In a year that has seen life turned upside down by the COVID-19 global pandemic, Kyle White made a 180-degree turn in his own life by dropping some bad habits and more than 150 pounds.
Utter the word “lockdown” and you might conjure memories of the living room couch, endless scrolling through TikTok and ordering more takeout than you’d care to admit.
Life during a pandemic started off the same way for Kyle White, a 28-year-old from Old Perlican, N.L.
But it took worldwide upheaval for White to turn his own life around.
“A little over a year ago, I stepped on the scale and I was around 430 pounds,” White said from his home in Saskatoon, noting that most scales don’t even go that high.
It was during the Tiger King era of the pandemic, he says — referring to the Netflix docuseries that swept North America last year — that he and his wife, Laura, stared into the tiger’s mouth, so to speak.
After topping 430 pounds, White realized the pair had lots of bad habits to break.
His pre-COVID weight left him with pain in his knees and back. He had high blood pressure. The weight kept piling on.
“Every day I would wake up heavier than I was the day previous,” he said. “I knew that wasn’t sustainable.”
‘It took a lot of hard work’
For White, who wears a size 15 shoe, the weight-loss journey started with baby steps. He hauled himself off the couch to walk the dog. Those early strolls turned into longer walks, with White passing the time by listening to podcasts.
By summer, White had taken up hiking.
“We started seeing results,” White recalled. “It took a lot of hard work, but once we started seeing the results we were willing to put in more work.”
White eliminated alcohol from his diet, for the most part, and now primarily drinks water. He wears a fitness tracker to keep him accountable in hitting his goal of 10,000 steps a day.
He also started looking at food differently, he said.
“Our diet is about 98 per cent free of animal products,” White said, rattling off his plant-based staples. He’s learned to cook tofu and tempeh for protein, and only eats a bit of egg when it’s in his pasta.
At nearly six feet five inches, White has always been a big guy. But watching the scale creep past its limit prompted a lifestyle overhaul. When he stopped feeling challenged on the trails, he took up running — albeit tentatively, at first.
“When you’re the size that I was, and even still am, you need to be really careful about running because it is very easy to hurt an ankle or a knee,” explained White.
He started with short running bursts during his walks. He worked his way up to jogging 500 metres without a pause. Then he hit a kilometre. Then a mile.
Last fall he ran four kilometres without stopping. As the snow started to fall, and the temperatures began their yearly nosedive in Saskatoon, he kept going.
“The hardest step is showing up,” White said.
He now runs three to four times a week: a few five- to seven-kilometre runs and one long run, up to 15 kilometres.
White has his sights set on a 10-kilometre race in June and a half-marathon in September. He hopes to finish an entire marathon one day.
He hasn’t been able to visit his home province since October 2019, but when he does come back, he wants to run from Cape Spear to Cabot Tower — a 20-kilometre route that has a reputation of being one of the toughest running courses in North America.
When he does make it home, the Kyle White his family sees will be a lot smaller than the guy who came home in 2019.
“I still feel like it’s my own body, but to see the actual difference in photos that are side by side, or the pants that I used to wear, it is a bit hard to wrap my head around,” White said.
“A hug is going to feel quite different when we get to see each other again.”
To date, he’s shed more than 150 pounds — a third of his body weight in a year. His wife isn’t far behind, having dropped more than 75 pounds. They don’t plan to go back to where they were.
“It takes a lot of hard work, but the conditions that we had the past year kind of gave us the time, which was, maybe, a hidden benefit in the mess that was 2020,” he said.
“It allowed us to refocus, work on ourselves, cook better food and get outside a little bit.”