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Weighing nearly 400 pounds, man walks off half his weight

  • Story Highlights
  • Phill Novak's health was rapidly-declining when he weighed 387 pounds
  • After a scare, he started walking daily and eating a low-carb diet
  • Novak lost 192 pounds and now runs 20-30 miles a week
  • "I've never been happier in my life," says Novak
  • Next Article in Health »
By Jackie Adams
CNN
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NORTH BRADDOCK, Pennsylvania (CNN) -- Two years ago, Phill Novak weighed 387 pounds.

Phill Novak

After losing 192 pounds, Phill Novak, 41, says he feels there's nothing he can't do.

He wasn't happy with his weight and neither were his doctors. In addition to taking medication for high blood pressure and cholesterol -- his physician warned him that he was on track to become a diabetic.

Reality hit in January 2006 at a Pittsburgh Steelers game. Novak had gone to smoke a cigarette.

"We were walking back up to our seats, and I started getting winded," says Novak. "I didn't feel right, I started sweating. I didn't think I would make it back up. My heart [was] beating a million times a minute; I thought I was having a heart attack."

Novak stood against a cold wall for 20 minutes to catch his breath. Fortunately, he wasn't having a heart attack but he was so frightened that thoughts of his family began to race through his mind.

"A lot of things went through my head, about saying goodbye to my kids," says Novak choking back his tears. "I told my friend, 'This is it, I'm not going to live like this no more.' "

Novak, who was approaching his 40th birthday, made it through the football game. As he ate two double-cheeseburgers and a milkshake, he began to think about the limitations of obesity and how it was keeping him from living a full life.

Novak said the extra weight kept him from riding bikes with his kids. He dreaded doing anything physical like mowing the grass, shoveling snow or just moving -- period. Novak says even sleeping became difficult.

"When I was big, I could only sleep one way ... so I could support my belly," says Novak. "My back always hurt ... I could barely sleep and I remember always being tired."

The next day, Novak devised his own game plan and started his weight-loss journey.

He began simply by walking -- one mile a day and eating a low-carbohydrate diet of 15-30 grams a day.

"I walked off my first 100 pounds," he says. "Walked it off, an hour a day. I lost 100 pounds in seven months."

Novak continued to lose weight and as he built up his endurance he started jogging. Even though he had never belonged to a gym, he wanted to incorporate strength training. But the first time he went to the gym, he was intimidated by the loud music and weight lifters. He says he quickly "scampered" out and tried a few other places until he finally found a club where he felt comfortable. Video Watch more on how Phill Novak got motivated to lose weight. »

Two years later, Novak has lost a total of 192 pounds. Today, he runs 30 to 40 miles a week, works out two to three hours a day, does yoga in the morning and squeezes in a push-up whenever he gets a chance at work.

Now maintaining his weight at 195 pounds, Novak says he's made a lifestyle change and rarely takes a day off from exercise.

Still, he doesn't take all of the credit for his weight loss. Novak says he couldn't have done it without the support of his family -- which he thanks for allowing him to be selfish.

"I am so proud of myself ... for the first time in my life," beams Novak. "Besides my kids, [this is] the first time I'm proud of myself."

Novak says losing weight has boosted his confidence and made him realize that he can do anything he sets his mind to. He says people also treat him differently and no longer stare at him. In fact, he enjoys the fact that people, who haven't seen him in a while, recognize only his Pittsburgh accent.

When he looks back at pictures of himself at nearly 400 pounds, he says it's hard to believe he treated his body that way.

Would he ever go back to being heavy?

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"No way! Ain't going back there ... won't do it, can't do it," says Novak.

"I've never been happier in my life!"

iReport.com: Have you lost weight? Send your story, photos and video

Matt Sloane contributed to this discussion.

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