(Update: There’s a related podcast I did on this topic called “Harry Potter and Heart Disease” that you can check out here.)
Long before I knew that the Hogwarts Running Club existed, Harry Potter inspired my 150 pound weight loss.
Most of my life, I was the token fat guy in pretty much every social situation. At my heaviest, I weighed 310 pounds. I hated exercise. I hated sports. I hated sweating. I hated pretty much anything that involved expending energy. I was a nerd. Fitness was so not my thing.
And that mythical land called the outside? Well, it was off-limits. One of my best friends was an albino, and I always joked that his albinism must have been contagious because I hated the sun almost as much as he did.
So year after year, I kept gaining weight and living an incredibly sedentary lifestyle. I might have been unhealthy, but I was happy. I never looked in the mirror and said, “I want to get better” because I didn’t think there was anything to get better from.
It never even really bothered me to weigh 310. I was funny and friendly, girls actually paid attention to me—romantically, too! Not as “just friends” like that Ryan Reynolds movie would have us believe.
Then, something clicked.
Well, let me rephrase that. Something wouldn’t click.
See, my wife and I went to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter during the summer of 2010, and we stood in line to ride the Dragon Challenge roller-coaster. I sat in the fat-guy seat, and the attendant couldn’t even click the safety harness down over my gut. The poor guy even leapt into the air, putting all his weight onto the seat, and he was only able to get it to fasten into the first lock because I was so big.
The harness clicked once–not the three times like it was supposed to. I thought I was going to die.
Literally. I thought I was going to be flung out of that roller coaster and be on the Orlando news that night as the fat guy who went splat in Hogsmeade.
And later, when I tried out the Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey seats, I couldn’t fit in those at all. Thankfully, the ride was down for maintenance and saved me from that embarrassment a second time that day.
At that moment, as I was standing in Hogsmeade Village, I knew my life had to change. I could not let my weight—which I had never cared about that much before—hold me back from living my life. I was 27 years old and newly married. I had my whole life in front of me.
And by God, I was going to enjoy it.
On top of that, my dad had been struggling with heart disease for the previous 10 years, and I didn’t want to go through all that myself—or to put my family though it. This was especially true in 2012, when my dad died of congestive heart failure. It just solidified what I had learned at Harry Potter world–I wasn’t going to put my family through that kind of pain.
Something had to go. And that something was, in the end, 155 pounds.
So I changed my life. I’m still changing my life. And you can change yours.
Well, first of all, I was not able to Avada Kedavra all that extra weight. If only it had been that easy.
There’s no magic spell that can change your life. And losing weight won’t solve all your problems, either. Don’t let me lead you into thinking that. But my weight had been a Dementor that followed me around. It sucked my soul, and I didn’t even know it was happening.
When I finally started changing my lifestyle and getting into fitness, it was like I learned how to cast expecto patronum after years of just not getting it. My patronus erupted into life, an osprey, acting like a guardian and guide.
With my patronus’s help that day in Hogsmeade, I got it in my head that I needed to do a complete and total lifestyle overhaul. I didn’t just diet (though I did refrain from butterbeer after that), and I didn’t just work out. I changed the way I approached everything in my life. I changed the way I approached life itself, from a physical level to a mental and emotional.
I made my weight loss a process where I learned how to live in a healthy way instead of doing all the crash and yo-yo dieting that I had done before.
I started the low glycemic index diet. It taught me how to eat well without all the processed garbage I had been eating. I used phentermine for a while, too, before weaning off of it. But the real miracle was when I started running (despite having exercise induced asthma). That was the point at which I really found what I loved and has kept me moving all these years.
Sure, I’ve done strength training and cycling. But running is my main thing. (Speaking of, let me refer you once again to the Hogwarts Running Club. They’re good people.)
To this day, I have a souvenir Harry Potter world t-shirt that I wear because I bought it for my dad. It reminds me of why I live the life I do. On my bedroom wall, the Marauder’s Map hangs and reminds me when I couldn’t fit on the Dragon Challenge roller coaster, of how I thought I was too special to even need to lose weight because I’d never have anything bad happen to me because of it.
You’re a Wizard, BJ! And so are you, fitgeek!
Like Harry Potter, Hogwarts changed my life. Sure, I might not have ever lived in a cupboard under the stairs, and my parents were awesome (unlike Vernon and Petunia). But I faced Dementors, learned how to use expecto patronum to get rid of it, and when I finally defeated my version of He Who Shall Not Be Named (which is what I should probably call my old gut, hah!), I went on to lead a good life. I am living a good life.
It’s hard. I won’t lie to you. I’ve had my share of days and nights that are much like Harry and the gang camping in the woods in Deathly Hallows, but like them, I got through them. Mainly because I had friends around. I couldn’t have done any of this if it hadn’t been for the people I surrounded myself with, just like Harry Potter wouldn’t have been able to succeed without his friends. They keep us stable and push us when we think we can’t go any farther.
So if you want to get that Dementor off your back, hit me up on social media (I’m @geekfitnesscast on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook). Find a group on Fitocracy, or join the Hogwarts Running Club. We can help you. The internet is our Room of Requirement, and hashtags let it know exactly what we require of it.
So…are you ready to join Dumbledore’s Army and change your life? If so, grab your and and get ready to hit the gym and defend against the dark arts!