Jonathan: Hey, everybody, Jonathan Bailor, back, with another SANE show and a very special edition of SANE. I am so excited. It is one of those shows that I am so thrilled and honored to bring you, which is when we all have the opportunity to share in someone’s incredible and inspiring SANE success story. I had the great fortune, a few weeks back, of receiving an email from the fine gentleman that you are hearing from here shortly, and are seeing if you are watching the video, by the name of Jonathan Greene, whose story and photos really touched my heart and inspired me, and reminded me why I get up in the morning, and hopefully, will do the same for you. And he is here with us today to share his story. Jonathan Greene, welcome brother.
Jonathan G: Thank you.
Jonathan: Jonathan, let’s not waste any time. Let’s talk about little Jonathan Greene, where you started from, where you were about six months or a year ago, and where you are today.
Jonathan G: Okay, sure. Basically, the child version of me grew up eating TV dinners, and growing up with the grandmother that gives you the southern home cooking all the time, and telling you to clean your plate. And so, I had this version of myself that I loved food and I just ate everything that was put in front of me. Skipping ahead to adolescence and going through school, I was always eating chips, and raiding the frig, and everybody that knew me knew that if I came over I was going to go right for the pantry and go for crackers and chips and dip.
I struggled for a long time with that kind of stuff, snack foods, and now, about two years after I started eating SANE I have dropped about 70 pounds. And it was pretty drastic. Luckily for me I got a wireless scale so I could track every day that I weighed myself in and watched it drop once I made the change. So, the version of me now, it is still shocking when I go to the store and I have to buy a small shirt versus an XXL shirt. And often I can’t find the size because everybody has taken them.
Jonathan: Jonathan, you mentioned your grandmother’s southern cooking. Where in the country are you located?
Jonathan G: I am in Atlanta, Georgia.
Jonathan: And as you were growing up, you mentioned a couple of times, things like cookies, pies, and things like that. Was there a preference for you in terms of, was it was the processed package, or was it just some of Grandma’s pies, or was it all of the above?
Jonathan G: It was all of the above. Once you start that route, you grow up with that kind of food, growing through school you learn the old pyramid, and you have school lunches which are highly processed. My grandmother cooked all the time, which was healthier food than what maybe my family did with mac and cheese. We loved Spam sandwiches, and we made grilled cheese sandwiches all of the time. It was just anything from a box, Hamburger Helper, things like that, the cheaper things at the grocery store that you can get from a box, made easy. That was the preference. So, even going through college, I was eating Ramen noodles, I would double-pack those things in and just eat those. I would eat Crystals and fast food and Taco Bell, and just a plethora of junk food.
Jonathan: Jonathan, the reason I bring that up is because what I found so inspiring about your story is how relatable it is. What you just described, while I know right now you might look back on it and say, “I can’t believe I did that,” but that is the way most people eat, right? So, were you always struggling with your weight, or did it creep on over time? Give us that timeline.
Jonathan G: Through middle school I felt overweight. I was heavy-set, I had chubby cheeks, and a little bit of a gut. Going through high school, there was only one instance where I dropped a lot of weight, and that is when I joined a drum and bugle corps. What that is, for the listener, is a professional marching band. You practice all summer, you are out in the heat all day, the whole day, and it is just pure exercise. They feed you pretty well, but you are technically, I would say, running, for about 16 hours. So, my body didn’t have a choice but to burn just about everything I had. But the problem with that is, I hate running.
So, I had this super appetite, and when the corps experience was over, I came back and I had all this junk food I used to eat, but I didn’t have any willpower to go and exercise and keep that up, so if we are talking about calories in, calories out, I had a lot of calories in and barely any calories out. I essentially started gaining weight over time, always struggled with it, picked it up, and about senior year I was pushing 200. And then I went to college, and in band I was losing a little bit from the exercise experience, and then I would gain it back, and it would creep a little higher each time. Then I would say, “Okay, it’s time to eat right,” so I would change my Sunbeam bread to whole grain wheat. Still bread, though, and I had processed cheese and processed meats, and I would have the low-fat, no-calorie Pringles.
So, I tried to make the substitutions, but the problem was that I was starving, and I would eat these things and I would still be hungry. Breakfast was some Special K cereal with skim milk and some toast, and maybe a full glass of orange juice, and then by the time lunchtime came around I was starving and I was looking for something, so I would probably have that sandwich and those chips, and then two hours later I was starving again, and I would think, “I just can’t keep this up.” And then by dinner I just raided the pantry. There was no self-control at that point because I technically had been fighting it the entire time.
Jonathan: Jonathan, what was the moment? I know this took many, many years. You mentioned you were in middle school, progressed your way through college or out of college. Was there a moment or was there a gradual transition where you said, “Doing the same thing over and over again, this willpower-based, just eat the light versions of the foods that have made me sick,” what was the turning point for you?
Jonathan G: I was a teacher, and as a band director I followed that same route, but as a teacher I noticed something about myself, that I actually stress eat. As teachers we are responsible for so many kids and what they are doing, and you get so hyperactive. We have five minutes to scarf down whatever we can find. But anytime I am stressed, even now, I have to find something to eat. I am always trying to find something to eat. As a teacher, I noticed my weight, I got up to 230, and I started seeing pictures of myself and I thought, “This is getting ridiculous.”
I had some major life events happen. I ended up getting a divorce, and then decided to quit teaching for a little bit and move closer to my family for a support system. But because I had weighed so much I noticed, “This is not stopping, I’m consistently trying to diet the way that everybody says to, or the way that the commercials say to, and lose a couple of pounds a week, and exercise more, but it’s not working.”
So, I took a new job, I was a road salesman, and I decided to add some podcasts to my iPhone, and I ran across Abel James’ website. I am a computer science major now, so I looked at his website and I was really hoping it wasn’t going to be a scam, but I thought I would give it a try. So, I downloaded his podcast and I heard you and him talking about SANE eating and that process. So I thought, “What the heck, man. This is completely different, and I can eat as much as I want of these certain foods, so let me just go ahead and try it out and see what happens.”
That was the beginning of the journey, just listening to the shows, taking the basic concepts of low-starch veggies, good-quality meats, and then adapting that to the way I was eating. In that process, I knew that because I had these habits, I couldn’t go cold turkey; there was just no way. So, I decided to change one meal at a time. I would take breakfast, take a couple of free-range eggs, throw in as many veggies as I can find and sauté it all together, and I started changing that.
Well, that turned out to make me last past lunchtime without being hungry. By lunch I was feeling like I didn’t need to eat, so that was different. So, okay that was cool, so then I had to force myself to eat something. And then when I saw that in the first week I lost about 10-15 pounds, I thought, “Okay, clearly my body is saying that is more like what I need.” So, I decided to use the common principle of eating a ginormous salad. I try to eat one every day. I make that, usually, my lunch, and I throw in a protein with it, as many veggies as I can find. So, I changed that, and I started dropping more weight.
Finally I was getting to the point where I wasn’t craving anything except for those two things. And then dinner I was kind of lax on it, but then I started doing veggies and a protein, and I’ll send you my graph at some point, but you can just see a plummet. As soon as that hit, there were just no ups anymore, it just kept going down. My family were trying to shut me up because I would say, “Hey guys, I lost another two pounds today.” They would say, “That’s not good, is it?” And I would say, “I think it is. I think I’m good.” I almost went broke just trying to keep up with clothes sizes because nothing would fit. One week I would be one size, the next size I would be another two inches smaller.
Jonathan: And the general principle you were applying was, just to make sure I understand, because this is great and could be really helpful for listeners and viewers, you started out by focusing on one meal at a time, and you really just started with breakfast.
Jonathan G: Yes.
Jonathan: And then you moved on your way to lunch, moved on your way to dinner, and you did that gradually. When did you start saying, “Okay, now lunch?” And then what made you want to then say, “Now dinner is going to be SANE?”
Jonathan G: Really, I think it happened faster than what I anticipated, just for the fact that I loved the fact that I wasn’t starving. So, if I could make this ginormous mixing bowl of a salad and try to take that thing out, then I wasn’t going to be hungry. And that’s the way I am. Now I am to the point where I am small enough where I can’t eat that big of a salad anymore, but I thought, if it was really true, if it was really going to work, I should be able to eat all of this, and if the hormones aren’t clogged, then my body will just take care of it. And that’s what it did.
I took the theory, tested it, it passed, and then I added on to the next step. I replaced so much chocolate. I worked my way up to a 90% chocolate and it’s great. It has 2 grams of sugar in it for four big blocks of it. Then I went to the store to look at a Hershey’s bar. Twenty-two grams for one little square, and I thought, “No way!” I just started getting obsessed with it and I wanted to see what I could substitute for what to make it easier and better to keep me fuller longer, and then to see if the weight would come down.
Jonathan: So, you were never hungry. You were maxed out at 230, what are you at now?
Jonathan G: I’m at 158.
Jonathan: 158. And how easily or difficultly are you maintaining that 158?
Jonathan G: Actually, 158 is staying stable. I have been 158 for about a month now, maybe more than that. That is the plateau where it is at. I have gotten down to 157, and I fluctuate up to 161, depending on how much I eat the day before. I think it is about stable here, and again, I don’t do a lot of exercising, because, I just, I don’t like it. But what I have noticed, with my job I carry around about a 50-pound toto bag, and that by itself, just the activity of work, my muscle structure is starting to build, and I’m not really trying to do that. As I said, it is staying stable at 158. I have tried to see if it will go any further, but I will probably have to go a little bit more SANE than I am. And I am not perfect, I just adapted what I like and what I eat, and I might have — I like chips, that’s just me, I like them, so…
Jonathan: This interview is over! No, just kidding. (laughs)
Jonathan G: But I got a chip-maker, and I take actual potatoes, small potatoes, and I cut them real fine, and then in the microwave for five minutes, and I’ve got a snack that doesn’t have any oil or anything on it, but it still settles that craving for a chip every once in a while. Even that substitution, for the listeners, some of my friends say, “Oh, I can’t do that. I can’t give up bread, I can’t give up this, I can’t give up that.” And I say, “Well, you don’t have to necessarily give it up, just figure out a way that it works better for you, that is more nutrients than going and getting a bag of Lays, the big bag, and then finish off the entire bag because you are still hungry.
Jonathan: That is such a powerful paradigm shift, Jonathan, where the conventional wisdom would be, “Keep eating the Lays, just eat half the bag.” Right? But fundamentally, there are only two options. One is to just eat less of those same foods, or to switch the foods you are eating. Making this switch, you are a younger male, and I know that being younger male, myself, sometimes people in our demographic are not so much about eating healthfully. And if you eat healthfully, it might be met with, “Come on, be a man!” Do you face any of that in your social circles, and if so, how do you handle it?
Jonathan G: Yes, actually, this topic comes up a lot. I have a few friends that follow the same eating habits that I do, and I know I can talk to them and everything will be okay, and I’m not stepping on anybody’s toes or crushing egos or making them feel bad. And I have great friends who have been supportive, but they are on the other side of the spectrum where they follow more of the conventional method. My brother would say, “Well, I can eat this ice cream, I’ll just run it off tomorrow.” And I would say, “But you won’t go running.”
It is a very touchy subject when you try to go against just about what everybody has been taught in the American standard diet. When you start saying, “How about you just remove the bread off that cheeseburger and try it that way?” and they say, “No, I love my cheeseburgers, I won’t change them,” and they add more ketchup and processed stuff. They don’t want to give it up as easily. When I was going through the process, I think I might have pushed a little hard because I got excited about it, and I have learned that I have to keep it to myself, and people don’t judge me for it now, necessarily. When they ask me, “Where do you want to go eat?” I say, “Well, I don’t care.” And they say, “Yeah, you do.” And I say, “Well, I care, but I know that you would like to go eat somewhere and I can make SANE choices there, anyway.”
It’s a touchy situation, and it has been hard, but my friends have been supportive, and they give me a hard time every once in a while, which is fine. I have a friend, Cody, and we went out to a Mexican restaurant, and he slid over the basket of chips to me to see what I would do. He just wanted to see me squirm. He said, “Yeah, yeah, I just wanted to tempt you just to see if you would take one.”
Jonathan: Jonathan, obviously guys are always going to mess with guys. It’s how guys show affection, by being hard on each other. At the same time, and correct me if any of this is hyperbolic or exaggeration, you have fairly effortlessly dropped — I mean, from 230 to 160 is an enormous transformation, and it sounds like you did that without hunger, without too much struggle. Haters are going to hate, but at the end of the day are they just like, “Man, what are you doing, and will it work for me?” How do they rationalize the success you have had?
Jonathan G: A lot of times they are approaching me when — I have a lot of friends who haven’t seen me since college and that has been three to four years, and so, when they see me they say, “Oh my gosh, you are so small.” And they ask me what I do, and I tell them, and that’s when I get the approach of, “Oh, I can’t do that.” And I say, “Well, it’s a process, and it is kind of learned.”
Some of the other things that I get are that some girls are upset, and I have had multiple people tell me that they are upset because I weigh less than them. And I say, “It’s okay, I’m not judging you because of your weight.” And I don’t want to make people feel bad because I lost so much weight so quickly, and I am willing to help and say, “Try these things that could work for you, but also it could not, it depends on where your hormonal balance is.” It is all a matter of trial and error, really.
Jonathan: You mentioned working for others and you talk to people who are still struggling, so if you could give free pieces of advice, or free pieces of encouragement to individuals who might just be starting their SANE journey that are watching this or listening to this, and have had a similar background as you — standard processed food, standard trying to eat less — what top three tips would you want to share with them to help them get to where you are, or their similar version of your SANE success?
Jonathan G: Sure. The first tip, I would say is, be patient. Your body is not going to like it, for one thing. It is going to take time to get rid of the hormonal clog that is caused by the bad foods. It takes time for your body to start processing the newer food. So be patient, especially with the scale. People want it to happen overnight, but be gradual with how you make the changes. If you do it cold turkey you are going to fall into a crash, or withdrawal, and then it will cause you to go back to your comfort foods because that makes you feel good. So first, be patient, and let it be gradual.
Second, eat as many veggies as you can possibly handle, because there are so many cool ways to cook up veggies and experiment with them. I wasn’t a cook. I made Ramen noodles and macaroni and cheese all the time, and now I am sautéing things, experimenting with things. There is a whole culture of farmer’s market that I have been able to get into.
So, experiment, have fun with it, and invest in it, I will say, is my last word of advice. If you invest in your health now, then you won’t have to invest in your health care later. If you invest in going to the farmer’s market, walking around, pickup up, smelling, and tasting food, then adapting that to your lifestyle, then you won’t have to be in the hospital bed with an IV, trying to keep your body functioning later on. Honestly, I’d rather take the time now, than later.
Jonathan: To that point, Jonathan, and I love that advice, it is easy to focus on the weight because we see your before and after pictures, and it is amazing, it is compelling. But were there less visual differences you noticed, and what impact has that had on your life?
Jonathan G: Oh yeah. During the weight loss, for me, even now at 158, I look in the mirror and I still see the 230 person. And I think that is really hard for people, and especially, it had been hard for me because every time I look in the mirror I still have that insecurity about what I look like. Even though I know that the clothes I am putting on are ten sizes smaller, I still feel that way sometimes. Some days it is better because people might complement me. They may say, “Man, you look smaller.” I will say, “Thank you,” and I try to hold onto that, because it is fuel against what I am used to.
But, losing weight from 230 to 200, I couldn’t tell, and then when I broke that 200 mark, I thought, “I’m back in the 100s,” and I got excited about that. I think I really noticed it at 180, I started seeing it in my face, and I started seeing it in my extremities. My body was actually taking the fat from my extremities first. A lot of people think, “Oh, I want to work on this gut.” That’s is probably going to be the last thing your body takes.
Then when I got down to 170 or 160, that’s when everybody else started seeing such a drastic difference. That is when people started making a point to say something to me like, “You’re really looking smaller now.” Gradually, if you are being patient about it, you are going to also have to deal with if you have insecurities about how you look, you are not going to notice it until way down the line, so be patient with that, as well.
Jonathan: With those insecurities, which we all continue to deal with, if you could look at today’s Jonathan Greene, and if you could look at the Jonathan Greene at the moment in time when he was struggling the most with his self-esteem, with his health, with his wellness, and with his weight, if you could have given him one piece of advice, what would you have given him?
Jonathan G: Don’t finish off the entire bag of Doritos in one sitting?
Jonathan G: No, really, I wish I could tell myself back then at 230 to have the confidence that I have now. Even though I do battle those insecurities, the confidence in myself, even at work, and even with friends, is much different. I actually went to a chiropractor because I am having some low back pain from driving a lot, and the first question they asked me was, “Well, we’re looking at how you stand up. Have you been overweight?” I said, “Tell me why before I answer that question.”
They said, “Well, because your shoulders are forward, your head is really forward. It looks like you are really slumped over and your spine is used to that. You are putting something like 32 pounds of pressure on your spine just from your head being forward and your shoulders being forward.” And I said, “Yes, I was about 70 pounds heavier, and I used to slump over to try to hide my gut from everybody else.” That’s how I used to stand. So now, people say, “You stand up much taller than you used to.” Actually, my body is trying to force me to. I used to have this whole child in front of me, and now I don’t.
Jonathan: I love that metaphor and that language of just standing taller, because I feel like that is really what your story illustrates, taking a healthy young man, and standing tall, and I think we can all learn from that. It is just a great model of abundance and saying, “How do I fuel my body so that I can stand tall again? The weight is going to come off, like you said, be patient, it is going to happen at different rates. But at the end of the day, that proper nourishment, that healing of the body, that clearing of the hormonal clog and enabling you to stand tall again, I can’t think of a better way to close, man. That’s awesome!
Jonathan G: Yeah, man. It is definitely exciting, and I get to experience food in a completely different way. I am constantly learning more about the different things to eat, what they taste like, and how to change their taste, and it is an exciting world to jump into.
Jonathan: Thank you so much, Jonathan, for giving us this peek into your world because I think it will help to inspire a lot of us. I know it inspires me to help keep our world SANE. Are there any closing comments or last parting words of advice you would like to give to our viewers or listeners?
Jonathan G: Hey, just keep trying it, and be patient.
Jonathan: I love it, man. Well, Jonathan Greene, thank you so much for sharing your inspirational SANE success story with us today, brother. It’s been an absolute pleasure.
Jonathan G: All right. Thank you for having me.