Ed Bailey of Lake Wylie had a reality check a few years ago.
At at 5 feet, 4 inches tall, he weighed 350 pounds. He had to change his lifestyle or face a long road of health issues. His biggest fear: not being able to watch his son, Gus, grow up.
“I had really lost control of my weight in my mid 20s,” Ed said. “Not only did I grow up in a northeastern Italian family where we were eaters, I also work for the hotel industry where there is no shortage of great food and snacks.
“When my son turned 2, I was at my worst and finally said ‘No more,’” he said.
Ed’s journey started by asking his neighbors, Paul and Dina Smith, about how to start running. They encouraged him to start small, by walking from one mailbox to the next. What began as baby steps turned into a daily walking then running – a routine that helped Ed lose about 40 pounds.
“I remember my first run from one mailbox to the next,” Ed said. “I thought I was going to die!
“I never would have thought the next year I would be running in the Splash Dash, but there I was,” he said of the annual Lake Wylie Chamber of Commerce 10K/5K held at River Hills Plantation. He participated in the Run for God 5K program at Good Samaritan United Methodist Church.
But it was not all about exercise. Ed’s diet needed adjusting.
“I started eating better,” he said. “I started watching my portions and gave up the sweets. I found balance in my life for the first time and changed my whole lifestyle. On the occasions when I had to rest my body due to an injury, this lifestyle change kept my weight loss on track.”
After the Splash Dash, Ed saw a contest in the Lake Wylie Pilot for a free 90-day trial of Tuff Girl Bootcamp headed by Julie Sawyer. He entered by writing a letter and won. Three months of bootcamp put Ed down another almost 60 pounds.
“When you’re the only guy in a Tuff Girls Bootcamp, the girls really mother you,” Ed said. “However, their encouragement and support was priceless to me. Soon after I joined the Lake Wylie YMCA and became the only man in a Zumba class. Thanks to instructors Andrea Gunn and Lyndsey Beasley, I dropped another 20 pounds. ”
After hitting a plateau, Ed turned to Mike Riley of the Lake Wylie Y to begin weight training and then to Mike McDonald at MC Square Athletics for strength training and martial arts athletic conditioning. By focusing on strength and not weight, Ed lost another 30 pounds.
Through the course of his journey, Ed had many setbacks because of injuries from his intensive workouts. He credits Rich and Laurie Biggers from Focus Physical Therapy for not only treating his injuries, but also teaching him to take care of his body to avoid future injuries.
“I’ve hit so many ruts in this quest that I lost count, but this journey will continue forever,” Ed said. “I will never go back to that 350-pound person. I don’t feel I can experience the real beauty in my life, which to me is watching my son grow up and being with him through his milestones.
“I also risk the pleasure of being able to grow old with beautiful wife who loves and supports me every day,” said Ed of his wife Emma.
He wanted to share his story to help show anybody who is contemplating making a life change that it is possible and worth the work. He also wanted to boast about the people in our community who are helping to make a difference in people’s lives.
Ed’s next goal is to start helping others with their weight loss journeys.
“I feel the best way to begin that is by sharing mine,” he said.
Wendy Dimitri of Lake Wylie is a freelancer writer. Email neighbors column ideas to news@lakewyliepilot.