Aaron Lohman, 35, knows the dangers of letting your health and fitness goals sit on the back burner. For years, the 11-year NYPD veteran and father of two let his career call the shots. “I didn’t look at getting healthy as a priority,” he told .
It showed. Over the course of nine years, the NYPD officer packed nearly 70 kilos onto his six-foot-four frame. At his heaviest, he weighed nearly 200kg
He tried to lose weight several times, but it never stuck. “I would go and reduce my calorie intake by a ridiculous amount, to like, 1200 calories,” Lohman says. Once his diet fizzled out, he would go right back to eating whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted — in spite of several health scares and a family history of diabetes.
On one occasion, Lohman and his former gang team served a search warrant at a fifth-story walk-up apartment. He was so out of breath from climbing the five flights of stairs, he was actually dizzy. “I thought I was going to die,” Lohman says. But still, he brushed it off: “We went out and celebrated afterwards with ice cream and pizza.”
His wake-up call finally came one night in December 2015: “I woke up in a cold sweat. I’d just had a nightmare about fighting a criminal on the roof of a building, and I was so out of shape I was overcome and thrown from the building,” Lohman recalls. “On the way down, all I could think of was my daughter growing up without me. Even though it was a dream, it got real for me at that point.”
That was the day Lohman determined to get serious about his health. But he knew that if he wanted to finally lose the weight for good — and be around to see his kids grow up — he had to use more sustainable approaches than he’d tried in his previous weight-loss attempts. More importantly, he had to make his health a priority.
So, this time around, Lohman decided to go slow and take things one day at a time.
“I definitely struggled at first, especially with overeating,” he says. He’d been so accustomed to eating whatever he wanted that he had to learn how to manage mindless snacking and emotional eating. Tracking his meals with MyFitnessPal helped him keep tabs on calories, and with time and practice, he was able to develop healthy habits — like cooking his own food, bringing meals to work, and allowing himself one cheat meal every week.
At the same time, Lohman integrated cardio into his routine. He bought a bicycle and incorporated an eight-mile round-trip ride into his work commute three days per week. Then, after five months of regular cardio and food tracking, he tacked on three days of strength training.
Lohman’s consistency and hard work have paid off: He’s lost a whopping 60 kilos of fat since starting his weight-loss journey two years ago. He tracks his progress on his Instagram, where he goes by the tongue-in-cheek handle @huge_fat_loser and has more than 12,000 followers.
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Thanks to Lohman's regular lifting sessions, he’s packed on kilos of muscle, which he credits to his five-day body part split routine (chest, back, legs, arms, shoulders), plus one to three days of cardio per week. (His cheat day meal? Cheeseburgers from All American, a burger joint on Long Island, NY.)
He keeps nudging the scale along by prioritising daily exercise and healthy food choices. “I don’t give myself a choice, I just do it,” he says. When work or family commitments conflict with his workout, he simply shifts the exercise session to his planned rest day.
Whenever he feels his motivation dip, he simply glances at his phone. “My home screen image is a picture of me when I was at my heaviest,” Lohman says. “It’s just a constant reminder of, ‘Yo, do you really want to go back there? Is this the direction you want to take?’” he explains.
To those who don’t know how to get started on their own weight-loss journey, Lohman offers this: “What I've learned throughout this whole thing is that it just takes practice. My advice is just to start. The time is never going to be perfect and if you want to do it, you absolutely can.”
This article originally appeared on www.menshealth.com