163 pounds in a year: Man sheds weight with diet, exercise

Adam Bowles

Anthony D. Holland was only 35 when he bought his gravestone.

He didn’t have the nerve to weigh himself, but he knows now he was well over 400 pounds. And at that weight, Holland, 38, of Griswold, just didn’t expect to live long.

“Depression, tears,” he said of his general mood at the time.

But Holland began to grow sick and tired of feeling helpless about his condition.

He didn’t like that the inside of his pants kept wearing out or that he had to travel to New Haven for tailored clothes. He didn’t like being charged double fare for a helicopter ride he took over the Grand Canyon. He didn’t like the fact that the toilet bowl broke underneath his weight.

His weight no longer seemed normal to him, even if he came from a family that struggled with obesity. And when his doctor warned him that he was a candidate for diabetes, his fear of needles pushed him into a decision.

He was going to lose weight.

“I was determined,” said Holland, who, with his wife, Cheryl, has four children and three grandchildren. “I got this in my head, ‘I have to beat this.’”

From Sept. 16, 2008, to Sept. 16, 2009, Holland’s weight dropped from 386 pounds to 223 pounds. His strategy was simple — diet and exercise. He became an inspiration at World Gym Fitness and Sports Complex in Norwich, where he easily won a contest for the most weight lost in the shortest amount of time.

Cori Mahoney, the gym’s general manager, said Holland tries to motivate other gym members to get in shape.

“He’s actually challenging me to meet his standards and getting me enthusiastic to do it,” she said.

Mahoney pointed out that each member of Holland’s immediate family now has a gym membership. She said he may have teased them into action, but he had good intentions.

“Ultimately, they know he loves them and wants the best for them,” she said.

High school

Holland and his brother were raised by their mother in Norwich. She had a simple rule about food — no sweets in the house. They had corn flakes for breakfast; pork chops, beans and collard greens for dinner. No pizza. No desserts.

But he still entered Norwich Free Academy weighing 185 pounds. He played baseball and football, but was exposed to sweets. He fell hard for fast food after school, cupcakes and cookies in schools. When he graduated in 1989, he weighed 240 pounds and “was a bit on the chunky side.”

Holland’s weight kept ballooning. He had no qualms about eating at 2 a.m. The bloody noses in the middle of the night from high blood pressure didn’t stop him. And he had enough money to fuel his problem, enough money to buy tailored clothes, three freezers, lots of food. Each year, he ordered a cow and a couple of pigs from a butcher.

Take control

No one said Holland needed to get his weight under control. His advice to people who know someone who is overweight is to confront the person about the problem.

“Step up to the plate,” Holland said. “A great friend would take the time out to say something.”

Holland made up his mind to get in shape. Friends suggested a gastric bypass, but he didn’t want surgery.

So he got rid of all the sweets in his house. He tossed the chocolates, the snack cakes, candy and ice cream. Family members had to smuggle in sweets, because if he found it, he chucked it.

He began eating a banana for breakfast, an apple, orange or salad for lunch and chicken four or five times a week for dinner. He learned to like fish. He takes a multi-vitamin pack a day and drinks 100 ounces of water. He doesn’t eat anything after 8 p.m. and makes sure his daily calorie intake is between 1,600 and 1,800.

“You better account for everything you take in,” he said. “Everything measures out to who you are and what you are. Take a look in the mirror and be the boss of you.”

For the first couple of months, Holland walked tracks, and eventually began visiting World Gym in Norwich six days a week, where he spends at least an hour on the elliptical machine, another 45 minutes on the treadmill and then another hour-and-a-half on weights.

During the week, he goes straight to the gym after his job as a service agent for the state Department of Transportation.

Holland did away with his excuses, keeping a case of water and gym clothes in his car and gym clothes and personal hygiene items in his gym locker, so he could never say he wasn’t ready to work out.

He kept a journal of his progress. On Sept. 20, four days into his new resolution, he noted, “feet hurt” from walking. On Nov. 27, he noted his weight dropped to 323.8 pounds.

“You think you’re hungry, but you’re really not,” he said of his new outlook on food. “It’s a mind-over-matter thing.”

More energy

In his obese days, Holland did little more than lie on the couch, although he was outgoing in other ways, running unsuccessfully for the Norwich Board of Education and serving as coach and president of the Norwich Youth Football League. Occasionally, he walked the dog.

His son, Chance, 16, said his dad was lazy, but now he’s outgoing and energetic. He no longer takes high blood pressure pills. And he said he is prepared to fight every day to maintain his weight.

“It’s a complete life change,” said Chance Holland, who is his dad’s workout partner.

Holland said now that he is no longer tempted by food, he is more ambitious about life. He is studying for an associate degree in civil engineering at Three Rivers Community in Norwich, went back to Evans AME Zion Church in Norwich and wants one day to start a business.

“The fire’s burning,” he said.

On Nov. 27, his NFA graduating class is celebrating its 20-year reunion. Holland said the last time he took part in such a social event, besides his wedding, was at a dance while a student at Teachers’ Memorial Middle School. Not this time, though.

“I can’t wait to go,” he said.

Norwich Bulletin