I've lost 85 pounds over the last 2 years. It's stayed off because of my slow and steady approach.

  • Mark Slaughter described himself as a "lean, mean machine" — until he hit his 30s.

  • The 55-year-old overfilled his plate, didn't exercise, and ended up weighing around 310 pounds.

  • He slowly but surely lost 85 pounds over two years at a rate of about three pounds a month.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Mark Slaughter. It has been edited for length and clarity.

I've lost 85 pounds and don't think I'll ever regain that weight.

It has much to do with permanently changing my approach to food and exercise. I ensured I lost weight slowly but surely — often around three pounds a month. I feel great.

I was always pretty slim as a teen and young adult. Basketball was my favorite sport, and I played it every day. I'm 6ft 3in tall. I called myself a "lean, mean machine."

Then, as I got older and married, I became complacent. I stopped exercising in my early 40s, working nights as a server at an upscale restaurant. My shift was usually from 4 p.m. to midnight. I'd grab a big lunch before work and then snack on tortilla chips and salsa when I got home.

I'd often eat good quality food like steak — a lot of cheeseburgers and pizza as well. I wasn't discriminating.

I angled myself in photos so I didn't look as big as I was

Meanwhile, my wife would make something amazing like pasta with sautéed vegetables for me and our three sons. I wouldn't stop at one plate. I'd go back for a second and third round.

I ate like it was Thanksgiving every day. I'd feel bad after a meal because I'd consumed so much.

The turning point came about two years ago. I looked at a photograph of myself with the stand-up comedian Jeff Ross, known as the "Roast Master General." We'd been to see him at a comedy club in my hometown of Dallas.

He's not the smallest of people, but I towered over him like a giant. I usually angled myself in photos so you couldn't see how big I was, but this time, there was no disguising my size.

I weighed myself, and I was 307 pounds. Things had to change. Within a few days, I signed up for the Life Time gym and started doing cardio and weight training. These days, I go there three or four times a week.

For my diet, I trained myself not to eat to fullness and slowed down when I was eating. When you slow down, you start realizing, "OK, I've had enough now."

You should give yourself grace if your weight fluctuates a little

I don't deny myself anything, but my portions are smaller. I don't believe in dieting all week and then giving yourself the reward of a big meal at the weekend. It's about moderation and consistency.

Intermittent fasting worked for me, too. I'm now a high school teacher, and my lunch is early: 11 a.m. I rarely eat before then or after 7 p.m.

Although I lost more when I started out, I gradually lost around three pounds a month. I was more like the tortoise than the hare, and I didn't yo-yo as a result. By cutting back on food and exercising, I went down to just over 220 pounds.

It's a slow change. But I went from a size 46 waist to a 34 and don't wear 3X T-shirts anymore. I can move about my day more easily. I can cross my legs in a different way than I ever could. I could comfortably fit in a plane seat. I can skip stairs when I'm walking. I'm sleeping much better — for seven-and-a-half hours straight.

But, honestly, I don't worry too much if I pick up a couple of pounds here and there. You have to give yourself grace.

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