleveland Half Marathon in Cleveland, Tennessee, on October 23 with a time of 2:31:10, and I am training for the Chickamauga Battlefield Half in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, on November 13. I would like to continue running several half marathons each year. I’ve also gotten into trail running—there are some amazing spots in and around Chattanooga.
My diet pre-weight loss consisted of anything and everything I could eat, and in very large quantities. I often ate large snacks at night, and many times they contained the daily calorie suggestions for an average person. There were occasions when I would order fast food in the drive-through to give the appearance that I was ordering for multiple people. I felt a lot of shame associated with the volume of food I was eating.
I knew that if I was going to succeed with weight loss, I needed to find a way to do so while enjoying the foods I loved. Rather than going down the path of cutting out entire food groups, I decided I would cut calories. I began logging everything I ate in the LoseIt app. It was very simple to use—I plugged in my information and goals, and I was given a calorie budget. By taking this approach, I was able to work in foods that I really wanted a couple of times during the week and still stay within my budget.
These three tips helped make my running journey a success.
1. Consistency over time is key
Whether your goal is weight loss or getting better at your sport, it’s going to take time. Your job is to consistently show up for yourself, for your health, and for your goals. If you do that, time will take care of the rest.
2. Don’t forget to rest
During my weight loss, I went a very long time without taking a break. Give yourself one or two rest days per week. If you have a lot of weight to lose, consider taking a maintenance break from dieting after a few months. These tools will help you mentally and physically prepare for long-term success.
3. The scale is a tool, but it shouldn’t define you
It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of your weight dropping each week, but it’s important to remember that the number on the scale does not define you. You’re worth so much more than your weight.
I lost a total of 110 pounds over 14 months, and I have maintained that loss for a year.
I underestimated my ability to achieve my weight loss and fitness goals for far too long because I approached it with an all-or-nothing mentality. What I learned from my journey is that it’s important to find balance, and that little changes add up. I’m working every day to make myself a little better, but a slip-up does not derail me. If I go over my calories, miss a workout, or anything else that would have cause me to quit before, I remember that this is a long-term process. I regroup and continue to move toward my goals. Also, I would encourage people to create a support system. I’m beyond proud of what I’ve been able to accomplish, but I could not have done it without the support of my family, friends, and coworkers.
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