Kevin Jones has three pictures of himself on the “wall of success” at a local weight-loss clinic. The 36-year-old Dayton, Ohio, resident is the only client to have reached the ‘400-pounds-lost’ milestone, and he’d be the first to tell you the photos are a real reminder of how far he’s come, but also something he’s proud of himself for accomplishing.
While Jones was always a little overweight, he thought he was in decent shape throughout his school years. Once he graduated high school, however, he didn’t have the same structure to keep himself active, and he slowly started gaining weight. When he started doing stand-up comedy, he needed help getting on stage because he couldn’t climb the steps. He eventually was only leaving the house for work.
In 2015, things took a turn for the worse — Jones found himself in the hospital weighing 673 pounds, fighting for his life due to complications from an infection combined with his obesity.
“I quit breathing in the hospital; they had to do an emergency tracheotomy, and I lived on breathing machines and feeding tubes for two months in the ICU,” says Jones. “You’d think that would have been enough to get me to snap out of it, but maybe six months later, I got put back in ICU again not breathing. The doctor told me to set up home healthcare because I wasn’t going to live more than a year or so at that weight.”
As a result of his obesity, Jones lost most of his eyesight and was considered legally blind by the time he was discharged from the hospital. After being put on disability status, he hid indoors, only leaving the house a few times a month for mandatory doctor appointments with help from his mom.
At this point, he wasn’t exercising; he was barely cleaning himself and eating 5,000–10,000 calories a day — essentially, he had given up.
“A lot of times, I’d have KFC for breakfast, I’d eat a large pizza somewhere throughout the course of the day, and eat maybe 4–6 pieces of fried chicken for dinner,” Jones says. “I had a family member who worked for KFC, so at the end of the night, they’d bring me buckets of leftover chicken that they’d have to throw out, and that’s what I’d eat for most meals. I would eat pizzas in secret, and I would hide the boxes in my closet, so nobody else knew.”
In late 2015, after listening to the “Sober October” episode of the Joe Rogan podcast, where the hosts give up drinking for the entire month of October, Jones decided he’d give himself a month to lose some weight and cut out sugar (since he wasn’t drinking at the time).
“I reached out to a local weight-loss clinic [UC Health Weight Loss Center], and they told me to download MyFitnessPal, just track everything I eat and drink for the first month with no changes in my diet,” he says. “I lost 27 pounds just tracking, and seeing that loss, I never looked back.”
He slowly started transforming his diet, eliminating fried chicken and pizza and working toward a goal of consuming 1,500–2,000 calories a day. Eventually, these healthier habits became more natural to him, choosing lean protein, veggies and whole grains over his previous diet of high-sugar and ultra-processed foods.
With consistent healthy eating, Jones was down 200 pounds by early 2018, a serious milestone in his journey. With less weight on his frame, he could start leaving the house and walking around a local park. He’d set his alarm and go early to avoid being seen in public, and at first, the half-mile loop took him more than 45 minutes.
“I was having to stop at every other bench and catch my breath and wipe sweat out of my eyes at first,” he says. “Eventually, my body got used to it, and I bumped it up to walking five days a week, then eventually one mile and eventually going to the gym three days a week. The first time I went to the gym, I could only be there for 15 minutes. Now, I’m there Monday through Friday, and I lift at least an hour and a half. I walk at least three miles a day.”
Crossing the 200-pounds-lost mark also made him eligible for weight-loss surgery. Following the recommendation of his doctors, Jones elected for a gastric sleeve in April 2018.
This, combined with his healthier eating and exercise habits, helped him drop weight impressively fast — but it wasn’t all smooth sailing. In August 2019, he underwent brain surgery to remove a tumor that couldn’t be located during his previous ICU stay because of his weight.
“At the time I was too big for their MRI, so they called the Cincinnati Bengals football team and the Cincinnati Zoo to ask if they could put me in the MRI machines they use for the offensive linemen and the gorillas,” says Jones. “Both [organizations] told me I was too big for their machines.”
Luckily, once he had lost enough weight to fit into the MRI machine, they were able to locate the tumor and perform the surgery.
One year later, in August 2020, the government offered him a contract closeout specialist position in the United States Air Force. This meant he had to leave his self-described rural “village” and start a new life and career in a big city — which presented its own ups and downs.
“Moving to a new town where you don’t know anyone is tough, but moving to a new town during quarantine is insane,” says Jones. “I didn’t handle it very well, and the only things that got me through it were the staff at Everybody Fitness, especially my friends Karla and Koyel. They’re the only reasons I pulled out ahead, and if it wasn’t for them, I might have packed up and went home.”
He also relied on his online YouTube community called “The Landfill,” where he played online games and inspired others to start their own health-improvement journeys. Two of his online friends drove all the way from Alabama to meet him, with one of them starting a triathlon team called “Team Landfill Triathlon.”
At his lowest weight, Jones reached a mind-boggling 189 pounds, down 484 pounds from his heaviest weight of 673 pounds. He credits MyFitnessPal for keeping him honest and accountable through the entire journey, and has religiously logged his calories for more than 1,200 consecutive days.
“[MyFitnessPal] kept me accountable to everything my weight-loss doctors told me,” he says. “There’s no magic cure. You just move more and eat less, basically. I knew I was overeating, but to see how many calories I was both eating and drinking was a game changer. You can lie to your family and friends, but whenever you put your calories into that app, you’re only lying to yourself if you’re not honest.”
Jones is currently maintaining his weight loss by eating 1,500–2,000 calories a day. An average day of eating includes an omelet loaded with vegetables for breakfast, a protein shake three hours after that, a salad for lunch, stir-fry with skinless chicken for dinner and sometimes an additional protein shake at night. He’s adding more weight training into his exercise routine to gain more muscle, and he is planning to meet with a skin surgeon to remove 20–30 pounds of excess skin. He continues to look forward to what’s next and enjoy his second chance at life.
“I’m already living more of a life than I thought I ever would — I’ve got a good job, I live in a nice house in a nice neighborhood,” he says. “My next step is to meet a life partner to really enjoy life with. I’ve not dated anyone since 2008 because I was too embarrassed being that size. These are all things I never thought I’d be able to do again.”
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