From 589 pounds to 220 pounds. This is my journey. Welcome to the countdown.

Score One For the Countdown

As I was cleaning out my email, I found something I’d never posted. This happened in October–a month which seemed to be all about the celebration of my weight loss. The following was sent to every employee of Lifetime Fitness. If I’ve not said it before, I’ll say it again: it’s all about the people you work with. The people of Lifetime Fitness Old Orchard are those people.

From: Jason Thunstrom
Sent: Thursday, October 16, 2014 12:35 PM
To: All Team Members
Subject: Our ‘WHY’: A journey from 589 pounds

Life Time Team:

As you know, we commit to helping people positively change their lives every day. For some, the degree of change is small. A fine tuning, so to speak. For others, however, it can be a massive overhaul. The following story from Life Time Old Orchard member, Jeff Stein, speaks for itself. Mr. Stein’s dedication to his health is both powerful and motivating. The support of our Life Time Old Orchard team was equally critical. Read on – and be inspired. This is the ‘WHY’ we do what we do!



Hi Jason,

My name is Jeff Stein. I’ve been a member of Life Time Fitness Old Orchard since Feb 2012. One of my trainers sent me a copy of an email you’d sent out to the employees, entitled “This may make you cry.”

In 2007, I weighed 589 pounds.

I wore a 6-7x shirt and size 74 pants.

As a child, I was overweight. At 12 or 13, I remember being over 200 pounds, 300 or more in high school, and 400+ in college. My life wasn’t horrible. I had a job, friends, and drove a car. I even played a year of college basketball. New England Division B, but still, it was college basketball. I was your average guy – just a lot bigger.

I can’t remember a time I was not referred to as fat. I couldn’t get into booths at restaurants. I had a chair or two break under my weight. One was in my boss’s office. I even missed out on an incredible free trip to Las Vegas and a major speaking opportunity because I was worried I wouldn’t fit in an airplane seat.

In November 2012, I set out on an ambitious weight loss program with the help of Jeremy Survoy, Miranda Willetts and Matt Bauman. It as a week before Thanksgiving and, at 543 pounds, I set out to change my life.

Fast forward to today and my life is different. A LOT DIFFERENT.

I weigh in at 325 pounds. That’s 264 pounds fewer than my days at 589. I’m wearing 2XL shirts and size 48 pants. 

In February 2014, I boarded a plane for the first time in over 20 years, no longer worried if I’d fit in the seat. The day I got to Vegas, I walked more than 30,000 steps! 

A day I’m not at Life Time is rare. I workout 7 days a week – sometimes twice a day. On top of four training and nutrition sessions, I participate in Pilates, WERQ, water fitness, and yoga. I wear a Fitbit and average 10,000 steps a day. As a member of Life Time Fitness Old Orchard, I’ve won the club’s 90-day weight loss challenge – TWICE. Many people in the club remember the day I walked in at 543. People I’ve never met ask me about it daily. My trainers tell me I’m asked and talked about even when not in the building.

My goal weight is 220 pounds. When I reach it, I will have lost 369 pounds from the 589 I once weighed. 

While I still have a little ways to go in accomplishing my goal, I’ve started to talk about it. I do this because I think it’s important people know what they can accomplish. That it’s not about pills or surgery. I want inspire and help others toward their goals, dreams, and a healthy lifestyle.

Life Time has been a huge part of these accomplishments and this journey.

Best Regards,

Jeff Stein


Recap–1/26/15 (Week 3)

This was a make or break week. After last week’s two pound gain, I was at 369. The brief weight loss could be a facade or we could be on track.

I made myself some promises last week. Here’s how I did:

*I got to the gym more. It wasn’t exactly on time but I got there. I also did both WERQ dance classes–even if I was 30 minutes late for Thursday. But other than Saturday, I got to the gym everyday and twice on Monday and Thursday.

*I started using the Lifetime “to go” meals. I need to get in regular habit of ordering in advance. The result was a couple of days where I went to Whole Foods instead. That’d be fine but some of those days I could made better choices. I also need to watch the portion sizes there. And samples, much I hate to say it, count. I would put my usage at about 3 of the 5 work days.

*Supplements and Vitamins all week. Not one miss. I’m not a big on this stuff but I’ve felt the difference when I’ve overworked myself or when I move.

I wasn’t perfect–but I wasn’t bad either. I just wouldn’t say I was good. I did okay might be best. On Friday I was still hovering around 369-370. But I was a little more careful over the weekend. The combined with an evening of West Coast Swing dancing, a WERQ dance class, and yoga made all the difference.

This morning’s weight: 360.6.

For those playing at home, that’s 9 pounds. Since 1/5/15, when I restarted, I’ve dropped 17 pounds in 3 weeks. I’m thrilled by this because the glass is still half full in terms of what I can tweak and work on. It’s later on when real cuts and sacrifices are going to have to be made that I expect trouble. But for now I’m happy there’s room to improve and grow.

Looking ahead, this week is not going to be easy. Monday and Thursday nights I’ll be doing WERQ Fitness. Tuesday night I’m presenting on behalf of Toastmasters. Wednesday night I have a Toastmasters’ meeting. Friday night I’m supposed to go out on a date. And Sunday is the Super Bowl–a notorious eating day.

That means a lot of my dinners are going to be “on the run”, “to go”, or at a restaurant. It is a week like this that can send you a wrong direction. Normally on Monday and Thursday nights I’ll eat in the Lifecafe then dry sauna. This week, I’m thinking finish my workout, head home, and eat there. Tuesday night looks like eat in advance and/or bring a snack.

This brings me to Wednesday. I’d really like to with friends that night. And I can if I make good choices and do well early in the week. Still not sure where I’m going on Friday. Sunday…I think I’ll be okay if I bring my own food. I’ll probably still eat too much but as long as the quality is better and I’ve done what I need to it should be okay.

Along with the previous goals, the following are new ones I’m adding:

*No more community food from the Kitchen.

This is going to be hard.The kitchen is where I store my food and water for the day. It’s also where people drop “free” goodies for the rest the office. Once in a while it’s nuts–which is better but usually…cookies, cakes, donuts–you get the idea. Even with resolve and willpower, there’s only so much you can do. Given I’m a stress eater that can also play in. I’m going to need to find healthier options I can store and not feel like I’m missing something. What that is has yet to be determined. Still, if I don’t make this a goal in writing, I’ll put this off so now it’s here.

*No more special peanut butter cups.

Don’t ask me why but I see those peanut butter cups–the ones shaped like xmas trees, pumpkins, hearts, etc and seem to want them. The regular peanut butter cups I can seemingly resist most of the time. But these…these are the ones that kill me. It’d be different if it was one a week. But when you sell them 3 for $2—you’ve suddenly eaten enough calories where I could have had a steak! It’s not effected me so far but it will later on. Much as I love these things, I have to nip it in the bud.

Okay those goals are harder than the previous ones. Combined with last week’s goals, it should give me enough to work on. I’d hoped to have dropped 20 pounds this month. I’m 3 away from doing just that. The rest is all gravy.

Still, we have a long way to go. I’m 140 pounds from goal and just last May I was at 306–a number I’m now 54 pounds away from. The good news is I’ve traveled this road. I’ve done this once and I know what it takes to do it again. But to get to uncharted territory, I need to make changes in my habits now or I’ll once again find myself going the wrong direction.

What I do today will effect tomorrow. Can’t wait to see what tomorrow looks like.

Recap–1/19/15 (Week 2)

Last week, I came out of the gate swinging. I lost 10 pounds in a week. Given I felt bloated, I knew my body would lose quite a bit. But I heard Admiral Ackbar screaming in my brain…


I knew I’d be overconfident. I knew this week would be harder. Usually weeks after a big weight loss are. But really, I made it harder. Here’s how:

*Monday night I some how ended up at Culvers for a small concrete mixer. Some how? Who am I kidding? I drove my ass there and ordered it.

*I missed Tuesday and Thursday morning workouts. The cold weather combined with my piriformis made sleeping in sound like a much better plan.

*I missed both WERQ Fitness Dance classes on Monday and Thursday nights. Some work related, some piriformis related, and some because I’m not in the shape I was two months ago. Not that I’m in bad shape now but my endurance levels fell quickly.

*On Thursday night not only did I miss WERQ, I ended up at Marianos. That’d be okay if I didn’t have small gelato. And Chinese Food. And Mac and Cheese.

*Saturday night I ended up at Chief O’Neils. The reuben was amazing but I also ate fries. I never eat fries but I did that night.

And so 367 turned into 369 yesterday morning.

The issue was not my body, it was me. Everything that happened was because I allowed it to. Because I put myself in bad positions or wasn’t strong enough to say no. If I’m going to achieve my goals, I can’t have weeks like this. I’m pretty sure some of the issues were stress and others self sabotage. Almost all of my life I’ve gone up in weight. It’s only been the last three years that there’s been a decrease. It’s also clear now maintaining will be far more difficult than anything else.

But I can’t think about that yet. I’m 149 pounds for goal. Can’t tread water and I can’t afford that many errors if I’m going achieve my goal. I could look at this and been happy it was a only 2 pound gain. But that would mean I was okay with it.

And I’m not.

I can’t accept this nor should I.

This week I resolved to make all my scheduled workouts–the ones I don’t meet with trainers for. So far, I made WERQ class last night and got in about 5000 steps and 13 active minutes this morning. I’ve worked out a deal with the Lifecafe at Lifetime Fitness–where I workout. They’re given me a menu of to go items. I’ve used some of them but I need more structure on this.

My excuse?

Need to go over with my trainer Lauren who can help me plan. My hope is this will cut portion sizes and control what I intake. Healthier choices versus what might be sitting in the break room. I’d love to say protein bars but really those have been more like eating a candy bar and simply not filling. It’s not working.

I also need start taking supplements and vitamins regularly again. I started again yesterday. Question will be if I follow through. All the rest has one advantage: I’d felt exhausted. My body just felt drained. Tired. I was dead and my body screamed from it. For the first time in a while, the rest of my body feels good.

Actually more like great (except for piriformis…argh).

It should help moving forward. I’m hoping once I get things more together with structure, I’ll move down quickly again.

Two weeks down and 8 pounds lost. I have two weeks left in the month. If I could lose another 8, that would be a nice start. Everything else would be a bonus.

If got a plan now I need to execute it. Week 3 will answer questions on whether I did that or if I’ll need to re-examine my thought process.

It’s an early December morning and I’m working with my trainer. The weight might not be coming off but my conditioning? Top notch. I was beginning to start sprinting regularly without breathing heavy–something I never thought I’d ever see or accomplish.

And then….


Ow like okay ow we need to stop now ow.

I wasn’t doing anything special. I’d just finished an exercise and suddenly I was in pain. Lots of pain. At first, I thought I sprained a butt muscle.

My fat ass getting me in trouble.


But then as the days went on, it seemed like it was my hip.

No my back.

No, my ass.

No my hip.

And that’s when my trainer said it: I think it’s the Piriformis.

Instantly my mind went to when I’d last heard that word.

Last year my pilates instructor would often stretch me. At that point, I learned very quickly as I screamed like a little school or a UFC wrestler tapping for a submission.

That muscle.


I’ll save you the clinical of it all (but you can see it here: but just know it’s not fun.

I tried heating pads and ice…nope.

I had a massage…better but really they should paid me considering how painful that was.

I tried resting it…great until I took it up a notch in my workouts and now it’s baaaaa-cccckkkk.

The result? It’s made it harder to be at the gym. It means 15-30 minutes to stretch out before I start. Even then it might still act up. It’s meant I must taking things slower. Worst of all, my conditioning level is down since I took time off to rest it. It’s still pretty good but not where it was.

It’s also effected my weight loss goals. When I was able to do more and work harder, I could eat more. But with the injury, it means I have to be more careful and smarter. Better in the long run but in the short term?


I really enjoy going into the gym these days. I’m more than willing to work through pain and fight through. But this…a total pain…in the Piriformis.

The Recap 1/13/14

When I was more formal, I’d call this the countdown. It still is just less formal. There used to be previous weights, current weight, weight numbers lost…you get the idea. For now I’ve decided to keep things a little more simple.

After what has been 7 months of weight gain, going from 306 to 376, I had to make some changes and get back to being a little more serious about all this. It was simple to justify. A bad week here, a bad week there. Oh, I’ll get back on it next week.

In some ways, I was my own worst enemy. As I’ve lost hundreds of pounds the last 3+ years, I have a pretty good idea of what does and doesn’t work. I also know when I put my mind to it, nothing stops me. It also means sometimes you can make yourself think things which aren’t wise or true.

Like…”I’ll get back on track. No worries, I got this.”

I said it long enough that it was suddenly clear I did have it at all. So in December I took a long hard look of where things went. It resulted in a “goodbye tour” of some foods I simply don’t think I’ll see for a while. And in a shock to most who know me, I looked to add and create…*sigh* structure.

I get the need but structure is double edged for me. At times I need it but usually I run from it. Structure means organization and well I’m just an organizational mess. So for now, I’ll call it a plan so I don’t get annoyed at being structured. With that in mind, on with the countdown.

Last week I tipped the scales at…*ugh* 376.

This week….366.

Yes, that would be a 10 pound loss. And while many on Team Jeff are happy, I can’t be so thrilled. Yes I lost 10 pounds but it’s just one week. If I’m going to be successful, I need to string together a few weeks, then months. I cannot simply get overconfident because of a 10 pound loss. Doing so puts me right back into “no worries, I got this”.

The good this week:

I made a pact of no fast food. With the exception of stopping at KFC for grilled chicken, I can say this happened. After a week off, I got back into the gym and brought my step totals up. I cut back on the quantities. I ate out only once all week. I formulated a plan to keep myself going.

Needs work:

We finally had freezing cold in Chicago. The kind of cold that makes you never want leave your bed in the morning. And that resulted in missing my Tuesday and Thursday morning workout. I also skipped WERQ dance fitness on Monday night. If I’m going to get back on track, I either need to be hitting 10,000 steps or workout everyday–sometimes both. I went to Walgreens one night and was set to grab a stack of candy bars. I took one and 2 nutrigrain bars. That kind of stuff is better but can’t keep happening.


Okay, 10 pounds???? I could lost a lot more. If I’d done more exercise, been cleaner, and not put myself in a couple bad situations, I could been down another 2-3 easily. How do I figure? Here’s how:

*Saturday I was supposed to meet a friend at Whole Foods. Whole Foods turned into Wildfire. Not horrible but the 3 pieces of cornbread I scarfed down says otherwise. I should never put myself in that situation.

*Friday at work they had one of those big birthday cookies with tons of frosting. It set me off some. At first I didn’t eat it. But later, I walked into the break room and tried to use others things to calm myself. 15 minutes later, I was eating b-day cookie. Not good.

*Sunday’s planning was brutal. I ate at noon–chicken and a protein shake. At a sensible meal at about 2pm. I had an event at 6pm at the Doubletree Hotel–where they have free soft, warm cookies. And I was hungry? Why? Because it was 6-7 pm and I’d not eaten enough. And so I ate 3 of those cookies. I should have brought something with but didn’t.

*KFC Grilled Chicken should be a last resort. It was eaten twice this week. I had two nutri-grain bars and twix instead of the 3-4 twix bars I grabbed but why did I put myself in that position at all? the sandwich/oreo cookies at work…at least 10 during the week. Why?

*My working out/step count was horrible on Tuesday. Saturday wasn’t that much better either. Missing Monday night WERQ class followed by a poor Tuesday morning workout isn’t going to cut it.

And yet through all of it, I lost 10 pounds. The question is what will I lose next week. Guess you’ll need to stick around to find out won’t you? 😉

I wrote a blog post about it being “go time” and how we’re going to do better yesterday. How it’s going to be different.

And then I went to the Marianno’s hot food bar and grabbed mac and cheese.

And Chinese food.

And honey chicken wings.

Did I mention the potato pancakes?

Yeah, it went different all right.

I’d love to tell you it went better today but the trip to Wendy’s for what was supposed to be just ice coffee turned into a sausage biscuit, homestyle fries, and oh yeah and ice coffee.

Yeah I’m going all right–right to another 5-6 pounds!

What was I thinking…

About how my trainer, who I love to death, got on me about the 13 pounds I gained last week.

How my overloaded carbbed ass felt running around the track.

Like everybody keeps looking at my like a giant train wreck.

Why is it so f’n cold outside?

Why family members who know I’m struggling don’t realize that their meddling makes it worse.

When that nagging butt injury is going away. (Actually it’s between my butt and my hip. Butt just sounded funnier)

Credit Card Debt



And of course, how I seem to have hit EPIC FAIL in a 7 month period.

I know I can do this. I’ve done it twice now. Once in North Carolina and when I got home. I know what I need to do. It would be easier if the fire and passion were there right now.

They’re not.

And that makes it a lot harder.

It means sacrifices will need to be made. For a while, I could go to any restaurant and make great choices. That’s not happening now. Much it means I’ll not be able to socialize with friends, I’m going to have to say no. They’ll understand but as I’m a pretty social person, it’s going to just about kill me.

It means no fast food period. I’d kicked it for almost a year. I believed I could handle rare occasions. That’s no longer the case. So tonight when I head home the hardest battle begins. The one in which I pass dozens of fast food joints trying to stay strong and not end up in one’s drive thru.

It means watching the portion sizes and the carbs. I love carbs. Warm bread/rolls is a guilty pleasure. But since I’ll be dropping my restaurant eating, I’m hoping this won’t be as much as of an issue. The portion sizes will be an issue though. I’ve noticed they’ve gotten larger. I think it happened when I was working out more. At one point I was doing twice a day three times a week plus one session everyday or 10,000 steps. I mistook the worn down feeling as needing more energy from food when I probably needed a multi-vitamin and fish oil.

Most of all, I need to find a therapist. I’ve resisted a for a while now. I have two great ones in North Carolina but our schedules don’t work and I need someone in Chicago. I’ve also resisted because for years I would bitch, moan, and complain to one. I felt better for a few minutes but I didn’t make changes nor could I get myself to.

All that the changes in my life have come because I stopped talking about and started doing something about it. So going back to a therapist right now makes me wonder is this really going to do anything for me right now? Or will I just end up like I used to be and not taking action?

I already know the answer because the stress is just making things rougher. I need to find a healthy outlet or no matter what happens, I’ll burn out like this again.

The good news? I’m aware of all this. I know what I need to do. I also know I can do it so it’s not a lack of confidence. I also know I have a lot of people behind me.

I promised myself this was a new day. The last two have not been those days. That changes the minute I finish this post. I will not give up. I am not going to quit. I’m going to keep going. And I will not stop until I get it right and back on track.

So let’s try again shall we?

Today is a new day.

A New Day

True confession time. After my last post, knew I need to buckle down. I also knew trying to do that during the holidays was as likely as it not snowing all winter in Chicago. I didn’t set out to gorge but if there was something I’d not touched in a while, had a taste for, and just so happened to be sitting in front of me…

I ate it.

Today I stepped on the scale tipping in at 376 pounds. Since getting down to 306 in May, I’ve gained 70 pounds. That includes 5-7 days at the gym.  I am now 156 pounds from my stated goal. I could give you rationales but most would be excuses. I am aware of what’s happened. I know what I need to do. But knowing and doing are two different things. We all face times where we know what we should be doing but we’re simply not doing it.

3 weeks ago I promised myself that today was go time. That I was going to pull it all together. That I was going to get back to what needed to be done. I woke up this morning to freezing cold, darkness, and the moon still in the sky. The last place I wanted to be this morning was the gym.

But I got dressed, hopped in the car, and met my trainer. This morning’s workout was a nightmare. After a week off, more 10 more additional pounds from the previous week, and pretty high carb diet for the last 5 days; this morning’s workout simply wasn’t pretty.  It reminded me a lot of my early days in November 2013–when I could barely get around the gym and couldn’t touch my toes. This combined with a trainer pushing me to make commitments my mind simply doesn’t seem to want to make had me in the wrong mindset.

Once it was over, I plopped on the couch–the same couch I did when I was that big, fat, out shape me. I sat thinking about everything I’d done and accomplished. What I wanted to do and how I wanted more. And here I was simply failing. Failing to put it together. Failing to find the fire and passion. I just gained 70 pounds in 7 months.

I’m looking to present and talk in front of others about weight loss. How am I ever going to be able to look people in the eye and talk to them if I can’t get my shit together?

Structure House gave me a jacket for what I accomplished. I can’t even look at it without being angry at myself.

But as I’ve learned in this process, sometimes all it takes is being around the right people. As I sat on that couch thinking what a failure and loser I’d become, a woman named Mary approached me. She reminded me people have setback. She reminded me not to give up. She quoted Oprah.

Okay that last part I could did without but you get the point. Then she said something else–“keep it up, you inspire everyone around here”.

Once again, I’m reminded about how great people can be. That with everything people hear, see, and say there are a lot of great and amazing people out there.

I promised myself today was the day. Today it would be different. It will not be easy. The call of McDonalds, cookies and cake, and pizza will be strong. There will be days I wish to go out with friends for a meal and I’ll need to say no–when I wish to say yes. I will need to listen to many negative voices who have watched the last few months and have become nervous. Voices that no matter how much I remind them this is my path wish to make detours on it. I will need to be successful so those voices will once again be quieted.

As I get closer to my goal, it will be harder. I will have to work harder. I will have to work smarter. I will have to fight to remember why I’m doing this. Why it’s worth it. That without struggle their would be accomplishment.

The 70 pounds I gained was yesterday.

Today is a new day.

I’ll do it as I always have–one moment at a time. I will be present. If I make a mistake, I will not dwell on it. I will move forward. I will go to the gym even if it’s just 15 minutes on a very low speed. I will keep going. I will not give up. I will lose this weight. I will accomplish my goal.

I will do this because I know I can do it.

I will get to 220.

The new day starts now.

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