Seven years ago, doctor Jeff Levine never thought he'd considering two half marathons or running in at least one 5k race month.
All of that changed after he joined the cast of the Biggest Loser in 2005.
Now he wants people to know they can lose weight too, and keep it off.
At the time of the 2005 taping, Levine was around 400 pounds, and had the health complications to match his weight—sleep apnea, elevated blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol, and degenerative joint disease in his left ankle.
Yet, he hadn’t heard of the show when he saw a call-out for contestants in late 2004.
“It was kind of ironic,” Levine said. “I don’t watch a lot of TV, so I didn’t know it was a weight-loss show. I had never seen it.”
One five-minute audition video, made to the tune of Sir Mix A Lot’s Baby Got Back and called Doctor’s Got Fat, landed Levine a spot on auditions and, eventually, a spot on the show. He remained a contestant until week ten of that season.
It kick-started the fitness routine he adheres to today, and helps him maintain the weight he lost in 2005—which includes 30 pounds before the show began, 103 on the show, and 50 after coming home. Since then, he’s established a routine of exercise and healthy eating to maintain the weight loss.
Planning is an integral part of that routine, according to Levine. With four daughters, his wife, a position as a professor at the University of Medicine and Dentistry New Jersey, and family activities, it is the part of the routine that is most important.
“It really comes down to making a schedule,” Levine said. “We have a big calendar in our kitchen for various appointments. It helps me plan if I’m going to be able to get around to (the men’s over-40) basketball league or when to go to the gym.”
His typical workout schedule includes basketball and volleyball, both on township leagues and twice-weekly trips to the gym or going out for a run. He usually runs one 5K race per month and is training for a half-marathon too—both despite a dislike for running.
“I don’t like running,” he said. “I actually find it really boring. But I don’t want to not finish a race, so I know I have to train in order to finish.”
The family also takes time to establish each family member’s schedule and to create a menu for the week. The menu and schedule allows them to fit home-cooked, healthier meals into their routines, while also compensating for busier nights.
“I know if there’s a week that we forget to make a menu, all hell breaks loose,” Levine said. “If you plan out your meals, if you plan out your exercise, you are much more likely to do it. It should be as important as your other appointments.”
Though he admits sleeping enough each night is one of his greatest trials, he finds that motivation and planning are the biggest hurdles for patients and community members.
Luckily, he said, Hillsborough has opportunities to work out, like its hiking and biking trails and recreation leagues. According to Levine, the recreation leagues offer opportunities for adults and children—and it’s something he finds can distract a person from the fact that they’re exercising.
“I think we have a town that promotes health and fitness in a lot of ways,” Levine said. “I haven’t seen any other town that has the recreation opportunities we have here. There’s so many things—the to go hiking. There’s bike groups that I’ll see on River Road.”
Another key is understanding self-defeating behaviors or triggers that lead to an eating mistake or a missed workout. Levine’s found that his family phased out soda and potato chips at home, among other factors. Levine recommends keeping gym clothes in the car to allow for a workout immediately after leaving the office, rather than sitting down and relaxing at home.
“You have to find what your barriers are and work around them,” he said. “For instance, my weakness is eating in the car. I know not to have food in my car or I’ll eat it.”
The process—and success—at losing weight is understanding those behaviors and countering them.
“I tell my patients I’m enrolling you in a course and it lasts the rest of your life,” Levine said. “The subject is you.”