A manager's guide to losing 158 pounds, one step at a time

CNN/Stylemagazine.com Newswire | 9/30/2013, 8:29 a.m.
Keith Trotter stared at the picture that popped up on his Facebook feed. He felt like the floor was opening ...
By February 2013, Trotter was down to 228 pounds. "Those were my original workout sweats and I'm standing in one leg." He since put on 10 pounds of muscle. Now at 6 feet tall and 238 pounds, with a 40-inch waist, he says he knows he still has some work to do, but is much happier about how he looks and feels.

By Daphne Sashin

CNN

Keith Trotter stared at the picture that popped up on his Facebook feed. He felt like the floor was opening up and swallowing him whole.

This photo of himself had been taken a few days earlier at a 2009 New Year's Eve party and posted by his friend Jeremy. Trotter was 386 pounds at the time, wearing size 60 pants, and holding a plate of food.

He had known for a while that he was overweight and out of shape. But this guy? He didn't recognize himself.

"I don't have a neck, I don't have a lap ... I look like a swollen pig," said Trotter, now 42 years old. He thought: "Why hasn't someone just slapped me with something heavy and said 'You're going to die -- you look awful'? "

At first, the father of five in Wisconsin felt overwhelmed with anger and shame. He wanted his friend to take down the picture. But when he cooled off, he knew it was his own responsibility to make a change.

Trotter, the manager of payment operations for a regional health plan, had made a career of managing processes, policies and procedures. His job involved thinking about how employees could do things better and more cost effectively, based on data and measurable results.

He decided to apply those management concepts to his weight loss. He kept a journal tracking what worked for him, and by the end of three years, he had lost 158 pounds. Midway through, he began to chronicle his journey on the blog "100 small steps," and is currently trying to turn it into a book.

Here's how Trotter lost the weight:

He did tons of research. As Trotter first started his weight-loss quest, he joined a program that provided protein shakes and pre-made meals, but quickly realized "I didn't have the money or the desire to eat out of a box my entire life." He read psychological journals, fitness blogs and books about weight loss to learn the underlying causes of obesity and proven strategies that worked for other people. One book was "Fit to Lead," which looks at the connection between fitness and productivity.

He got therapy. Learning how depression and obesity may affect each other made Trotter serious about losing weight and getting help. Counseling helped him confront past disappointments, make peace with the fact that he hadn't fulfilled his dream of becoming an opera singer, and find healthier things to do when he felt stressed or upset.

"I really didn't like who I had become. I had to learn how to fall in love with that person again," he said. "I wrote down all the things I didn't like about myself and I wrote all the things I liked ... I had to learn how to like that person, and want to do things to stop abusing that person."

He kept reminders all around. That picture from New Year's Eve that made him sick? He put it up all over his house, laid a copy on the passenger seat of his car and made it the home screen on his phone. He showed the photo to anyone who would listen as a way of keeping himself accountable as he lost weight.