By MAGGIE MENDERSKI
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
Jason Beddall is half the man he was four years ago.
Beddall knew he wanted to run outside with his children, build snowmen and push them on swing sets, but his 437-pound body made the active part of fatherhood difficult. As his wife, Marcia, prepared to give birth to their second daughter, Jason began a journey to change that. He lost 249 pounds in three years and gained a sense of energy he hadn't known in more than a decade.
"At that weight, I'd say there's very little you can do with children," Jason said. "It's not fun to go outside and play games. It's not fun to get on the floor and do things. None of it is easy."
Still, he tried. That extra 249 pounds might have limited his energy, but not his enthusiasm. He would take his oldest daughter Kaitlin, now 8, outside and kick around a ball or help push her on a swing. He would play as much as he could even when it left him winded within five or 10 minutes.
"He's always had a kind heart and been a caring person, but when you're that big you're physically tired," Marcia said. "You don't have the energy to do things."
Lately, his life is difficult in a different way. Instead of struggling to move from the couch to the floor to work on a puzzle with his daughter, he's training for endurance events.
Jason, the technology coordinator for Madison Park Church, said he never expected to enjoy running. When he started losing weight, he would walk for 30 minutes on a treadmill at about 2 mph. As the number of the scale dipped and his energy increased, he switched to running alone in the dark.
Eventually, he teamed up with his friend, Tyler Myers, and a few co-workers at Madison Park for endurance challenges. Myers had seen Jason's weight-loss success positively impact his family life, work life and overall happiness.
"I love to challenge myself and other people," Myers said. "He was making some progress in areas of his life and I just wanted him to see that he was capable of far more than he thought."
Beddall crawled beneath barbed wire, swam through ice and ran through electric shocks during the Chicago Tough Mudder in April. His life has become a rotation of 5K and 10K events. He ran his first half-marathon earlier this month and is training for a marathon in April in Kansas City, Kan.
"It was really kind of an emotional experience," Jason said. "I would have never, ever, ever thought that I could do something like that. To cross that finish line and finish, whatever happened between the start and the finish line is in inconsequential."
Beddall hadn't always known that kind of success. He had attempted high-protein and low-carbohydrate solutions to losing weight, but knew the problem ran deeper. He struggled with portion control and often used food as a coping mechanism for stress.
Nutrisystem helped Beddall knock his calorie intake from 5,000 to 2,000 per day, and he began utilizing exercise to ease stress.
"I've never finished a workout and regretted it, and I don't think people do that," Jason said. "I think the hardest part is to start."
Eating healthy became an opportunity for the whole family. Marcia adapted to stocking less snack foods in the home. Jason took on much of the cooking as he looked for ways to make healthier things taste better.
He grew up in a family laden with weight issue, and he wanted to break that cycle for his own children. Marcia also had a special interest in her husband's journey. She knew obesity could cause health complications, and one less bag of Oreos in the house was worth lengthening her husband's life.
"I didn't know if he was going to be around for the rest of our lives," Marcia said.
After three years of watching the numbers on the scale and the sizes on his clothing label decrease, Beddall has striven to maintain and enjoy his new weight. He eats pie or fast food when he wants to, but also knows that he can run the calories off later.
He can jog along side his daughters as they ride bicycles at Bob Mays Park. He can build a snowman or kick a ball around without feeling winded. He can train for a half-marathon with his friends and even laugh about his blister-covered feet afterward.
He won a contest through Nutrisystem that sent him to Philadelphia for a photo shoot and to Miami to play football with former NFL quarterback Dan Marino. People Magazine interviewed him about his weight loss in November. But for Beddall the contest perks and publicity could never compare to the benefits he sees for his family and his own happiness.
"It's really all icing on the cake, which in a weight-story is a hilarious analogy," he said.