CAMDEN — A Camden man is being hailed by an international nonprofit weight loss organization for losing 111 pounds during a competition window, an accomplishment to be heralded as 30.4% percent of Maine’s adult population is obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System in 2018.
When Michael Deabler stepped onto the scales at TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) three years ago at the start of his membership, he weighed 528 pounds. He admits, however, he weighed more than that ahead of that day, but does not know exactly how much since it had been awhile since he stood on a scale.
Fast-forward to this month, Deabler is 330 pounds and on his way to weighing his current target weight of 264 pounds with the possibility of losing more weight.
“I currently don't have an end goal in mind, other than wanting to hit 264, as I want to say I'm half the man I used to be,” he said. “Once I get down to that weight, I'll start looking at an end goal, where I can be and look healthy.”
Deabler’s hard work of losing weight paid off with the added bonus of being selected as the 2019 TOPS Male International Division 7 winner April 11, 2020 for his weight loss accomplishment of shedding 111 pounds
The day started off bleak for Deabler. What would be the final winter storm of the year had knocked out the power to his house, and the State of Maine was about a month into the COVID-19 pandemic.
Deabler stepped out of his Camden house at one point during the day, puttering around trying to pickup cell reception to check his voicemails and emails.
There was one voicemail left on his cellphone that turned the bleakness into triumph and joy. A voicemail letting him know he was being recognized for losing the most weight when compared to all other male TOPS members in the United States and Canada who had a starting weight for the year of at least 400 pounds.
“When I found out, I was jumping for joy on the sidewalk as I listened to the message,” Deabler recalled.
He will officially receive his award this summer, as the celebration has been delayed by the ongoing pandemic.
“Competition drives me. It's the biggest part of what I do and why I do it other than the health benefits,” he said of how meaningful it was to receive the recognition. “Be it on the chapter level, state level, or the international level. Without the recognition from TOPS, I would lose the biggest mental boost I have in my day-to-day life. Thankfully in the early parts of my journey, my chapter leader became aware of this and put in more challenges to keep me motivated as I started to get into my groove. Even a year after winning, I still have a hard time wrapping my mind around it. To me, I didn't do anything big, or drastic. I just took things one day at a time.”
Competitive nature aside, Deabler was inspired to lose weight by his loved ones, who provided him the necessary encouragement to keep pushing forward no matter how much of a challenge losing weight got at times.
“If it wasn't for the loving motherly nudge from my mom, I wouldn't have started going to TOPS meetings,” said Deabler of his motivation to join TOPS and embark on a journey to, literally, become half the man he once was.
“If not for the weekly support of my late stepfather, who was always happy at how I did even when I had a gain, I wouldn't have pushed past the weeks when I did have a gain. My brother and my nieces were the driving force that first year, because I wanted to get back in the woods hunting with them. My courage came from my family and friends. My mom’s loving boot was the first bit of motivation that got me going, and then the constant support from family, friends, and TOPS members. It was their cheers, smiles, kind words, and firm boots that gave me the courage and determination to push past the rough spots.”
Asked to provide advice to those who may also be eyeing a weight loss journey, Deabler noted the smallest step can put you on the path to losing weight.
“I started my weight-loss journey by doing two simple things — eating a salad a few times a week for a meal and walking to the store any time I wanted a soda,” he said. “It wasn't a far walk — only half a mile round trip — but it got me moving. I used my want for junk food to get me moving. [S]oda was the first thing I cut out. I would play mind games with myself by ‘forgetting’ the money to buy the soda. That got me moving more and with the addition of a salad every day, the pounds started to come off.”
Nearly a year after he begin to shed the pounds and crossing back into the 400 pound weight class, Deabler found himself staring down a driveway piled with snow from the year’s first big snow storm, and, surprisingly, he was eager to grab the shovel and get to work.
“When I told my mother this, we were both shocked at what I had said,” he recalled. “From that moment on, I was never concerned about slipping up, because I knew I had gotten to this point before and could do it again.”
Deabler advises not to be upset if you stumble and slip up on your weight loss journey, no matter how easy it may be to mentally beat yourself up over a misstep or an uptick on the scale.
“This was a massive mental battle for me that took me two years to get over,” he said. “I would turn down going out to have fun with friends and family because I knew that the scale would show how much of a good time I had. I was always worried that gaining one pound this week, would lead to two next week and more the following week. One day it just clicked with me. That pound I just gained back, I lost it before and I can do it again, but this time it will be easier than before. From that point on, a huge weight — pun intended — was lifted from my shoulders and I started to enjoy life more.”
Losing weight is also a process, Deabler noted, one that will take time and work.
“If you decide you want to do something about your weight, it is a decision only you can make,” said Deabler. “Realize you didn't get to where you are overnight, so don't expect any changes to happen overnight. Find something — one thing — that you can focus on and change, and work to change that. Once you change it, find something else and keep moving forward.”
Deabler also acknowledged losing weight is, many times, a mental struggle.
“I still struggle even three years and just shy of 200 pounds into my current weight loss journey,” he commented. “I believe it's something many people have problems with when they decide they need to lose even a few pounds. I still have cravings, where I'll get myself a treat, and only eat part of it, only to go back and sneak another part, and then later to get the rest of it. That's something I know I'll deal with for quite some time.”