This Dad Used to Weigh 450 Lbs. and Now Runs Half-Marathons: 'I Had One Foot in the Grave'
Neal Bendesky worked in the athletic industry, but he had difficulty with his own fitness. Long hours and unhealthy eating habits led him down a path that was damaging his health.
"My wellness clock was ticking," Bendesky, 64, tells PEOPLE of being at his heaviest weight of 450 lbs. "I was basically a prisoner of my job."
Bendesky says he never learned healthy eating habits as a young person, and as an adult, he would often get home late at night and binge eat.
"I would work late at the University of Miami and ... I could have two large, extra cheese, extra pepperoni pizzas, and just take them down and barely drink any water," he says. "So binge eating is really one of those things where maybe you have six donuts, and oh, maybe I can have three more. Ultimately, that led to a lot of weight and a lot of being uncomfortable."
He decided to make a change after a little boy asked if he was Santa Claus while wearing a red 5X shirt. He started walking, and eventually signed up for Orangetheory fitness classes.
"I was 415 lbs. when I moved here to Arizona," he says. "That was my official Orangetheory weight when I moved. As it played through, I ended up losing 35 lbs., and then another." Working out helped him to continue to drop weight.
Fitness began his transformation, but learning how to eat right gave him momentum.
"I started counting my macros," he says. "I use an app, and that app basically helps me understand better what I'm eating, which I didn't necessarily understand. I was able to equate that on a weekly basis. I made some decisions to basically go cleaner, and more organic, less processed foods."
In total, Bendesky has lost 261 lbs. He continues to follow a low calorie, plant based diet, and runs half-marathons alongside a running group. He's now completed sixteen in total, his most recent being the Rock 'n' Roll Running Series' Las Vegas Half Marathon which takes place down the strip at night.
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He now focuses on inspiring others along the way as he dubs himself the 199 lb. guy since that was his weight loss goal, to celebrate his success.
"It's never too late to be able to move forward," he says.
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