Joe Wuest is a loser and proud of it

Staff reporter

He's an athlete at heart — a marathon runner. And now he's running one of the most important races of his life — to lose weight and become more healthy.

Joe Wuest of Goessel sees his losing weight this time around as a marathon race not a sprint.

"There are no secret pills to make me lose weight," the 36-year-old husband and father of three said. "I simply have to burn more calories than I eat."

And after he loses the weight, he wants to keep it off — for good.

Not so long ago, Joe was a marathon runner when he and wife Deena lived in California.

Joe grew up in Salina and had always been an athlete. He was a cross country runner at Kansas Wesleyan College at Salina and West Los Angeles College in California. As an adult, he is particularly proud of the marathons he ran in California and Texas, finishing with the front-runners.

Ten years later and 100 pounds heavier, Joe is ready to not only lose weight but return to his athletic lifestyle.

Since he started The Biggest Loser weight-loss program in January through Greenhaw Pharmacy of Hillsboro, Joe has lost 20 pounds. His first goal is to lose 30 pounds by March. His ultimate goal is to return to his running weight of 190 pounds.

Like many people, Joe's family's genes are part of the weighty problem.

"My father was heavy — some might say obese," Joe said.

Even though he didn't grow up with his father in his life, Joe was called to his dying father's bedside Thanksgiving Day, 1997.

"I watched my father die," Joe said. His father had other health issues but a primary contributor was his weight.

Joe's father was 46 years old.

"I'm turning 37 in June. I want to be around for my wife and children, and my grandchildren," Joe said.

As a financial services professional with New York Life Insurance Company, he is very much aware of health problems associated with being overweight.

So what happened to the trim and toned athlete?

Basically, life happened.

Joe and Deena moved to Marion County — living in Lehigh from 1998 to 2003, and moving to Goessel in 2003.

"I like being around people and living in a city," Joe said. When he moved to rural Kansas, it was somewhat of a culture shock. Instead of exercising and being physically active, he quit running and began a more sedentary lifestyle.

As his career progressed and his family grew, Joe spent less time exercising and eating healthy.

Like most people who have lost and gained weight, Joe's tried many different diets. He could lose the weight while on the diet but as soon as he went back to eating a normal diet, he gained it all back.

Now he considers this "diet" a lifestyle change — something he will have to follow the rest of his life.

Diet and exercise

Losing weight isn't the hard part. It's keeping the weight off, Joe said.

Joe is eating 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day and exercising one hour, four times a week.

To help him keep track of his caloric intake, he keeps a food diary through an Internet program, Joe logs in everything he consumes — meals, snacks, beverages, and even chewing gum.

He weighs himself twice a week — Tuesdays and Saturdays. After changing his eating habits and making a conscious effort to exercise, Joe has lost 21.5 pounds in 35 days.

With support from his wife, Joe has a piece of paper with a big "250" in the middle and other numbers around the edge. As he loses weight, he marks off the number. When the boxes on this paper are crossed out, he will set his next goal.

"To help me stay focused I keep these reminders of my goals everywhere," Joe said. There's one at home, the office, and in the car.

He sincerely believes he will be The Biggest Loser through the Hillsboro program.

Currently there are 178 people participating in the four-month weight-loss program with the winner receiving $1,790 cash.

"Money is a good motivator," Joe said, but considers his health to be the ultimate "prize."

His other motivators are Deena, and his three children — Savannah, 7, Skyler, 4, and Brooklyn, six months.

"I feel so much better since I've been eating healthy, exercising, and losing some weight," Joe said. "I know I will continue to feel good as I become more fit."

Becoming more active and healthy is all about changing habits.

So are there two meals prepared in the Wuest home every night?

"Deena takes care of feeding the kids," Joe said, "and I fix my own."

These days it isn't difficult to prepare fat-free and cholesterol-free meals.

As part of his exercise regimen, Joe walks and runs on a treadmill, and pedals a stationary bicycle. He's looking forward to his race when he competes March 8 in a 5k run/jog/walk race at Newton.

When the program ends in May, Joe hopes to be 70 to 80 pounds lighter. By the end of the year, he plans on achieving his ultimate goal of losing 100 pounds.