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Federal Prison and using the time to your advantage - I lost 140 lbs. while there. Here's how.

Updated on April 18, 2014

140lbs. is a lot of weight, a whole person in fact. I didn't think I could lose that much but I did!

When I entered prison I weighed 360lbs. I am not proud of going to prison but I am equally ashamed of the fact that I had let my weight get so out of control. Given the fact that I was so big, I sometimes look back on the time I spent away and see it as something of a blessing. I was a fat cat mortgage banker and real estate investor who had made some money and lived like it. I regularly overrate, drank more than I should, smoked and set behind a desk all day living a totally sedentary lifestyle.

Day one in the Atlanta camp I was given the job of taking a white trash bag and picking up cigarette buts all over the compound. you could still smoke at that time though that ended shortly after my arrival.

At any rate, one would think that wouldn't be too difficult right? Well, for a man who was so big he could hardly bend over to tie his shoes. It was very taxing. Sometimes in the south it is still hot in October and those fall days were no exception. By the end of the day my calves were sore from bending over at the waist and I was sweating like a hog. In fact, I was having such a hard time that one of the guards, who turned out to be a really nice guy, came over mid afternoon and gave me a break, letting me go back the barracks.

Later in a conversation I had with him he told me that he did so because i was little older than most of the guys and he didn't want me to have a heart attack. While I appreciated his kindness, I was really put out, with myself, mind you more than anyone else, that my life had come to that, In prison first and running a very close second, having let myself get that fat. Then and there, I resolved that I would do something about it. After all. I had plenty of time on my hands and I needed something to focus on.

I think it goes without saying that there are no weight loss groups in Prison like you see on TV. In fact, I couldn't find a single book in the library on the subject. Luckily, I did find a few magazines in the day room with a couple articles from which I could glean some information. I also met a guy named John, Big John was the name he went by and with good reason, he was a pretty big guy.

John had lost about 80lbs and he had been in a little over a year. He told me that he had done it just eating normal portions of food in the cafeteria and cutting out sweets. He also said that he walked as much as 8 miles a day. At the outset those words may as well have been Japanese which I do not speak.

I could not imagine a scenario in which I could walk eight miles in roughly and 8 to 12 hour period and live to tell about. I told him so and he just laughed, telling me that he wasn't able to do it at first but I had to start somewhere and work my way up. He also said he would walk with me if I wanted him to help me get started. Honestly it would be nice to have someone to talk to and I felt a little safer knowing that there would be someone to drag me back to the infirmary when I keeled over on the track.

We started walking the next day and while I suffered from shin splints and could only make around the 1/4 mile track once without stopping to rest the first day, the walking actually went better than I thought it would and before long I was able to do a mile then 2 then even 3. I still had my reservations about walking 8 miles in a day.

Dieting is not easy to do in prison, as you might imagine the menu is high in carbohydrates, beans and rice, noodles, etc. (inexpensive but filling) so much for Club Fed huh? So I had to be careful not only about what I ate. Protein, important for a dieter was not plentiful, especially protein that was low in fat. There was chicken twice a week once fried (not good) once baked (OK), there was hamburger day and there was liver and onions (God forbid) and some other stuff that I honestly never knew what it was (needless to say I never ate that) There were grits and cereal at breakfast and that could be used as a good start. Carbohydrates in the morning is always a good idea. In fact I learned that if I limited those after 12pm or even cut them out completely my daily and weekly weight loss would increase.

All in all things went well early on and with watching what I ate and exercise, I still wasn't to eight miles but I was getting there, I lost 50lbs in a fairly short time but then it stopped and I couldn't for the life of me make it start coming off again. I had hit the wall and quickly came to see that I had to do something in order to start dropping again.

I talked to every inmate I could find that was in good shape and I learned a few things. First to drink water and lots of it. I had been drinking diet coke available in the vending machines and at the commissary but I learned that diet soft drinks can sometimes slow metabolism and impede weight loss. So I went to water and lots of it. For the first few days I thought I would urinate myself to death. I simply could not stay out of the bathroom but eventually that leveled off.

I also learned that interval exercise could increase metabolism so I added that to my exercise routine. I would walk for 5 minutes, then jog for 1 and repeat that process over again during a 3 mile walk.

Those changes resulted in the loss of more weight in a slow but steady manner and by the time I left Atlanta for Edgefield, SC I had lost a total of 80 lbs. I arrived in Edgefield weighing in at 280 and Immediately set myself a goal to lose another 80 lbs. in the 11 months that I was to be there. The goal was ambitious I know but I had begun to see myself as 200 lbs. and I really wanted to make it there.

The Edgefield facility has a small work out room with assorted treadmills, exercise bikes, etc. and I immediately put it to good use. I outlined a workout program for each day of the week in addition to my walking and again began to watch my diet very closely.

Again the weight began to come off but not nearly at the rate I was hoping for. I developed a pattern of dropping 1 to 2, sometimes 3 lbs. per week, resulting in an average monthly drop of 5 to 6 lbs. I didn't let myself become discouraged over this, even though I wasn't on target to reach my goal. I worked hard each day and cut down even more on my caloric intake.

I left the Edgefield in January of 2007, 15 lbs. short of my goal. Upon my return home at a slim 215 lbs. my family and friends could not believe the change. It felt great to receive the compliments from people in almost three years and I can honestly say that it increased my self esteem dramatically and I was very proud of what I had accomplished not to mention the health benefits derived from such a drop.

Prison was certainly not something I would have chosen to do and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone as a program of weight loss but I am proud that I was able to make the best of a bad situation.

If you liked this HUB try my book "The Prison Experience" at at Amazon for Kindle!


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    • wpcooper profile image

      Finn Liam Cooper 2 months ago from Los Angeles

      Glad to see you took a traumatic situation and made the best of it

    • Gypsy Willow profile image

      Gypsy Willow 7 years ago from Lake Tahoe Nevada USA , Wales UK and Taupo New Zealand

      Liver and onions or liver and bacon are divine and so good for you! Shame you don't like them. Interesting hub!

    • profile image

      Pat Kramer 7 years ago

      Pretty interesting blog, KLW. Sounds like you have a good system for weight loss~

    • blondepoet profile image

      blondepoet 7 years ago from australia

      Wow you have an interesting life I would love to hear all about it.

    • ainehannah profile image

      Aine O'Connor 7 years ago from Dublin

      This is great stuff - but liver and onions are divine!!! Honestly, you don't have to be Hannibal Lector.