|Christ the King parishioner Harold Donnelly successfully lost 100 pounds and is committed to keeping the weight off. He has written a book about his experience, centered around the mantra, “more movement, less fuel.”
“More movement; less fuel.”
“This is simple, but not easy.”
These are just a couple of attorney Harold Donnelly’s mantras. They’re connected to his philosophy about life, faith and especially weight loss, a battle he’d been losing for 30 years, but finally won.
The story begins when Donnelly turned 50 in 2014. On his birthday, June 12, he made yet another plan to get in shape by Christmas, just like he had done countless birthdays before. “I wanted to show my kids the things that I could do before, and the kind of person that I thought I was,” said Donnelly. “I had kind of fallen away from that.”
Donnelly had attempted “every diet in the book” to no avail. He tried to run more, and to starve himself. He even set up his annual doctor’s visit for December 2014, right near his end goal. Unfortunately, the man that showed up for that appointment was still 100 pounds overweight.
However, on that fateful day, the doctor did find something, specifically, that was concerning. It appeared that Donnelly’s thyroid was “a little off.” More blood tests were ordered, and revealed that Donnelly had Hashimoto’s Disease, a condition in which your immune system attacks your thyroid.
“Most people would be like, ‘Gosh, I’m bummed,’” Donnelly said. “But in my twisted sort of mind, I was jumping for joy. Because this was the reason I was so fat and had gained so much weight!”
Donnelly was sent to a specialist, and in the spring of 2015, after more tests and trials with various meds and amounts, he was placed on a daily supplement that would do what his thyroid could not. The disease appeared to be under control, but there was one big problem which Donnelly pointed out to his doctor: “I’m still fat.”
To which his doctor replied, “You know, there’s no magic pill. You still have to exercise and eat right.”
A few weeks later, on a road trip to St. Louis with his daughter’s Girl Scout troop, Donnelly had a lot of time to think. It produced an epiphany. “I called my wife and told her I wanted to change everything,” recalled Donnelly. “I was practicing law at the time, and I wanted to be done with all the stress.”
In late April, he exited the law firm he was working for, and was hired as general counsel for one client, Larry Beckwith, who Donnelly had represented previously.
On May 19, which Donnelly refers to as his “jumping off date,” he was looking through some photos he had taken with his kids on their “last day of uniform” at Christ the King School and Father Ryan High School, an annual Donnelly tradition. Disgusted with his own image, he decided the time had finally come to get with the program.
“I said, ‘That’s it. I’m gonna do this or I’m gonna die trying,’” said Donnelly. “Not that I was going to kill myself doing it. It was that I was never, ever gonna give up. My goal was to go all the way back to when I moved here about 30 years ago – to 155 pounds, when I was running regularly and first met my wife.”
To keep himself honest and accountable, he publicized his quest on social media. He began a Twitter journal, telling everyone that he was going to lose 100 pounds. The journal, in 140-character entries, was a “day-by-day, blow-by-blow” account of all of Donnelly’s ups and downs on this sojourn, which took eight months.
And now he has written and published a book, which chronicles his road back to fitness, in an effort to motivate others who have struggled getting and keeping their weight in check. The book, “Your Pants Didn’t Shrink! Losing 100 Pounds For Real, Forever and Without Any Goofy Diets,” will soon be available through Amazon in digital and hard-copy versions.
“Gradually I came up this idea that it’s all about moving more and fueling less,” Donnelly explained. “I substituted ‘fuel’ for ‘calories’ because there’s a negative connotation in our society about exercise and diet. I wanted this to be a positive thing – just get out and move more. The food we take in is our fuel for this unbelievable gift that we have called ‘life’ and ‘our body’.
“I just changed my way of thinking,” continued Donnelly. “This is very simple, but it’s not easy. It’s not easy, because it’s real. But if you do it, it will change you forever.”
Donnelly had a huge motivator. He wanted to be around for his children – Maemie, 24, Eamonn, 18, Susannah, 12, and Catherine, 10, and his wife, Sunny. He had also been carrying around an important lesson from his father, about learning by example. “He was one of those people who didn’t tell you how to live; he lived his life and showed you,” said Donnelly. “I was always one of those guys who talked at his kids. Through this process, I realized my dad’s teaching is correct. I always said I’d do anything for my kids – I’d jump in front of a bus, or whatever. But I realized on May 19, that I wasn’t doing everything for my kids, and that my talk was cheap. The revelation was that I needed to show, not talk.”
The showing goes on. Donnelly does one million steps a month. He’s running in his “dream races,” short and long competitions he had always wanted to do, including the Comrades Marathon in South Africa.
The fuel part has changed dramatically too. “Before, I would do things like eat half a Tombstone pizza like it was nothing,” said Donnelly. “I really wasn’t paying attention. But when I started to keep scores – of my fuel units, my weight, my movement – I found out I was eating huge numbers of fuel units, probably 3,500 to 5,000 a day.”
Interestingly, Donnelly never denied himself any particular food choices, and still doesn’t, 100 pounds fitter. If he wants to eat something, he eats it, but then he cuts back to compensate. “If I’m gonna eat a piece of cake that has a thousand jillion calories, I’m only going to have 1,500 units the rest of the day,” Donnelly said. “That’s important, because a lot of diets are hard to live with. It’s very difficult to live within the context of having to eat ‘these boxed foods.’”
People might be surprised to learn that the restaurant Donnelly went to the most during this whole process was McDonald’s, because of the company’s policy of listing item calories on the menu. “Man, I eat up those yogurt parfaits; they’re like the best things in the world!” exclaimed Donnelly. “There are six or seven things on their menu I love, so it was easy and I could keep score easily.”
To help monitor his progress, Donnelly uses an app that allows users to log in their exercise regimen and food intake on a daily and cumulative basis. He also wears a simple step counter on his wrist. It’s waterproof, so he never has to take it off. “The maintain stage is an absolute ball,” said Donnelly. “I get to win twice a day. I get to win on my steps, and I get to win on keeping score of my fuel units. It’s fun.”
There’s also a faith component to Donnelly’s weight loss efforts. A devoted parishioner at Christ the King, a student of Catholic education grade school through college, and the father of four kids who studied or are studying at Christ the King, Father Ryan and St. Cecilia Academy, he acknowledges the bigger picture of the choices he’s made. “I talk a lot about gifts with a capital G,” said Donnelly. “To me, it’s an all-encompassing everywhere, everything. My mother and father were very strong in their faith, and I’ve tried to follow it, but I think I’ve had many, many failings. This journey has helped with this. My big thing is to treasure this gift: everything that we’ve been given, which includes our bodies, our life and our families.”