Seeing the world from 8,366 feet above sea level wasn't something Jonathan Wiese ever imagined he would—or could—do. But standing on the snowy summit of Mt. St. Helens in Washington State, he beamed with pride as he posed for photos with his personal trainer, who had also become his best friend. The two had taken a Friday off to hike the steep mountain trail, and they'd both powered to the top.
This might have been one of Johnathan's biggest physical challenges, but it wasn't his first uphill journey. Just a few years before, he had weighed 421 pounds and was held captive by his health problems. Though he started out slow, with years of dedication, Jonathan shed nearly 200 pounds and regained his life.
This is Jonathan's story.
When Did Your Struggle With Your Weight Begin?
I was always a bigger kid and a bigger guy. My weight has been a struggle for me since early elementary school.
It's not hard to see why; I didn't pay attention to what I ate at all. I snacked on junk food constantly as a kid. When I went off to college, it was pizza and beer, all the time.
Were You Active At All?
In college, I played a little basketball and lifted weights with friends, but that was only maybe once a week. After I graduated, I became completely inactive.
What Was Your Turning Point?
I walked into the doctor's office a little over three years ago and stepped on the scale. When I saw the number, it just hit me like a ton of bricks. Enough was enough. I didn't want to be unhealthy anymore. That's when I decided I needed to change my lifestyle.
How Did You Get Started On Your Fitness Journey?
I didn't start with a "hard" fitness goal like losing 100 pounds. I knew that for this lifestyle change to happen, I had to find things to do that I enjoyed. I always enjoyed playing basketball, so I started playing pick-up basketball at the local YMCA while I was living in Denver, Colorado.
Eventually I also started working my way back into the weight room. I hadn't lifted since I was in college and was really, really rusty. At first, I didn't change my diet, I just added working out to my schedule.
Did You Monitor Your Weight Closely During That Time?
No. I'd decided that I wasn't even going to step on a scale until the next year's physical. I'd gotten advice from close friends that it was more important to judge my progress by how I felt rather than what I weighed. Once I started seeing my clothes fit more loosely, it wasn't hard to maintain my motivation.
How Did You Discover Bodybuilding.com?
I was talking to a guy I played basketball with at the YMCA, and he told me about the $200K Transformation Challenge. I originally just went on Bodybuilding.com to check that out, but when I started looking around, I realized there was a lot of good information there.
What Did You Do To Get Back Into The Swing Of Lifting?
I watched a lot of the videos on Bodybuilding.com, actually. I knew the basics—like, obviously, I knew what a bench press was for—but I used the tutorial videos for other moves that I didn't know, to make sure I was activating the right muscle groups.
When Did You Decide To Start Changing Your Diet?
A year after I started my transformation, when I had my physical and learned I had lost 90 pounds, I decided to start prepping my meals and getting serious about nutrition.
Whenever you talk to someone who's been successful at getting fit, they stress how important it is to eat the right foods, and that was the one thing I wasn't doing. It wasn't that I wanted faster results necessarily, but I came to the realization that I would be more successful if I put better fuel into my body.
What Were The First Changes You Made To Your Diet?
I started by switching one meal a day from "anything I wanted" to a prepped meal of chicken, rice and veggies. Over time, I traded more meals for chicken, rice, and veggies, until I was eating healthy, pre-prepared meals three times a day. Now, I'm doing Kris Gethin's Muscle Trainer, so I follow that meal plan.
Do You Use Any Supplements?
How Did You Track Your Progress?
I'm an engineer, so I like to be able to equate my success with hard data. To me, 1 million pounds is a grotesque amount of weight. So grotesque, in fact, that I once made it my goal to lift that much. I started tracking how much total weight I was lifting on BodySpace. In just six weeks, I'd crushed my goal.
What Was The Most Difficult Part Of Your Transformation?
For the most part, my diet during the week was great—I meal prepped on Sunday for the following Monday through Friday. My diet on the weekend was a constant battle, though.
How Did You Overcome Your Struggle With Your Diet On The Weekends?
I can't really say I have. I still go out with friends and eat things like quesadillas. But I also believe that it's OK to have a cheat meal. It's human to have cravings, and being too strict leads a lot of people to bingeing.
What Are Your Future Goals?
I've really enjoyed Kris Gethin's workouts, and I'd like to try another one of his programs—maybe "Shortcut to Shred." I'm going to start increasing my cardio and continue tracking to make sure I'm burning more calories than I'm consuming.
How Did You Get Started Climbing Mountains?
I ended up becoming best friends with my trainer, who was really into hiking. The first time he invited me on a hike, I didn't understand what he meant. In my mind, it was throwing on jeans and going for a nice, leisurely stroll. In his, it was miles and miles of trekking uphill.
Half of the trail we had to climb was stone steps. I was soaked in sweat, but I loved it. The more we hiked together, the more we talked about challenging ourselves. We decided that we wanted to start doing as many summits as possible. St. Helen's was one of those.
Tell Us More About Climbing Mt. St. Helens. How Was That?
It was pretty good until we got to the snow field—I wasn't well equipped. I probably should have had some better clothing for handling the snow and ice. Still, we made it to the top. Our lips were blue, but we took a couple pictures and checked out the view.