'Teddy bear' drops 300 pounds

Story highlights

  • Ryan McDonald once tipped the scales at 530 pounds
  • Giving up fast food and soda helped him lose 300 pounds
  • He's competed 5K and 10K runs, a half-marathon, a duathlon and a sprint triathlon
Ryan "Mac" McDonald's friends and family describe him as a teddy bear: charismatic, gentle and unassuming.
The description is fitting -- the former Texas all-state offensive lineman weighed as much as a small bear in 2000 when his friends bought him a gym membership for his 25th birthday.
Not wanting to appear ungrateful, Mac went to the gym and a personal trainer promptly put him on a treadmill.
Mac, now 38, got to work, putting one foot in front of the other. But it wasn't long before he looked down and saw smoke emerging from underneath the treadmill's track. The trainer rushed in, quickly explaining that the treadmill was old, on its last leg and he would set Mac up on a better one.
Mac obediently followed the trainer to another treadmill. The track moved and Mac walked. Before another 10 minutes passed smoke again rose from underneath the belt.
"After that I knew enough to stay off the treadmills," he says. "That was another one of my excuses."
Mac would balloon to more than 500 pounds and be attacked by a life-threatening, flesh-eating bacteria before re-entering a gym with any serious intention to improve his health.
But when he did, the stay-at-home dad would lose 300 pounds in less than three years.
'He never stopped putting in the calories'
At 6 feet tall, Mac was always a big guy, says his best friend, Tim Scrivner, owner of Fieldhouse Fitness Center and Jailbreak, a Texas-based adventure race-event company.
The men met when they were sophomores in high school at Liberty Christian School.
"I played tailback and he was an offensive tackle, which made me automatically like him," says Scrivner.
Mac weighed between 260 and 275 pounds when he played football and made all-state his junior and senior year. He played one year in junior college and then quit.
"(Football) wasn't life for him," says Scrivner. "His personality was being a big, nice guy that everybody loves."
Mac moved to the family farm near Wichita Falls, Texas, where people began noticing his rapid weight gain. His younger brother Clint remembers visiting and seeing a mini-fridge in the living room next to Mac's chair.