• For Ethan Spiezer, years of emotional eating led to major weight gain.
• After peaking at more than 400 pounds, he committed to the keto diet, intermittent fasting, and regular exercise in an effort to get back in shape.
• He’s now lost more than 130 pounds, and says one of his goals is to continue inspiring others as he continues to lose weight.
Ethan Spiezer had always been an emotional eater—growing up, he frequently turned to food for comfort during challenging times. As a result, by the time he reached middle school, Spiezer recalls, he weighed nearly 200 pounds. “I always had trouble with portioning and eating healthy,” he says. Spiezer, 35, who now works in South Beloit, Illinois as a special education teacher, says that he also struggled with severe asthma, limiting his activity level. “The combination proved to be a recipe for disaster,” he says. When his weight peaked in his mid-thirties, Spiezer estimates that he weighed between 410 and 420 pounds. “I would be sad that I was so big and eat as a result, which would make me feel worse. It became a vicious cycle.”
The turning point proved to be a photo that a bystander took of Spiezer and his son during a boat tour while on vacation in San Diego. “I saw the picture and was horrified. Not only because of what I looked like, but also realizing the example that I was setting for my son,” he says. Spiezer decided that day to commit to eating healthier and being more active, and has since undergone a dramatic weight loss transformation, dropping more than 135 pounds in less than year. Here’s how Spiezer got healthy.
Take us through your mindset when you were at your heaviest. How did your weight impact your day to day life?
I was 34 years old and felt like I was actively dying. I would wake up with my heart beating through my chest. I felt like I was having constant heart palpitations throughout the day. Everything ached. I was in pain from my ankles to my shoulders. I had horrible blood pressure—185/100—and was pre-diabetic with horrible asthma requiring me to take my rescue inhaler over 4 times a day. Simply getting out of bed caused me to get winded. I couldn’t tie my shoes, play with my kids, fit into airline seats, go for walks with my wife or do many of the things I desperately wanted to do with my family.
What were some of the first steps you took when you knew it was time to get healthy again?
When I decided to lose the weight, I contacted a close friend, Aaron, who knows way more about weight lifting and nutrition than I do. I inquired about the ketogenic diet and what he thought. He was enthusiastically in favor of it and explained the need for a calorie deficit to lose weight and how entering a state of nutritional ketosis by limiting net carbs (total carbs minus fiber) to 20 or fewer a day would be beneficial.
I started off by only eliminating carbs. I went down to 100 grams of carbs a day for a week, and then 50 grams of carbs a day for a week, and finally hit my goal on week 3 of 20 grams of carbs a day. I limited calories to 2000 a day for the first 6 months and did no exercise at all. I also utilized intermittent fasting by eating between noon and 8 p.m. every day, which seemed scary at first, but effectively was just skipping breakfast and not having late night snacks.
After five months, I was down almost 100 pounds, so I decided it was a good time to limit calories to 1800 a day and start exercising. I began doing 10 minutes every morning of resistance band weight lifting. This was preferable to lifting free weights, as it put less stress on my joints and allowed me to work targeted muscle groups to failure quickly as I do not especially enjoy working out.
Finally, after working out daily for a month, I began eating only one meal a day, which I found very beneficial for several reasons. First, I am able to only occupy my thoughts planning one meal a day for myself, which is freeing. Second, I am able to spend my daily food budget on one glorious meal. So eating filet and lobster with hollandaise sauce with a cheddar, bacon, egg, and ranch salad at home is an affordable and regular dinner for me. Third, by putting myself in a fasted state for 23-plus hours a day, my weight loss has been able to continue with minimal plateauing.
What were some of your secrets for staying consistent? Did you work with a trainer or expand your network of support?
I didn’t work with a trainer, but my good friend, Aaron, has been an invaluable resource. He has coached me though food choices, meal plans, macronutrient understanding, caloric needs, exercise routines, and even critiqued video recordings of my workout to correct my form. By only working out 10 minutes a day, I’m able to stick to my routine. Yes, the workout is high-intensity and absolutely destroys me each morning, but it is extremely doable.
Beyond that, many people in my life have noticed my weight loss and I have been posting online and a lot of people have reached out to me for advice or suggestions. The amount of support I have received is overwhelming. The number of people that have replicated what they’ve seen me do as staggering. I feel like my life of pain and frustration over being overweight may all be worth it, if it all led to me helping others who have experienced similar issues.
Who are some of the people you’ve inspired so far?
Since beginning this journey 10 months ago, I’ve helped people ranging from my teacher’s assistant—who went from 153 pounds to 133 pounds in five months—to recently working with someone online who was over 600 pounds a month ago and is currently in the 550s. In addition to that, my wife and two sons joined my keto lifestyle in the New Year and are all doing phenomenally. My wife has lost 80 pounds, my 12-year-old has lost 40 pounds, and my 8-year-old has lost 25 pounds. We had all made poor food choices, and responded extremely well to caloric and carbohydrate restrictions. The thanks and appreciation I have received motivates me to keep on going. I know that I’m not just doing this for me at this point, but everyone who hears my story and starts their journey as a result.
What are some of the most positive changes that you’ve personally experienced?
As of today, I’m down 133 pounds in 10 months. I no longer use my rescue inhaler unless I have a bad cold. I am no longer pre-diabetic. I am no longer a candidate for blood pressure medicine. I can go on long walks with my wife and play around with my sons. I fit into airplane seats and wake up with energy. My digestion, breathing, and mental clarity are all so much improved. That said, I’m not there yet: I still have a ways to go. I know skin removal surgery will be a big possibility, but I will cross that bridge when I get there. I’m feeling great, traveling, and enjoying every day with a newfound enthusiasm and appreciation for my health.
How have your family and friends reacted?
I’ve had several people shocked at how different and drastic the change has been. Having lost over 130 pounds in ten months, some people do double takes or don’t recognize me at first. I had a student I saw at the grocery store ask me, “Are you sure you are Mr. Spiezer?”
My family has been extremely supportive, especially my wife. She has cooked me keto meals, joined me on my keto adventure, and even convinced the kids to join our keto team. I have done this largely for my family, but I couldn’t have done it without them. My wife was beautiful 80 pounds ago and continues to be stunning at her current weight, but the teamwork and our coming together to accomplish the goals is beyond anything I could have imagined us doing a year ago.
Beyond the physical changes, take us through the changes to your mood—how do you feel as a result?
I have gained confidence. I feel like I blend in much better in public, so I enjoy social events and gatherings much more these days. My health benefits have been amazing and didn’t imagine just feeling better in general so quickly. The main side effect I didn’t anticipate is the amount of people I would be able to help just by sharing my journey online or walking around people in person and answering the questions they have about what I’ve done.
I hope to one day turn my success into a way to reach not hundreds, but millions of other people. I would love to continue to reach and help others, whether through volunteering, possibly writing a book, motivational speaking, doing some form of blog writing or consulting work. I hope to assist many others to regain control of their health.
How close are you to your goal? What’s the next challenge for you?
I hope to lose another 100 or so pounds in the next year or two. I’m in no rush, but have my eyes on the prize. Once I have lost all I want, I will instantly start eating a surplus of calories while I increase weight lifting significantly to put on serious muscle. I will then spend time gaining muscle and then cutting fat in a deficit to build the best physique I possibly can.
If you had any advice for someone just about to take the first step, what would it be?
Google what your maintenance caloric need is, eat 500 to 1000 calories less than that a day, and limit your net carbs to a max of twenty a day. Other than that, try doing all your eating between noon and 8 p.m and drink lots of water—oh yeah, and make sure to start enjoying your life again.
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