Name: Dustin Worth
Residence: Port Charlotte, FL
Job: Senior technical advisor for Apple and freelance photographer
Family status: Married with four children, ages 10, 9, 7, and 3
Peak weight: 270 pounds
Current weight: 170 pounds
Height: 6 feet
Dustin Worth signed up for a health challenge at work on June 1, 2018. When he did, he visualized what fitness would look like for him — he pictured himself on a beach, in Florida, with his son on his shoulders. In his mind he’s lean, his back is strong, and he feels comfortable going shirtless.
But Worth had a long way to go before that vision became real. At the time, he weighed 270 pounds and felt so self-conscious about his size that he didn’t want to join a gym or run outside. Instead, he ran on a treadmill in the dark, musty basement of his 1960s-era house in Michigan.
Worth had struggled with his weight for his entire life. But when it started to affect his health, he knew it was time to make a change. “I had some pretty severe sleep apnea, and not being able to breathe while I was sleeping started taking me into a downward spiral in terms of health,” he says.
“I would spend some nights sleeping on the couch because I didn’t want to disturb my wife’s sleep. That’s a sad state to be in,” he says. Plus, the lack of sleep was sapping his energy and making him irritable.
His wife Annette’s fitness also inspired him to make a change. She had decided on New Year’s Day in 2018 to train for a marathon. “I would watch the kids and she would go out and run six miles, then 12, then 18.”
And Annette encouraged him. “Early on she told me, ‘If you commit to this lifestyle you won’t recognize yourself in the mirror in six months.’ That’s not really a long time. You think drastic changes take years and years, but you can see significant and encouraging changes in your body in a short time with the right amount of dedication,” he says.
AN “AUDACIOUS” EXERCISE CHALLENGE
By June, Worth was ready to step up his efforts. As part of his work challenge, he tracked his food intake and his fitness. He also told Annette he would join her in a triathlon and a 5K.
“I knew it was going to be ugly. The triathlon and the 5K were two things I didn’t think I could do. But I think one of the secrets is telling yourself you can do something you never thought you could do — breaking through that barrier,” he says. “You have to stop not believing, then do the work.”
Once Worth set those goals, which he called “audacious,” he broke them down into smaller, more manageable goals, like running a mile on a treadmill. Once he could run a mile, he tried to run that mile faster, and added a second mile.
“Throughout it all I was moving toward that vision,” he says, referring to the image of himself on the Florida beach. “I always had it in my head.”
TRACKING CALORIES TO CREATE A DEFICIT
Worth knew exercise alone wouldn’t be enough for him to reach his weight-loss goals, so he took a hard look at his diet and made some changes. “As much work needs to be done in the kitchen as in the gym,” he says.
To start, he created a calorie budget. “It’s just thermodynamics,” he says. “If your body burns 2,500 or 2,800 calories a day, you need to eat 1,700 or 1,800 to lose body fat. There are whole industries out there trying to make it more complicated than it should be. Once I figured out how simple it was, I started tracking what I eat to create a calorie deficit.”
In late June he completed the triathlon. “I was dead last, but I was still at the finish line,” he says. In mid-July he ran the 5K, finishing in 30 minutes. His wife finished in under 24 minutes, and said that in no time he would be running as fast as her. Sure enough, in November they finished a race together in 25 minutes.
BUILDING CONFIDENCE AND STAMINA ALONG WITH MUSCLE
Along with his physical changes, Worth found he changed on the inside, too. “I’m able to be available for my wife and children, and strong for them. I hate to admit it, but I didn’t have the energy to be a contributor outside of work. Now I’m able to wake up earlier, work harder and do more around the house. It was difficult for me before.”
Worth says now he’s more confident, and he enjoys doing things like shopping for clothes and taking his wife out dancing.
“I feel like I’m a better fit for my wife,” he says.
A MAJOR LIFE CHANGE
Later in 2018, the Worths relocated their family from Michigan to Florida. Before then, he had spent many hours learning about the science and art of photography on YouTube, and his work had been published by National Geographic.
He used that same technique to learn about weight training and nutrition. Annette had not done much weight training, so he helped her learn, too. “There’s a romantic aspect,” he says. “Working out together has become a fixture in our lives now. It’s brought us closer together.”
And that vision he had of himself with his son on his shoulders on the beach? It became a reality at Fort Myers beach in March 2019.
OUR DIETITIAN’S TAKE
Samantha Cassetty, R.D., a New York City-based nutritionist, gives Worth high marks for his visualization technique. “Visualization is such an excellent tool. It really helps encourage behavior change,” she says. “It’s actually a technique that pro athletes use to up their game.”
She also admires the way he’s been able to change his habits. “Habit change is really awesome. When you disrupt one pattern and create a new pattern that sparks a lot of positive change,” she says.
And, she points to the support Worth gets from his wife as crucial for his success. “I think she has solid, positive, motivational words for him. She really helped him make a major change,” Cassetty says. “Sometimes people get off course — that is part of every change process. If you don’t feel supported it might cause you to throw in the towel.”
She adds a couple of cautions, though, for people who might follow Worth’s path. She worries that people who turn to YouTube for health information might get bad or incomplete advice.
And while cutting calories worked for Worth, it’s a method that many people find challenging. “Portion size is not usually the first choice, because people like abundance on their plates. But it works for him — it’s self-directed, and he picked the best method for him,” she says.
Cassetty also notes that it’s not just the number of calories that matters, it’s what those calories are made of. “Different foods work harder for us in terms of appetite, gut health, weight and body composition,” she says.
She says there are lots of good reasons to exercise, and that exercise can help maintain weight loss. But you make the biggest impact on your weight loss efforts when you focus on the calories you are consuming, not the calories you are burning.
She thinks Worth’s strategy of layering on new goals as he achieves his goals is a great way to keep moving forward. “You can celebrate success, and it creates a sense of accomplishment,” she says. “One positive change can spark another.
The next goals she would suggest to Worth? Incorporating more vegetables and fiber into his diet. “He’s doing exceptionally well with fitness and lifestyle,” she says. “He could up his game on the vegetables.”
DUSTIN’S TYPICAL MEALS
Breakfast: Eggs, good protein, and some fruit, like banana
Lunch: A protein shake with blueberries and oat milk
Snacks: Cereal bars or cottage cheese
Dinner: A go-to dinner he likes and eats almost every day: Ground turkey with salsa, hot sauce and Greek yogurt, served with either tortilla chips or brown rice
During his weight loss, Dustin ate smaller portions of the same foods he used to eat. Now that he’s at his goal weight and focused on improving his fitness, he’s paying closer attention to the nutrients in his diet.
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