Kevin Fowler's weight-loss journey began with a simple dare. A buddy who was in excellent physical shape challenged him to take up running and train for a 5K race.
At the time, Fowler, of Farmington, Minn., was carrying more than 230 pounds on his 5-foot-11 frame. He had packed on the weight over the years by being sedentary, eating big portions and indulging frequently "in anything caramel."
Never one to pass up a dare, he decided to give his friend's idea a try, so in January 2009, Fowler began by walking on a treadmill as fast as he could for an hour a day.
"When I got past walking fast and started to jog, there were parts of me that bounced too much," Fowler, 52, says. "I thought, 'This hurts, I've got to do something about it.' It wasn't pretty. It was not a good look."
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So he began watching portion sizes and cutting back on his intake of caramel. By the summer of 2009, he ran a 5K and was under 200 pounds.
Since then he has run two half-marathons and two full marathons. Fowler, a safety director for an electric company, now weighs about 195 pounds.
Some keys to his success:
Weight-loss plan: He doesn't count calories, but he knows how much he can eat to maintain his weight.
Breakfast is usually a couple of fried eggs or Kashi Go-Lean Crunch cereal. Lunch is either a chicken snack wrap from McDonald's or DQ or a Subway 6-inch whole-wheat sub made with roast beef, cheese and "as much spinach and cucumber as they can get on it."
At dinner, he always has a salad with low-cal, fat-free Italian dressing. He usually has chicken or pork but not a lot of red meat. He sometimes has a side of brown rice. He occasionally has a beer or wine.
"I mostly just watch portion sizes. My daily mind-set is you have to run a mile to burn about 100 calories. If I have that cookie-dough Blizzard (a medium one from DQ), am I willing to run an extra 10 miles beyond what's on the schedule? Makes it easy to say no."
Exercise routine: He runs 3½ miles a day, three or four days a week, outside whenever possible. He runs more when training for a marathon, following Hal Higdon's marathon training guides on the Web.
"I like keeping exercise as simple as possible. I can run anywhere. I just need a pair of shorts and running shoes.
"I don't like running, but I like what it does for me.
"If a person is going to stick to the marathon training schedule, it takes support and understanding from his or her family. My wife, Sue, has always been supportive of my running, to the point where she'll drive out and meet me on long run days with more fluids."
On the weekends, Fowler does lots of heavy lifting and manual labor at his farm in southeastern Minnesota.
What keeps him motivated: "I realize how easy it is now to get to my shoes when I bend down to tie them."
Goal: To get down to 185 pounds and to keep off what he has lost.
That original dare "has changed who I am, what I do and how I do it. Hopefully, it has added years to my life."