The Effects of Obesity: The Joseph Pawlak Story
Between ages 30 and 50, Joseph Pawlak was a self-described couch potato.
“The only exercise I got was when I worked around the house.”
When he was younger, he was athletic and fit, but as he aged, he simply didn’t get around to exercising. He went to the doctor regularly, and initially, there were never any concerns over blood pressure, heart rate or other health-related issues.
Facing Serious Health Consequence due to the Effects of Obesity
But eventually, after decades of taking his eye of the exercise ball, the weight had slowly crept up. Without realizing it, Joseph was suddenly 350 pounds—far from the fit athlete of his 20s and experiencing the effects of obesity. At age 50, he was uncomfortable, and those medical numbers had also suddenly become alarming. After years of being sedentary, he was facing serious health consequences. He was told medication was necessary to get his cholesterol, among other things, in check.
“It was a gradual progression over time,” he said. “You just kind of get used to the lifestyle of being heavy.”
But the weight had heavy consequences on his life in addition to his physical health. In one instance, he and his son, both big Notre Dame football fans, went to a game. Walking around, Joseph couldn’t keep up because of his weight. His energy was low, another effect of obesity, and ultimately Joseph ruined the game for his son because he was so angry at how uncomfortable the weight made him.
A Rock Bottom Moment
And later, he experienced a rock bottom moment. Because Joseph worked in pharmaceuticals, his office had an ultra secure entry system in which a first door opened, a person stepped in, and the second door only opened to allow the employee through after the one behind him closed. But there was a maximum weight that a person could be to use the entry system and Joseph exceeded it. One day, that information was broadcast over a speaker by the security guard when Joseph stepped through the first door. Joseph was mortified in front of a long line of co-workers who were frustrated by being held up by him.
Also, because airplanes weren’t comfortable for him, he regularly turned down work opportunities that required travel, which negatively impacted his job performance.
Ultimately, because of the effects of obesity, Joseph had grown angry, unhappy and uninspired at work.
A Step in the Right Direction
Joseph’s brother works for Fred. One day, he got talking to Fred about life at 50. Fred shared that he had turned his entire life around at that age when he tackled strength training hardcore. Fred encouraged Joseph to at least try to do something about his weight and his health. Joseph listened carefully, taking Fred’s words very much to heart. At first he started walking, just a bit because that’s all he could do. Then he tweaked his diet, gradually eating better.
As a research scientist, Joseph is a numbers geek. So when he started to see some progress on the scale, he began tracking everything in great detail on a spreadsheet—a method of sticking to it that worked for him. He would weigh himself on the same scale at the same time every day. Then he’d update his chart.
Bit by bit, the minutes of walking each day turned into an hour at a time, with a desire to keep going for longer. He ate less and the pounds started slipping away. When the cold weather came, Joseph had built up enough endurance and confidence to get into the gym and eventually started lifting weights.
Recapturing His Youth
“I recaptured my youth. For over 20 years, every time I sweat, it was because I was sick or hot,” he said. “This was the first time I was actually sweating, like I did when I was a kid…because I was doing something. I was working out and having fun doing it.”
Within eight months, Joseph was down 100 pounds.
But the numbers were just half of the win. The reward for his hard work revealed itself in other ways too.
“Before I lost weight, my life reflected the effects of obesity. I was very argumentative. I was angry because my clothes never fit. I couldn’t buy the clothes I wanted to buy. I was an outsider. I didn’t care about shaving, I didn’t care how often I got my hair cut, I didn’t care about the clothes that I wore,” he said.
Once he felt empowered, he started caring about his appearance and feeling good. And then, when he needed to make a job change, Joseph suddenly had unimaginable career prospects.
“I had phone interviews with 40 different people and I ended up having six or seven job interviews, and I got two job offers.”
Ultimately, thanks to the confidence of the weight loss, Joseph landed a big, global job, one that requires he present himself in a professional manner and fly all over the world to conduct business, which he was suddenly eager—and able—to do.
Today, at 53, he is happy and no longer angry or uncomfortable in his own skin. And grateful beyond belief for all that his fitness successes has generated.
“I’m the luckiest person in the world,” he said.