The average American typically gains seven to 10 pounds during the holidays. James McKinney is anything but typical. He lost seven pounds during the two weeks of Christmas and New Year holidays.
The 24-year-old son of Mike McKinney and the late Paula Sanders has had a weight problem all of his life. At his heaviest, the 5 ft. 9 in. Clay County native weighed 383 pounds. Having failed at numerous diets attempting to control his weight, James finally just resigned himself to being obese.
His grandmother, Madonna McKinney, had been to the Bariatric Center of Terre Haute and, simultaneously, attended TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) meetings locally, with much success. She talked to James about it and his grandpa, Jim McKinney, also wanted him to go.
"So I went... because my grandparents wanted me to," James said recently discussing his weight and diet. "I really don't know what gave me the incentive to stick with it."
But stick with it he did. James has lost a total of 165 1/2 pounds since starting the diet the first week of February in 2004.
In 11 months he has gone from 383 pounds to 217 1/2. He's dropped 24 pants sizes now wearing a 34 waist.
"I think after starting to lose weight, I thought it wasn't too bad and I wasn't starving so I just stayed with it," James said trying to explain his unexplainable will power.
The Bariatric Center of Terre Haute has two offices in the Wabash Valley. Dr. Gonzales and Dr. Chua see patients at 1361 Ft. Harrison and at their Honey Creek Mall location.
James said he can do his weekly weigh-in at either office. A dietitian sets up the weekly menus.
A typical day for James begins with two protein shakes for breakfast. Two hours later he enjoys a protein bar. Lunch is usually a salad with 1/2 cup of cottage cheese and a protein shake.
He can eat a protein bar every two hours between lunch and dinner, which consists of 4-6 ounces of chicken or fish, a vegetable and a salad. A protein shake for an evening snack is optional.
The shakes come in flavors of vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, different fruits and tea flavors. James said they taste like regular milkshakes. He is seldom ever hungry.
Most food is purchased from the Bariatric Center. The cost depends on how much the dieter eats. James's average cost has been between $50 to $70 per week. He doesn't think that's excessive because he previously spent that much at the grocery store.
He does most of his own cooking or eats at his grandmother's. James's weight loss has been very consistent. Though he's cheated a few times, he said you have to know what you can cheat with. He hasn't really craved much.
Many successful dieters get concerned when they reach their goal about maintaining the loss.
"The dietitian tells how to eat and what to eat after reaching goal," James said. "She teaches you how to read labels and to know what's good for you. You learn about calories, carbs, protein and fat."
An exercise plan is encouraged. James walks one or two miles every day. The most expensive part of the diet for James has been replacing his clothes.
"I've had to buy a new wardrobe several times," he said. "A lot of people do a double take when they see me. They don't realize it's me.
"I used to have to buy the bigger sizes, which are more expensive. I had to buy in the big and tall sections. Now I just buy in the regular sections, off the rack. That's all positive feedback to me."
The Bariatric Center set James's goal at 170 pounds. However, he thinks he'd be more comfortable at 190 to 200. At the rate he's going, it shouldn't take much longer to lose the last 27 or so pounds.
"I plan on sticking to it," James said with determination in his voice. "I've worked this hard to get it off. I'm not going to gain it back. The maintenance diet has flexibility and freedom.
"I had no health problems," James continued. "But I feel a lot better. Not necessarily more energetic, but I feel a lot more confident about myself. I feel wonderful!"