Cole, now 33, who works as a director of business development for a security company in St. Louis, points to his diet as the biggest contributor to his weight gain at the time. "I'd fallen into a life of convenient eating, so fast food played a regular role, as well as alcohol," he says. "Around that same time, I'd started to admit to myself that my physical health wasn't only a major issue, but that I also needed to get my mental health in check—my depression and anxiety had gotten worse."
As a result, he began to lose weight quickly, and his energy soared, all without ever setting foot in a gym. Rather than fight for space on a squat rack indoors, he started hiking at least once a week and running two days a week, in addition to his pickup hockey games. At home, he added some basic lifting routines using adjustable dumbbells. Cole's weight fell steadily, and over the course of roughly a year and a half, he lost nearly 63.5 kilograms. As a side benefit, he started playing the best hockey of his life. His mental health struggles improved, too, which translated to a boost in confidence.
When all was said and done, his family and friends barely recognised him: He still recalls going out with his grandmother when he was at his leanest—around 84 kilograms. "Throughout lunch," he says, "she kept slipping brisket onto my plate."
As for people who are just getting started, Cole has plenty of advice: First, he says, learn the basics of tracking your consumption, and make sure you're eating at a deficit. "Don't paralyse yourself with the overflow of nutritional information out there," he says, "a lot of which is nonsense. Keep it simple."
Second, he says, know that weight loss isn't linear—there are constant peaks and valleys. "Sometimes you can do everything right but you might not lose weight over a short window. This is normal, and if you stick to it, you will hit your goals."
Finally, he says, don't take any 'zero' days. If you're not feeling motivated to run, just put on your running shoes and see how you feel. Don't want to work out? Go to the gym for five minutes and see what happens. "You can quit after that," he says, "but I bet you won't."
This article originally appeared on Men's Health US