With a change in diet and exercise, local man loses nearly 170 pounds

The little victories along the way kept Jacob Eckstein motivated on his weight loss journey.

When he started May 1, 2018, he weighed 391 pounds, had a 48-inch waist and wore 4XL shirts.

On May 1 of this year, he weighed 225 pounds and had a 36-inch waist and now wears large shirts.

“Every time I went down a size was a little victory that motivated me and told me that what I’m doing is working and to keep doing it,” the 26-year-old Seymour resident said.

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He remembers the day he had to move the seat up in his car because he didn’t need it all the way back anymore and the day he realized he needed smaller belts cause they were wrapping halfway around his body.

“Every Sunday, I’d step on the scale to weigh in and see that another week of eating right and staying active was worth something because I dropped another couple pounds,” Eckstein said.

To put his weight loss in perspective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the average weight and waist circumference for adult men 20 and older in the United States is 197.8 and 40.3, respectively.

In two years, Eckstein has lost 166 pounds, so he is on his way to losing the average weight of an adult man.

“My goal is to get to 200, then reassess my diet and workout routine to see what I want to do next,” he said. “The plan is to probably start throwing in weight training with my cardio when I reach my goal because I have areas of loose skin I would like to tighten up as much as I can. And doing strictly cardio for two years, I’ve undoubtedly lost some muscle mass that I’d like to get back.”

Wakeup call

So what does he attribute to reaching 391 pounds?

A year or so leading up to 2018, he said 90% of his job involved sitting at a computer every day for hours at a time.

“I would sit there and snack all day while still having a big lunch and dinner,” Eckstein said. “I never thought nor cared about my overall health or what I was putting into my body. If I wanted something, I ate it.”

On April 28, 2018, a day after his 24th birthday, he randomly stepped on a scale, and it said 391.

“I was almost 400 pounds, and it terrified me because I never thought I was that big. I knew I was overweight but not to that level,” he said. “I also noticed how it was getting harder and harder for me to find any sort of clothing online that I liked. Clothes shopping in stores had not been an option for a long time, but I was now having a hard time finding things online.”

That weekend, he said all he did was pig out on his favorite foods and sit at a computer researching and reading what he needed to do.

“I went to the grocery store the next day to get what I needed, and that following Monday, I started,” he said.

Inspiration to lose weight started with himself.

“I knew I didn’t want to just eat myself to death, and I realized that was pretty much what I was doing,” he said. “I knew if I didn’t change soon, I was going to start to have major health problems.”

His grandfather, Roger, also was an inspiration.

“He has always been the one that reminded me that I needed to do something about it,” Eckstein said. “He never did it in a mean way, but he always was the one to try and keep me active and nudge me to the healthier option.”

Eat less

Before deciding to lose weight, he said his diet was about as bad as it could get, and he wasn’t very active at all.

“I would finish a whole pizza or a whole box of Hamburger Helper with some garlic bread by myself, and that was just one meal,” he said. “Throughout the day, I’d snack on gas station snacks, cereal, everything chocolate. I imagine I was easily putting down 4,000 to 6,000 calories a day without blinking.”

Now, he usually stays below 1,200 calories a day.

“It was hard at first, but now that my body has adjusted and I’m eating more quality foods and less processed things, it’s the norm, and I never really feel hungry or like I’m going without,” he said.

In the beginning, he had chicken and vegetables for every meal. Then he moved to fish and vegetables. Now, he meal preps every three days for the next three days with grilled steaks and vegetables.

He measures the meals so he can track them and know how much he is consuming. He uses the free MyFitnessPal app for tracking.

While he said he’s not much of a breakfast person, if he does eat that meal, it’s usually a couple of eggs because it’s quick and easy.

Also, every Sunday night, he has a cheat meal.

“I fast all day, and then for dinner, I get whatever I want,” Eckstein said. “Usually, it’s Texas Roadhouse, pizza or meatloaf, and for dessert, it’s usually some doughnuts, Reese’s and ice cream.”

He doesn’t count any calories for that meal.

“It gets whatever I’m craving out of the way all at once, and since I eat healthy the rest of the week, I usually feel like crap after, and it has me wanting to get back to healthy living ASAP and work out even harder the next day,” he said.

He tries to keep his intake of carbohydrates at a bare minimum, except while splurging on his cheat meals.

“It’s meats and veggies from different sources,” he said. “Apples from time to time. Although they are high in carbs, that’s usually my go-to for something sweet. If I need to grab something at the gas station, it’s usually a beef jerky because the high protein and low carb content of it. I don’t really eat out, outside of my cheat meals, but when I do, I stay away from breads and pasta and try to stick to lean meats and veggies.”

Move more

Before his weight loss journey, he said the only exercise he got was mowing the lawn.

Two years ago, he started walking and jogging. At the beginning, he said he walked a mile a day four times a week and was exhausted.

“However, that worked wonders for me because I was almost 400 pounds, so carrying that weight for a mile had me trying to catch my breath, and the weight flew off,” he said. “The first month, I lost 35 pounds.”

He still mainly focuses on cardio.

“I’ll throw 15 or 20 reps in my routine from time to time, but it’s 99% cardio 5 miles a day four days a week,” Eckstein said. “In the summer or whenever it’s warm, I’ll jog outside as much as I can because I enjoy it way more than the gym, which I only go to in colder months or days it’s raining. I do four days a week and take Wednesday off because for me, it breaks up my week and makes it less tiring.”

At the six-month mark Nov. 1, 2018, Eckstein was at 305 pounds. Then at the one-year mark May 1, 2019, he weighed 244 pounds.

Before the journey, he said he mentally felt fine about himself. He knew he would not like to be as big, but he never got depressed or had other issues.

“I wanted to lose weight but not enough to give up the life I was living,” he said.

Physically, he said he was always sluggish.

“I never felt like doing anything because I was always eating, so I was always in the post-meal nap stage. I was lazy,” he said.

Now, he looks back on how he was living and doesn’t know how he did it for so long.

“I was so stagnant, but I had just gotten used to it,” he said. “Now, I feel like a completely different person. I’m active even outside of working out. I’m more disciplined in every aspect of my life. I keep my house cleaner. I’m self-employed, and I get my work done quicker. I’m more focused. It sounds cliche, but I really just have more energy overall.”

Eckstein said he’s constantly learning how his body works and what does and doesn’t work.

“I keep referring to it as a diet, but two years into this, it’s pretty much just how I eat now,” he said. “I can’t fathom going back to where I was, especially after all I’ve done to get here.”

As motivation, he looks at a screenshot of a text message from his grandfather sent the day before he started his journey. It was a reply to Eckstein’s picture of his meal prepping.

“Good luck! It takes sticktoitivness. Hang with it for the long haul,” his grandfather wrote.

“I text him my progress pictures and talk to him about how it’s going all the time,” Eckstein said.

Brand-new man

When he looks at past pictures of himself, Eckstein said he sees someone with no-self control and no discipline. He said he was embarrassed to take pictures or be tagged in photos because he didn’t like the way he looked, although he didn’t dislike it enough to change.

Now, he said he sees someone happy, with their life in order and laser focused on the future.

“I’m not embarrassed to admit I’ll go back and tag myself in pictures that people post of me if they forget to tag me,” he said.

If people take anything from his journey, Eckstein said there are two points he wants to preach.

“First, there’s no magic pill. There’s no smoothie. There’s no tea. There’s no 5-minute workout or waist trainers that’ll get you ripped in a week,” he said. “If you’re trying to lose weight, eat better and move more. You can never outwork a bad diet.”

Secondly, he said although it gets easier, it’s in no way easy, and people shouldn’t give up because they slipped up for a meal or two, even a week or two.

“Diet-wise, I fell off the horse a million times,” Eckstein said. “I’d crave something and just couldn’t wait for my cheat meal and have that food, and it would spiral my whole week. I’d have the mentality of ‘I already screwed up this week. Might as well keep screwing up and try again next week.'”

While he said he still does that from time to time, he has found the more days he sticks to his planned meals, the easier it is to get through the week and onto his cheat meal.

“Which always tastes better if I don’t slip up all week,” he said.

For others to live a healthy lifestyle and feel good about themselves, he said, “Stick to it and know yourself.”

“Once you get into a routine of eating right and working out regularly, it gets easier, and it’s no longer a diet. It’s just how you live,” he said. “Your diet and exercise are two things you can control. Take control of it.”

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Name: Jacob Eckstein

Age: 26

Hometown: Seymour

Residence: Seymour

Education: Seymour High School (2012)

Occupation: Self-employed

Hobbies: Fixing and selling electronics, remodeling his childhood home where he lives now, playing Xbox, spending time with friends and staying active