by Theodore Coutilish, Published May 28, 2014
Ryan Haywood knew something wasn’t right.
Haywood, a transfer student from Washtenaw Community College, walked into Warner Gymnasium on his first day of class at Eastern Michigan University in September 2011. He looked around at the size and shape of his fellow physical education majors and immediately felt out of place.
“Everyone was in shape, but me,” said Haywood, who weighed 327 pounds, heavy for his 6’4” frame. “I knew I had to do something immediately.”
Moved by his epiphany, Haywood had a heart-to-heart talk with his girlfriend, Jessica Abrams, now 23, an EMU senior speech-language pathology major, at their Ann Arbor home later that evening.
Haywood told her he was tired of being tired.
“I was tired of not being able to tie my shoes,” said Haywood, now 23 and an April 2014 graduate of EMU. "I was tired of sweating all the time. I was tired of being out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs.”
For Haywood, being heavy had never been a problem.
“I was always tall, heavy, kind of lazy,” he said. “I ate everything — pizza, burritos, hamburgers. I was a big Teddy Bear type of guy and didn’t see any health issues with being big. Well, that is until I got to EMU.”
Abrams told him she felt tired, too, and was interested in a lifestyle change.
They started at home. They bought less food from the grocery store, chose healthier, more organic food, and ate smaller proportions.
Next up was exercise.
“We started running one-half mile a day,” Haywood said. “Now I run 3 miles five days a week. We start at 5 or 6 in the morning.”
Eventually, they added weight training and other resistance training.
The hard work has paid off.
In one year, Haywood lost 110 pounds and Abrams lost 75 pounds. More remarkable, both have kept off the weight.
The secret to success, Haywood said, is to fall in love with healthy living.
“Starting is the key,” he said. “Don’t follow the trends. Eat less. Eat healthier foods. Work out regularly. You can’t be successful at one without the others.”
His best advice to others?
“Find what works for you. Restructure your lifestyle. Find new foods to love. But most important is to get started. Take the first step and stick with it.”
As an undergraduate, Haywood worked in EMU's Faculty/Staff Wellness Program, a collaboration between REC/IM and HR Benefits. He now plans to find work in a corporate wellness program.
Suzy Albert, his supervisor and professional trainer, said he will be a success at any organization.
“He lost over 100 pounds because he felt he needed to serve as an example,” Albert said. “He has been integral to the formation of the Wellness Program. Faculty in the School of Health Promotion and Human Performance created this internship opportunity specifically for Ryan because they recognized his passion, his tenacity, and his competence. Ryan has successfully coordinated with the REC/IM, HR Benefits, HPHP, and the PE program in order to make this program a reality on campus. I knew he would be a great colleague the minute I met him. He didn't stop at creating a healthier life for himself. He extended the same opportunity for success and for wellness to others.”