• Years of regularly eating fast food led Lester Packard to gain weight, topping out at nearly 300 pounds.
• A friend helped Packard develop a bodyweight-centric training plan to improve his diet and workouts while fitting into his first responder lifestyle.
• As a result, Packard dropped nearly 75 pounds in only a year and a half, and feels healthier and more fit than ever.
Lester Packard didn’t think he was out of shape. As a firefighter paramedic, the 39-year-old from Lakeland, Florida, had been active his whole life, including at work. At 6’4”, he’d always been a bigger guy, and for most of his life hadn’t had to pay attention to his weight.
Working 24-hour shifts as a first responder, he turned to food as a substitute for his erratic sleep schedule. When he got a break, he’d scarf down fast food: a Wendy’s Triple (that’s three-quarters of a pound of beef) “Biggie Sized” with a sweet tea, and a Junior Bacon Cheeseburger. At the station he’d put down huge plates of food, big bowls of ice cream, and even a 24-ounce glass of chocolate milk. “This style of eating started to bleed over into my off days,” he says, “because it was easy, because we were going through a house renovation, because x excuse. It basically became a habit.”
Overloading with calories took its toll. “I felt like a brick,” he says, “I went from being very agile, flexible and mobile to just wanting to sit.” He didn’t feel like himself, and one day he looked down at the scale and saw he was 298 pounds. He’d put on 50 pounds in seven years.
He had a newborn son, and the anxiety of becoming a father forced him to re-evaluate his life. “I was thinking of how scared I was to be a new father and what kind of a father I wanted to be,” he says. He remembered his own father as always ready and eager to practice soccer whenever young Lester wanted. To be that kind of father to his own son meant something had to change.
Packard reached out to his best friend, a fellow firefighter who’d started a company called First in Nutrition, which caters to the particular dietary needs of first responders. His trainer scaled back Packard’s diet and tracked his food. With a new baby taking up what might have been gym time, he focused almost entirely on diet. His trainer helped him plan how to eat during a 24-hour shift at the fire station or a road trip with a toddler, and held him accountable along the way. (Packard can still take down a large pizza if he wants, as long as he balances out those extra calories.)
Eventually he added simple bodyweight exercises such as pushups, sit-ups, and squats to compliment his diet. But just by hitting his nutritional goals, in six months he’d lost 30 pounds. After a year and a half, he’s dropped 75 pounds. “I feel awesome,” he says. “I am the leanest I’ve ever been.”
“The support and guidance from the First in Nutrition family was instrumental in my transformation,” he says, “because it was one-part learning resource and another part support group.” Since he’s changed his diet, his blood pressure has gone down, along with his resting heart rate; he sleeps better and feels revitalized. Most importantly, he says, “I have energy to play with my son and enjoy being active with the family.”
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