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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

David Johnson 03 on the Today Show next to a pile of hams a visual demonstration of his weight loss.

  

Winning attitude fuels stunning 200-pound weight loss

Two years ago, David Johnson ’03 had an epiphany that inspired him to lose half of his 400 pounds with sheer determination.

In March 2009, just two days away from scheduled gastric bypass surgery, Johnson was struck with the realization that a surgical procedure was not the right answer to his problem. What he needed was a paradigm shift – an attitude adjustment that would transform him into someone who could let his desire for a healthy body overcome his desire for food.

Johnson canceled the surgery and launched a successful journey to a lifestyle that did not include fear that he would break another chair or toilet seat or the humiliation of having every passenger’s eyes on him when he boarded a plane, eyes with looks that said “please don’t sit next to me.”

“I wanted to get my life back,” Johnson said. In 20 weeks he lost his first 105 pounds. “Before I was scared and, like a lot of others, I was losing a little then putting it back,” Johnson said. “It’s incredible how out of shape you let your vehicle — your one body — get into.”

Now he romps and runs and jumps on trampolines with his young nephews instead of lying on the floor exhausted as they crawled on his too-large body. Now he is a successful health coach with 140 clients instead of a bank worker who was promoted only after losing the first several pounds. Now Johnson has fulfilled some of his wildest dreams, including skydiving after his March appearance on the Today Show (today.msnbc.msn.com/id/3041426/ vp/47231749#47231749).

Most importantly, Johnson, now 31 and a Minneapolis resident, has become a triumphant dropout from the 35.7 percent of Americans who are categorized as obese. During the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. More than one-third of U.S. adults and approximately 17 percent of children and adolescents aged 2-19 are obese.

Among obesity-related conditions the CDC lists are heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of the leading causes of death. Medical costs associated with obesity are in the billions. “Lose 10 percent of your body weight and you’ll reduce your chance of disease by 50 percent,” Johnson said.

“Obesity is killing us.” While Johnson is proud of his success, he credits his health coach with helping him achieve his goals. His cousin had lost 80 pounds on the Medifast system Johnson now works with as a coach and mentor to other coaches. It’s a system that has been the program of choice for hospitals such as Johns Hopkins, a system that helps clients set the boundaries in their lives that will start them on a realistic weight loss plan.

“I never could have imagined this career as a health coach opening up to me, but my bachelor of elective studies degree from SCSU has been an incredible asset to me, especially because it allowed me to create my major around what was important to me,” Johnson said.

He came to St. Cloud State with credits from Normandale Community College and a year of traveling and sales work and continued working full time while completing his studies. He graduated summa cum laude with a multidisciplinary degree focusing on marketing, management, communications and fine art.

“I literally use every aspect of my major,” he said. “I loved my experience at St. Cloud State,” he said. “I had a great college experience with classes that were excellent and challenging.”

One of his favorite instructors, management Professor Elaine Davis, remembers Johnson well and is not surprised by his success. “David stood out in my classroom as very engaged, motivated and a ‘high potential’ employee any organization would be lucky to get,” she said.

“In school I learned how to deal with different situations and to learn to grow and change,” Johnson said. His weight loss has been a monumental part of that change, one that has transformed him from a bystander to a participant in life.“

We all rationalize,” Johnson said. “But when being overweight becomes your opportunity to call in sick to life, when you’re treading water and hanging back, it’s time to surrender and look for the influences that will support rather than sabotage a successful life change.” Johnson found those influences and is teaching others to turn off the nose and turn up their own voices — to look to themselves.

“You have to selfactualize, to ask yourself, ‘am I going to allow the world to determine my happiness?’

As a coach I’m bouncing the ball back and forth with my client, and it’s up to the client to move things forward. I can only support.”

See more of David Johnson’s weight-loss story on: youtube.com/watch?v=UXgRPL_SCZE 

- Marsha Shoemaker

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