Battling Hunger

My football career came to an end in 2015 at the ripe old weight of 315 lbs. Before I go into my weight loss story, I should make the disclaimer that it wasn’t ever content with being 315, especially since I started my college career as a 245-lb defensive end at the University of Norther Iowa. In all honesty, I loathed the extra weight and promised myself that it was a temporary sacrifice to fulfill my end of the scholarship. Don’t get me wrong, in hindsight I’m proud of my decision. It led to a lot of success in my career, including the opportunity in 2015 to compete in a Fall camp for the Jacksonville Jaguars, but in the moment, it was never easy to force feed most meals to the point of a belly-ache. Regardless, this story is about the diet strategies I used after football, and how that has led to my 75-lb weight loss thus far.    

Following the principle of “Pick the low-hanging fruit first”, I did an initial assessment of areas where I could easily tighten up my diet that would result in the most significant change. For a hefty offensive lineman, I ate fairly healthy, even though after a certain point you just need high calorie density foods, aka- junk food. But I knew that the main culprit keeping me above 300-lbs was the total volume of food I ate at each meal. Making things worse, maintaining the same eating habits from football led to weight gain due to my significantly lower activity levels. So, my simple solution was to make my plate look like a normal person’s plate, by trying to only take a single serving of each food. While that had some success, I soon plateaued with my weight loss, and even worse, my hunger pains roared as loud as when I was still 300-lbs, which led to semi-frequent cheat binges.  

Luckily, I discovered a guru in the field of nutrition, Rhonda Patrick, through an interview on the Joe Rogan Podcast. The topic they were discussing heavily on that faithful day was fasting. While the typical fast is thought of as a 24-hour affair, she focused in on a new strategy called “intermittent fasting”. This is basically choosing a 6-8 hour eating window each day, and then fasting for the remaining 16-18 hours in the day. While I am still not the greatest at creating a habit out of intermittent fasting, I now value fasting as an essential tool on my weight loss journey.    

The key for me has been regaining control on my hunger. In football, I programed myself to get low-level anxiety when I started to feel hungry because feeling hunger meant that it would challenging to maintain weight that day. With fasting, I faced my programed fear of hunger and have come to learn that there are often rules for optimal athletic performance that may be detrimental to general health and longevity, such as consuming 6 meals per day every 2-3 hours. Another important lesson I took from Rhonda Patrick, was that ghrelin, often coined as the “hunger hormone”, increases proportionately with the size and frequency of your meals. So, my method of normalizing what I imagined to be a gargantuan amount of ghrelin, was to starve it away. Baby steps though!

The more I fasted the more I realized that the hunger pains lasted roughly an hour, and at the end of the hour I would belch a couple times, weirdly enough, and my pains would subside. I also noticed that if I chose to eat after the hunger had passed, I would surprise myself how quickly I would get full, compared to the minutes prior when my fantasies of food porn ran wild. Although, what surprised me the most came during the next “hunger hour” battle, which was the significant weakening of the hunger pains compared to previous battle. I continued to implement this “wait out the hunger, then eat moderately after” method. And it has continued to work, both attenuating hunger pains and normalizing my appetite. The last core tool in my diet is a long-term strategy, taking advantage of intermittent surges of will-power and energy for a week at a time, pushing my fasting strategy and caloric deficit harder than normal, and when I would start to feel run down, temperamental, and all the other dreadful effects of a caloric deficit, I would dig my heels in at the new body weight and work on weight maintenance for a week or two, depending on how quickly my will-power and energy returned.

Overall, I want to reiterate that this is my own weight loss journey, and this strategy is highly specific to my “low-hanging fruit”. In addition to addressing glaring weaknesses, my personal dieting strategy is being molded each day by learning and leveraging personal strengths, such as being comfortable enough to stand on a scale everyday without being overly critical of the number on the scale, and just take valuable cause and effect inferences of my eating habits. My suggestion to the people on their own weight loss journey, is to not copycat a specific diet and hold on for dear life but sample all methods and forge a deep mind/body awareness to sense the subtle effects from the many weight loss tools.

About the Author

Jack Rummells, PhD Candidate, NFL

Lifting is my religion. My interest for the iron began at age 13 doing strongman out of my first mentor’s garage. This evolved into competing in Olympic Weightlifting and Strongman through high school and college. At the University of Northern Iowa, I received a B.A. and M.A. in kinesiology, as well as All- American honors on the football field as a left tackle. In 2015, I was lucky enough to join the Jacksonville Jaguars roster for 6 months. After I was released from the Jaguars, I had the opportunity to train for a month learning the conjugate method from Louie Simmons at Westside, and a month later I placed 12th overall in the 105+ division at the American Open in Olympic Weightlifting. Currently, I’m back at school pursuing my PhD in Biomedical Engineering at the University of Iowa… And yes, the fire still burns strong.