The 4 simple rules this dad followed to lose 80 pounds

Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.

Bill Tillotson is 6 feet tall and currently weighs 210 pounds. In 2016, after his doctor expressed concern over his weight, he decided to pursue a healthier lifestyle for the sake of his health and his family. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.

The turning point

I was heavy for as long as I can remember. I weighed 250 pounds when I graduated from high school. I did get better in my 20s and 30s and lost weight, but when I hit 40, I stopped exercising altogether and got very involved at work. I gained weight for years after that and just accepted that the older you were, the more out of shape you were. “It was just age,” I told myself.

In January of 2016, my adult son showed me a Couch to 5K program online and suggested I start it. I had gotten to 290 pounds and needed to do something about it. I tried the program and couldn’t even run to the end of the block! But a few months later, my doctor told me I needed to get my weight under control. When I told him, “I just like to eat too much,” he replied, “Well, with every bite, you’re making a choice — a choice between just seeing your grandchildren be born or living long enough to dance at their weddings.” That really struck me hard as both my grandfathers died of heart disease long before I was born.

Photo: Courtesy of Bill Tillotson

The changes

I knew that to lose weight, I had to exercise more and eat better, but I knew changing my diet was the most important step. So I started with some simple eating rules: 1. No fried foods at all. 2. No “all you can eat” restaurants. 3. No beer during the week. And 4. Drink a gallon of water per day. Just doing these simple things, I lost about 30 pounds in the first year.

But then I stalled and knew I needed to do more. So in March of 2017, I joined Camp Gladiator, a boot camp-style exercise program to get more strength training. I also started a ketogenic diet using Reddit (r/keto) as a guide and tracking all my eating on MyFitnessPal. I strove to eat at about a 200-calorie deficit because it was too easy to fall off the wagon if I tried more. Later in 2017, I also began to play with intermittent fasting. I would try to go 24 hours with nothing but water once a week (from 6 p.m. one night to 6 p.m. the next).

I’m not going to lie, when I started keto and ramping up exercise, I felt pretty awful. I craved sugar so much, especially when co-workers brought in doughnuts. I craved craft beers when I was on business travel and on weekends. But I adopted the mindset that “I control everything. I control every piece of food that passes my lips.” Knowing that I was empowered to make my own choices helped me sustain my choices. And it was hard as friends and family — probably unwittingly — worked to sabotage my efforts. “Oh, you can cheat just one meal,” or “Just one doughnut won’t kill you.” A firm but polite “No” told them I was in control.

They say it takes 21 days to create a new habit, and that was about right. A month in, passing on doughnuts, drinking black coffee and unsweetened tea, and not having a bowl of ice cream at night began to seem normal. Once I was a couple of months in and saw numbers changing on the scale, I was confident I could keep it up. Friends of mine began to notice and comment, which motivated me as well. Accountability partners in my workout group helped keep me on the straight as well. And my running times kept getting better and better. I actually started placing and winning my age group in local 5Ks and 10Ks.

Photo: Courtesy of Bill Tillotson

The after

Physically, I feel like I’m in my 20s again. I exercise every day and sleep like a rock. All the nagging aches and pains have gone away (other than a little muscle soreness from exercise — the “good pain”). And it sure is fun to go clothes shopping now. I have an entirely new wardrobe. The sizes I wear are actually in normal stores.

Frankly, the way friends and family reacted was surprising. Most were accepting of the choices and happy for me, but my change upset the status quo for some. Repeated efforts from some to sabotage my goals continue to this day. I was always the fat kid, and now some people can no longer take solace in that. But I know I am in control, so I know I can make my own choices.

The maintenance

I am on what’s called “lazy keto,” which means I avoid carbs but don’t always track what I eat on MyFitnessPal. I still live by the simple rules of no fried foods, no all-you-can-eat restaurants, no beer during the week, and a gallon of water a day.

For exercise, I do one hour of Camp Gladiator four days a week and run four days a week. My runs are a 3-mile speed workout, a 5-6 mile intermediate pace, and a long run of at least 8 miles on Sundays.

My inspiration has not changed — I want to live long enough to know my grandchildren. I also have grown to enjoy exercise and want to be able to do it for a good long time. My fellow campers and running buddies motivate me to keep going and striving to work hard.

The struggles

I still struggle with food at work. No one ever brings in anything healthy — it’s always doughnuts, bagels, candy, etc. The food is there and it’s free. But I fall back on that mantra: “I control everything that passes my lips. I make the choice.” At the end of the day, it’s always about me and my choices.

A new struggle is thinking, “Gee you’ve lost a lot of weight… it’s OK now.” I have to remember that this was not a diet; it was a lifestyle change. If I go back to my old habits, I’ll go back to where I was. And if I fall off the wagon, I start right back up the next morning with my new lifestyle. It’s my choice. I refuse to let one bad night become one bad week, then month, then year.

Photo: Courtesy of Bill Tillotson


To lose weight, you first have to fix your diet. You cannot exercise your way out of a bad diet.
Start modestly. Start with one change you can do for today. Then do it tomorrow too. And then the next. Once you’ve made it three weeks, add another change.

Track your food intake — every single bite. The truth will set you free. No one’s going to see it but you, so be honest.

At some point, start exercising. It will accelerate your weight loss and make you feel so much better. Find something you enjoy, either alone or with a group. If you enjoy it, you’ll keep doing it.

Need more inspiration? Read about our other weight-loss winners!

Weight-Loss Win is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative, 135-pound weight loss of her own.

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