For the Independent
Last March, a tornado blew through the rural eastern Kentucky community of Salyersville, wiping out a stretch of fast-food businesses that line the entrance of the Mountain Parkway.
The winds of change that came through that day were a turning point for Tommy Oney, 28, who is 6-foot-4 and tipped the scales at more than 460 pounds. Today, he’s 170 pounds lighter.
“It was a blessing in disguise for the restaurants to be closed down,” Oney said. The tornado temporarily closed the local McDonalds and Mexican restaurants, both of which Oney frequented on a regular basis.
The realization of his weight gain came in the form of a routine annual TB skin test at the local health department. Oney, an adult day-care treatment instructor at Mountain Comprehensive Care, was typically asked his weight when he would have the test. This time around, they made him weigh in. The results: 460 pounds from years of overeating.
He was morbidly obese.
Kentucky ranks among the nation’s most unhealthy states, nearly doubling the national average (35.7 percent) at 66.2 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Oney didn’t have an extreme transformation at first. “I was exercising,” he said. He started the P90X program and is now in the middle of his second go-around of the internationally known regime. “I was also still eating what I wanted.”
Then it hit. “Why go through the exercise, and not go all in?” he asked himself.
That’s when it happened.
World-class trainer Tony Horton’s P90X is a fitness program that focuses on 12 workouts that use resistance and body-weight training, cardio, martial arts and yoga. It claims to be a 90-day transformation.
And it delivered for Oney. He lost 100 pounds in the first 90 days.
“I was surprised,” Oney admitted. He first got into P90X after his brother-in-law, Jon, suggested the idea after observing Oney’s home was spacious enough to accommodate the perfect gym.
He wasn’t too excited. Oney’s living room is a shrine to what he loves: fishing and music. He has his favorite Fender Stratocaster and a corner of nothing but fishing rods and lures.
“This floor is where it happens,” said Oney, who works out at least an hour a day, typically at 10 p.m. “It’s not a love, it’s become a part of my daily routine. I live to eat, I don’t eat to live.”
The 100-pound weight loss came with drastic changes. Oney weighed everything he ate. Burgers and fries were out. He was introduced to fresh foods, vegetables and baked lean meat.
“I became a big fan of baked and grilled chicken in a hurry,” he laughed. “It quickly became a way of life, and I was no longer eating and eating past the point I was full. I was simply eating reasonable amounts of food.”
There’s an app for that
Oney tracked his food intake by using the My Fitness Pal app for iPhone.
“It held me accountable,” he said. The program not only tracks calorie intake, but breaks food down into fat, sodium and other categories. “Nothing went in my mouth before it went into my phone.”
During his first round of P90X, Oney watched calories only, but now, as the weight is becoming more difficult to lose, he is watching everything, specifically sodium.
Sodium is found in most processed foods and soups, and that has transformed Oney’s attention to choosing more fresh, simple foods.
He joked about a recent trip to Subway, which he claims is his favorite fast-food restaurant, where he ordered a vegetable sub with no cheese. “If you knew what you were eating in processed foods and what it was doing to your body, you would stop, too.”
Recently, Oney logged in what used to be a typical day for him: a hearty breakfast of biscuits and gravy and all the trimmings, Burger King and a Giovanni’s pizza, with a calorie count of 11,000, nearly four times more than average.
“I’ve come a long way,” he said.
Watching transformation online
Oney’s wife, Heather, editor of the Salyersville Independent, has blogged about her husband’s progress, allowing the man to inspire others and holding him accountable. Friends and strangers have logged on to The Shrinking Hubster (http://theshrinkinghubster.blogspot.com), to watch the remarkable transformation.
“It allows me to be accountable,” said Oney, who only weighs in once a month to avoid the daily pressures of weight loss. “It also allows me to show others that it’s possible by doing it on your own.”
Oney has become a beacon of hope for many, including his co-workers. “So many of my co-workers have watched it, and I think I am inspiring them to make healthier choices, and change their lives as well.”
It’s a bit shocking for Oney to look at his photos. “I’m nearly half the man I used to be,” he said. He used to have a 64-inch waist and wore a 6-XL shirt. Now his waist is 44, and he wears a 2-XL shirt.
“The little things, like being able to buy clothes at a store, is such a big deal,” he said. “Buying large sizes is very expensive.”
Oney’s goal for this year is to weigh between 270 and 280 pounds. His overall goal is 250 to 270 pounds.
“I’ve not been anywhere near there in a long while,” he said. “It’s exciting to see where I have come, and more importantly, where I am going.”
To others who have tried or have considered a lifestyle transformation, Tommy has a piece of advice: “It’s not weight loss or anything like that. It is a change of lifestyle.”
Oney said there’s nothing wrong with doing it on your own.
“At the end of the day you are the only person who can control you,” he said. “It’s not easy, but I made some bad decisions for years that put me in my place. For years, I thought I was not in control of anything, and I now feel like I am in full control of my life.”