Everything’s up to date in Kansas City. They even have a 570 pound man completing a 5k.

When I saw the reports in social media about Derek Mitchell, a 34 year old IT guy with a weight problem and a will, I knew I needed to interview him. While A Taste For The Woods isn’t a weight loss website, obesity and super obesity are common challenges keeping people from participating in the outdoors. Derek’s entering and completing the Big 12 5k in Kansas City is what we are about – getting it done. Add in that as a former super obese man I’ve faced some challenges too, and you can understand why I take pride in presenting our conversation to you.

Image courtesy Derek Mitchell.

Q: Congratulations, Derek, on your weight loss and 5k results, and thank you for agreeing to this interview. Every story starts somewhere, so my first questions start there. Where you heavy as a child? Were you physically active growing up? What sports and games and activities did you participate in?

A: I was actually a very skinny child.  I was also very active as a child.  I loved baseball, soccer, basketball, all the usual kid sports.

Q. When did your weight gain begin?

A. I didn’t start gaining weight until around 13 or 14 years old.

Q. You said in interviews that you had a tumor on your pituitary gland. How did this lead to weight gain? Has your treatment finished?

A: The tumor is called a prolactinoma.  It secretes an enzyme called prolactin that blocks my body’s ability to produce testosterone, leading to a severe testosterone deficiency.  Since testosterone controls things like metabolism, energy levels, willpower, drive, etc.  My doctor said that was the driving force behind my weight gain.  I have taken medication to shrink the tumor and my prolactin levels have lowered dramatically.  Very soon, I am supposed to start testosterone replacement therapy, which should really help me with my weight loss.

Q: With my weight loss, there was a single turning point where I said “enough” and made changes. Did this happen with you? What was that turning point?

A: After I found out I was up over 600 pounds late last year, I knew I had to make a change.  My first step was cutting out soda.  That was my original New year’s resolution.

Q: You were 625 pounds when you started. How did you start? What sort of exercise did you do? What do you do now?

A:  I just started walking.  I started with a mile every day, and now I am up to averaging close to 2.2 miles every day.  There have been some missed days, but since Jan. 15, just on my daily walks, I’ve walked over 78 miles.

Q. You said that you started by giving up soda. What other changes to your eating have you done? Are you following a specific diet or plan?

A:  I started eating healthier, and eating less.  I was sticking to salads and veggies for lunch.  Recently, in order to use a GoPro camera to record my daily walks, I agreed to a 30-day vegan challenge, which I am currently on Day 2 of.  It’s tough, but I think it will help in the long run, though I miss my steak.

Q: Why a 5k? What drew you to these events? Do you have someone helping you train?

A: The 5k idea was actually my sister, Gina Reed’s.  At first I was just walking, but my sister suggested I increase my walking in an effort to walk a 5k, then I thought, why not keep that up the rest of the year and do 1 every month.

Q: You said you run listening to music. What’s on your playlist?

A: On Soundcloud, I found an interesting mix of 80’s montage music interspersed with quotes from movies like Rocky and The Karate Kid.  On Spotify, I created a workout mix that has a random mix of music from Black Eyed Peas, Ok Go, Metallica, Def Leppard, Eminem, Beastie Boys, Black Sabbath, AC/DC, Pantera, Disturbed, and Drowning Pool.

Q: Hmm. Rocky. Ever been to Philadelphia?  The steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the ones Rocky ran up in the movie, are still there. Waiting for you.

A: No, but it would be fun to visit!  I think next year I was considering traveling around walking 5 or 10k’s and encouraging people to join me.

Q. Where do you like to run? What are your favorite places, and why do you like them?

A: I just walk around my neighborhood.  There is a really nice park right near my house with a 1 mile track around it that I frequent.

Q. 570 pound men aren’t common sights at a running event. And running can be very hard on your feet and joints. Are you taking precautions against injury? If so what are they? What brand and make of shoes are you running in?

A: As of yet, I don’t have any special shoes, but I will be getting some soon.

Q: Are there other activities you are considering taking up in addition to running?

A: For now, just walking.  Next year I want to try and do some 10k’s, maybe even a half.

Q: Change can be difficult. And there’s a stigma against being fat and being active. Have you experienced any? Or have most people been encouraging? Who are your friends supporting you?

A:  I am actually surprised.  I have not gotten one single negative comment.  Everyone has been so positive and supporting.  It’s actually refreshing how amazing people have responded.

Q. I know from my own experience that a person at the beginning of his weight loss never knows where he will end up. But I’ll ask: do you have long range goals? A weight you are aiming at? Things you’d like to do?

A:  I am hoping to lose 250 pounds.  I want to fit into roller coaster seats again. lol

Q: You’ve started a YouTube channel for your videos, and a Facebook group called “The Derek Mitchell Story.” What do you want your story to tell people?

A: All I have ever wanted out of all of this is to get the message out that anyone can do this.  I am 570 pounds and I walked a 5k in 90 minutes.  That is proof that anyone can.  I just want to encourage people to get out and if you can just walk, then just walk.  Walk to the end of the street, if that’s all you can do, but just walk.

Q. Thank you, Derek, for this interview. We are looking forward to following your success.