JAY MCNEIL IS INSPIRING OTHERS THROUGH HIS PUBLIC WEIGHT-LOSS JOURNEY AND NEW BOOK
Lori Gallagher, Between the Pages
As the news director with Newcap Radio Fredericton, which includes The New Hot 92.3 and UP! 93.1, Jay McNeil is used to covering the news.
He’s also gotten used to being the news, thanks to his journey to lose weight and improve his overall health.
McNeil has written about his experiences in a new book, Fat Man Walking – Lesson in Loss.
“My journey started two years ago in March. I’m only 22 months away from being at my heaviest,” he says.
At his heaviest, he weighed 460 pounds. He was working at a radio station in Cape Breton, and when he decided to make a change, he ended up taking on weight-loss surgery in a really public way.
“I had to blog about it, I had to write about it, and it was scary as hell because I was making that commitment to do all of that before I even knew if I would lose a pound,” says McNeil. “It was me finally saying, if this opportunity isn’t enough to make me fix this, what ever will?”
Though his employer paid for him to have lap band surgery, he didn’t do it for the publicity, he says. He needed to be sure this was the right choice for him.
In the other surgeries, you come out weighing less than you went in weighing.
“You eat less, with no involvement of willpower, because physically you have a smaller stomach to fill so you’re getting that feeling of being full,” he explains. “The basis of the lap band, and the incredible staff who work at the weight loss centre that I deal with, their underlying belief is coming up with a way to stop you eating has to be a psychological thing.”
The key for McNeil was addressing why he put on the weight in the first place. They discovered the issue was portion control. He was overeating.
He points out that his surgery wasn’t cosmetic, yet that’s how it’s viewed.
“It was a serious medical intervention for a serious medical disease.”
By the time he had the lap band surgery, he was ready to make a change. Sharing his journey publicly helped keep him accountable.
“Once I started doing the blog and once I started shooting a video every week, I was building a community of people around me back home in Cape Breton who just really encouraged me to keep being honest about it,” he says. “Every time I would admit a weakness or a struggle, I would hear from 10 people.”
Though every story was unique, and people needed to lose different amounts of weight, there were also similarities.
“It didn’t matter how large they were, the struggle is the same. It’s just folks like me don’t get a wake-up call 20 pounds in. It takes something more extreme.”
McNeil’s book doesn’t argue for weight loss surgery, nor does it say that healthy living is easy.
“It really is a book all about the psychological side of it,” he says. “How you did it to yourself in the first place and then the amazing way life opens up to you after that.”
He’s down more than 200 pounds now but says he’d lost only 60 pounds when he felt like he was in control, that it finally made sense.
“Every day has been better since.”
The biggest lesson for McNeil has been that life was so much bigger than he thought it was at 460 pounds. He has realized that any limits were self-imposed, and he used his weight as an excuse for them.
He started Fat Man Walking – Lessons in Loss in 2012, when he was going through the surgery, encountering fears and making changes.
“Then I purposely waited almost a year before I wrote the second half,” he says. “That was such a huge year for me because I left a job at a top radio station in Cape Breton and came here to start two new stations.”
He also left the huge support network he’d built in Cape Breton, people who knew him and had followed and encouraged his weight loss.
“I had to live the end of the book before I could write it, I had to make sure I got through this transition and stayed on track,” he says. “Honestly, that’s been a challenge.”
But it’s a challenge he’s winning.
McNeil self-published his book and created an audio version as well. The book will be available on Feb. 10 and can be ordered through his website, lessonsinloss.com. It can also be found in Chapters locations in Fredericton and Saint John.
“I think that anybody who feels trapped in the body that they’re in right now will benefit from hearing the story of someone who has been there,” he says.
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