I just kept it simple and consistent.
"I was a big kid forever," Charles Vines says. That wasn't always a bad thing for him—he had a long scholastic football career, including four years as a defensive tackle at Fairleigh Dickenson University. But his freshman year, his outlook on being the "big kid" changed when he tore the medial collateral ligament in his knee. "The injury probably wouldn't have happened if I wasn't so big and could move a bit better," he says. Plus, being laid up put even more weight on his already 300-pound frame.
Flash-forward eight years. Today, the now 26-year-old Vines is more than 125 pounds lighter and in the best shape of his life. People make vows to lose weight all the time, of course, but once the weight comes off, it slowly creeps back on—and then some. Not for Vines. We asked him what it took to stay so consistent.
So how'd you stay the course so long?
People always ask, how'd you do it, how'd you do it? A little bit every day. But back when my knee was torn up, going through surgery and everything, I got even bigger. When I first started tracking it, I was 330, or maybe even more. I was scared to step on the scale because nobody wants to see that. So I was just sick of it. I made a promise that once everything heals up, I'm gonna go hard in the gym, do what I have to do, and that's where it started. And right now, I'm six feet tall, 205 pounds.
It's that easy?
(laughs) Look, I didn't want to lose too much weight while I was still playing football. I still played all 4 years. So I lost 10, 20 pounds at first, then 30 pounds during the offseason. Then when I was done completely playing ball, I was like, all right, let's do this thing.
Was it more about food than exercise? You were already an athlete.
Yeah, the main thing was eating. I started to take that more seriously. I wasn't the cleanest eater. You know when Taco Bell had the $.79, $.89, and $.99 menu?
I would drop like $20.
So it was all about cleaning that up. I ate cleaner and drank a lot more water, you know, all the things you're supposed to do. No real tricks there. Just better food in healthy amounts. That's when it started coming together.
So again, the real question is, how did you maintain the weight loss and keep it off for so long? That's where everybody gets messed up—they lose the weight but put it back on.
Here's how it worked for me: Once you start seeing the results—and I'm not talking about the early stuff, because everybody drops that first 10 or 15 really quick—but when you look in the mirror after you've dropped like 25, look at yourself and you're like, whoa, I didn't know I had muscles there. That's awesome. So I became addicted to that.
That changed your mindset, but what did you do day-to-day? Because everyone has those crap days when they don't feel like doing anything healthy.
The boring answer no one wants to be told is if you implement good eating habits and stick with them, you'll get the results. It stuck for me because I enjoyed seeing the results. But really, it's all about keeping it simple and keeping it consistent. I have days when I don't feel right or want to work out, but I don't like the alternative. Today, if I eat a cheeseburger, I feel terrible. I don't like feeling that way. So maybe you could say I've become addicted to feeling good. You can say, "I don't wanna go to work." Fine, but if you don't wanna be homeless, you go to work. That's my attitude with the lifestyle. I don't want to die from diabetes, so I'm not gonna eat that glazed doughnut.
What's the biggest thing you learned that helped you keep it going?
I think people get confused about motivation and discipline. Two different things. You can't really control motivation. It's a feeling, and you won't always feel motivated. You won't always have your favorite motivational speaker in your ears when you're out running. But discipline? You control that. You can be disciplined and push through the lack of motivation. I have goals on my walls, career goals, weight-loss goals, stuff like that. I control whether or not I hit those goals. And I'm like, "I said I'm gonna do this, I don't feel like it today, but I'll do it anyway."
So name a goal on your wall right now.
My biggest goal right now is 190 pounds. I always wanted to be under 200. Almost there!
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