Johnathan Headley was tired. Tired of feeling out of breath as he walked off the stage after leading a service as a worship pastor.
He was tired of feeling frustrated that he couldn’t keep up with 4-year-olds when he coached his son’s soccer team. And he was tired of wondering whether he’d be able to stand back up if he climbed onto the floor to play with his two kids.
At 6-foot-1 and 377 lb. at his heaviest—and on medication for high blood pressure—Headley had tried diets before, and he had tried the gym thing too many times, he explained.
“Usually I’d last maybe six weeks, but never saw results, so then I’d quit,” he said.
Last spring, it occurred to him the problem might be that he needed to stop trying to do it alone.
“I knew I needed help and it was one of those moments where I felt like, ‘This could be it,’ if I can find someone to provide accountability. I knew I couldn’t do it on my own anymore,” he said.
Then a friend told Headley about coach Philip Tabor at CrossFit Coordinate in Cary, North Carolina. Headley met with Tabor in June 2019, and something clicked for him right away.
“There was something about (my meeting with Tabor) that gave me hope and a feeling of possibility,” Headley said. “Something Philip said was I needed to find a selfish reason to do this. I had been hearing for years, ‘Do it for your kids. Do it for your wife,’ but it needed to hit a place where I mattered enough that I was worth doing this for me.”
And that was that: Headley committed himself to working out five days a week and completely changing his diet.
The next day, he stopped going to McDonald’s or Wendy’s once or twice a day and started cooking meals at home. He eliminated bread and pasta and sugar and began eating mostly vegetables, fruits and lean protein. Most of the time, he intermittent fasts.
Within one month, he was down 22 lb., which gave him the motivation he needed to stick with it.
Twenty two pounds soon became 30, and 30 became 40. Fast forward to January 2020, and Headley is down 95 lb. since the day he started with Tabor and weighed in at 367 lb., and 105 lb. since his all-time heaviest of 377 lb.
“I got rid of 80 percent of my closet. Everything was a 3XL, and I just put on a size large peacoat the other day, which is crazy,” he said.
Further, his doctor took him off his blood pressure medication in October 2019, as his blood pressure has completely normalized.
Though Headley is stoked about the weight loss, and amazed he can do things he never thought he’d be able to, such as deadlift 440 lb., the best part is how his renewed health has trickled into all the other important aspects of his life, he explained.
“I didn’t just change by working out and eating better. I changed everything. I go to bed at 10:15 (p.m.) now and get up at 6 a.m., so I find myself more rested. And I no longer experience the energy low in the afternoon,” said Headley, who used to go to bed at 2:30 a.m.
“Also, I can pay so much more attention to things, and am so much more present and more productive,” he said. Meanwhile, his recovery has improved, and his joints no longer pop all the time.
Most important, though, is how his entire family has been affected.
“It drove my wife nuts how much I ate out, and how much I’d take my son to eat out, but now we cook pretty much everything at home,” he said. “We’re all locked in together now, eating healthy together. We’re all more active and feel better, and I can get down on the floor and play with my kids now,” he said.
All of this makes for a happier person, a better husband and a better dad, Headley explained.
“I’m taking better care of myself, so it means I treat my kids better, and am better at my job. It really has trickled into all areas of my life. Even things like, I just bought a waterpik. I didn’t floss enough so I invested in a waterpik and it’s helping. So just little things like that, which I wouldn’t have done before, are helping me be my best self, and it means everything around me is better too,” he said.
“And I don’t know that I’ll ever eat at McDonald’s again,” he added.
Though Headley deserves the credit for putting in the work and making the hard changes in these recent months, he is adamant he would never have done it without Tabor’s help.
“Having someone in my corner helping me, a coach guiding me, has been immensely important. I tried doing it for 15 years on my own and couldn’t,” he said.
Thus, Headley urges others who find themselves in a similar situation to do the same.
Get help and “invest in yourself,” he said. “You’re worth the effort and the trying. And on the other side of it, it’s worth being stringent. It’s worth doing it even though it’s hard, to feel better about yourself. So be worth the time, and be worth investing in yourself.”
Photos: John Headley