Tyler Ramey lost 138 pounds the old-fashioned way — by eating healthfully and exercising. Photo by Ned Jilton II.
Tyler Ramey was only 22 when he went to the doctor with cold-like symptoms. During that doctor’s visit, he learned that both his blood sugar and his blood pressure were too high. “I had avoided the scales for so long because I just didn’t even want to know,” Ramey said. “I just never really weighed myself. But to see that number — 318 — at the doctor, that was my big moment that I remember thinking, ‘Oh my goodness! I have got to do something about this.’ My doctor wanted me to get started on medication and that freaked me out. I thought, ‘How in the world have I let myself get like this?’” he said.
“That was it for me. I knew in my head that was it. I knew for better or worse, there was no turning back. I had avoided the scales for so many years because I just absolutely didn’t want to know a number. I knew it was going to be bad. But to see that number in front of me, that’s the moment, that was my ‘a-ha’ moment. I knew I had to change something or I was going to be on medication for the rest of my life. I did not want to be one of those people.”
Today, Ramey is 28 years old and a lean 180 pounds. He is also the Healthy Living Director at Greater Kingsport Family YMCA.
“My brother was always really into sports. I just never was. I was always the heavier one. He was out getting all that physical activity from sports, but I was getting none of that. I really could never find anything that I liked to do in school. So, he was always the physically fit one and the active one. I was always, gradually over time, I was always bigger, and the less active I got, the worse the problem got,” Ramey said.
Ramey first went to work at the Y while still in high school, starting in the after-school program.
With a bachelor’s degree in education, his plan was to be an elementary school teacher.
“I’m K-6 certified. I was working with the kids in different schools. I would always do the summer day camps at the Y. But then a position opened up [at the facility], and I started working at the front desk. That’s when I started getting a feel for the health and wellness aspect of the Y that I hadn’t had before,” he said.
And then Ramey discovered group exercises.
“When I had to do it alone, exercise, to me, used to be a chore,” he said. “I started off slow on machines and treadmills and I just thought, ‘This is OK, but it’s not very fun at all.’ But then I found group exercise classes. I thought they would be intimidating, but once I tried my first one, I saw that the environment is not so intimidating. The people are just great, and from that point on, that’s what made exercise fun for me. It’s something I look forward to every day. I get to see amazing people. It’s become just as much for the social aspect as it is for the physical aspect.”
It didn’t take Ramey long to figure out he would enjoy teaching these types of classes.
“Once I built up my self-esteem, I thought, ‘You know what? Maybe one day I could teach one of those classes. And once you get something like that in your brain, it’s over. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I knew that’s what I was going to do,” he said.
Ramey now teaches seven classes a week at the Y, including Zumba, cycling, weight conditioning and a Total Body HIIT class.
“When I’m teaching a class, I know, without a shadow of a doubt, that’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I just know. It just clicks,” he said.
It was these group exercise classes, coupled with a change in his diet, that Ramey says led to his 135-pound weight loss.
“My diet was the main thing I had to change,” he said. “I put myself on a calorie limit per day and I would not let myself exceed that. I would religiously count my calories. I wanted to do it healthy, so I did a lot of research and talked to a lot of people at the Y. I lost a lot of weight at first. I lost 100 pounds pretty quickly, but the last 35, those took awhile. But that’s OK. I wanted a gradual weight loss because it took me 22 years to gain the weight. I knew I wasn’t going to lose it overnight.”
Ramey admits staying motivated to maintain his current weight is a constant battle.
“I have to wake up every day and tell myself I’m going to eat right and I’m going to exercise. It’s not one of those things where I get to a moment and I’ll be done. You’re never done,” he said.
But it’s easier now, he says.
“It’s not even a hard thing anymore,” Ramey said. “It’s just you have to decide that’s what you want to do. It’s not to say I don’t splurge. I do. I let myself have the stuff that I want, but I just get right back on track the next day.”
And, Ramey adds, the key to his motivation is that he found the types of exercise he enjoys most. In addition to the group classes, he discovered he loves running with friends.
“Running is a huge part of my life, but I think, again, the reason that I love it so much is just because I have so many running friends. To me, it’s not a chore to go out and run 10 or 12 miles. It’s a chance for me to catch up with my friends,” he said.
Ramey encourages others to find what kind of exercise works for them.
“If you don’t like it, you’re not going to stick with it. You have to find something that makes sense to you and makes sense to your schedule,” he said. “For me, it happened to be people and classes. For somebody else, it might be running on their own or lifting weights. Whatever it is, you just have to find it and commit yourself to it. Once you get past that point of it being a chore, or it not being not-so-fun, then you really do look forward to it.”
Ramey says he feels like, because he knows what it was like to be overweight, he has a better understanding of others who are experiencing that same battle.
“It’s weird to me, because I’ve always lived in this body, I know the larger me very well. I lived him for a very long time. It’s funny now, though, when I see people who didn’t know me back then and I tell them my story, they’re completely shocked,” he said. “But I love the fact that I still call them my battle scars. Mentally, I still know very well what they are going through. I can look at those people and I can say, ‘I know where you’re coming from.’ It’s easy for somebody to say that who’s always been teeny tiny their whole life. But I have walked in those shoes and I know it’s hard. It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life, but it’s completely worth it.”