Walking Weight Loss Success: Man Loses 230 Pounds, Reverses Prediabetes – TODAY

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Tom Finigan, 58, loves his career as a high-school band director. But not long ago, he was afraid he would have to retire. The reason? At 410 pounds, he couldn’t keep up. “I had to ride in a golf cart when the kids were marching in a parade,” he said. “I felt guilty that they were walking and I wasn’t. I realized I had to be a better man, a better teacher, a better band director and a better role model.” As the father of two sons, he wanted to step up and be a better dad, too.
Six years ago, he lost more than 100 pounds, but when COVID-19 hit, his weight climbed back up to 372. “I was miserable, and it overflowed into my personal life and my teaching,” he said. And heart disease is in my family, and I had resigned myself to thinking I was going to have a stroke or heart attack. People kept telling me I would feel better if I lost weight and I guess I was in denial. I didn’t believe it.”
But with more time on his hands during the pandemic, he decided to make some changes. Between classes, he would walk around his Walterboro, South Carolina, neighborhood. And he changed his diet. “That was huge,” he said. Today, he is at 180 pounds — the lightest he’s been since middle school. 
“Now I feel like I can teach for another five to 10 years. I love what I’m doing, and I love life now. It’s so much different. Being at 180, I’m not going back ever again. That roller coaster is over,” he said.
Finigan lists the ways his life has changed for the better now that he is healthier:
“Before, I never really thought about what I ate. I just ate. Food was a comfort,” he said. He reached a point where he was eating two plates full of food, or a whole pack of Oreos and a gallon of milk, or a whole box of Entenmann’s donuts. “I was a big Bojangles fan, and I would eat a whole box of chicken. Now I use food a little bit differently. I’m really boring. I eat the same things because it works,” he said.
Here’s what he eats in a typical day:
He traded sweet tea for water, which he said was a tough swap to make as a Southerner. He eats a lot of fruit and vegetables and stays away from bread. “I don’t feel bad when I have a cheat day — I might decide to have chicken wings or an ice cream cone. But it’s always in the back of my mind that I lost that weight, and I don’t want to put it back on,” he said.
Finigan uses smaller plates to manage his portion sizes, and he tracks his calories with a Fitbit, aiming for 1,600 to 1,800 calories a day. He tried 1,200 calories at first, but found that was too low.
I approach it as a musician — as a trombone player and a band director, when you want to get better, you have to practice every day.
I approach it as a musician — as a trombone player and a band director, when you want to get better, you have to practice every day.
said Tom Finigan
He started walking for just 15 minutes, or sometimes just down the driveway and back. He built up to the point where he could walk 30 or 45 minutes easily. “I get up every morning, and if I don’t walk, I feel like I haven’t started my day. I like to end the day with a walk, too,” he said. He listens to music or podcasts or talks on the phone while he walks.
He said, “It’s easy to make excuses and say ‘It’s too hot’ or ‘I’m tired.’ But you have to find 30 minutes or an hour for yourself. There’s no magic pill. It’s being consistent and persistent. I approach it as a musician — as a trombone player and a band director, when you want to get better, you have to practice every day.” 
Finigan saw the Start TODAY Facebook group when he was watching the TODAY show and joined so he could hold himself accountable and possibly motivate others. He posts a map of his walk every day and sometimes shares inspiring thoughts or music.
“When you’re so heavy, you look at other people, and human instinct is to be a little jealous and to think they must have had personal trainers or whatever,” Finigan said. “I didn’t have any of that. I just had to be persistent. For years my doctor was telling me I had to lose weight — I knew what I had to do, and I had to keep focused, keep my head down and keep doing it.”
Stephanie Thurrott is a writer who covers mental health, personal growth, wellness, family, food and personal finance, and dabbles in just about any other topic that grabs her attention. When she’s not writing, look for her out walking her dog or riding her bike in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley. 


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