It was an elk hunting trip in November 2015 that made Tim Buchanan, Union, realize he needed to get serious about losing weight.

At more than 400 pounds, he had been living with the complications that come from being morbidly obese for some time. He was often short of breath, his vision was impaired, and he slept with a CPAP (continuous positive airway pressure) machine to help with obstructive sleep apnea.

To see Buchanan now, you would never know that was the shape he was in just one year ago. He’s lost more than half of his body weight, weighing in at a muscular 208 pounds.

People magazine readers may have seen Buchanan among those featured in its “Half Their Size” issue dated Jan. 23, 2017. Oprah Winfrey is on the cover sharing a story about how she lost 42 pounds and “finally made peace with food.”

Buchanan, who is shown in before and after photos on Page 76, says understanding his relationship with food was key to his weight loss too.

“To me dieting was eating good 70 percent of the time and exercising sometimes, just whenever I had time, but the rest of the time, it was OK to just pig out. I was still drinking alcohol, which is just like eating spoonfuls of sugar,” Buchanan told The Missourian.

Although Buchanan hadn’t always been large, this is the most fit he has ever been in his life, he said. He works out seven days a week at The Competitive Edge on Highway 47 in between Washington and Union. He spends an hour on cardio exercise and also makes time to lift weights.

But getting to this point took more than just his own drive and willpower. He turned to a life and weight loss coach, Charles D’Angelo, in St. Louis, to help him make real progress.

‘My Eyesight Would Go Dark’

Before last year, Buchanan’s day-to-day routine didn’t include regular exercise. He works a desk job at GH Tool & Mold, Washington, on weekends only, meaning he basically spends 12 hours a day sitting in a chair.

At one point he had surgery on both of his feet, which contributed to his sedentary lifestyle and to his weight gain.

Last February, Buchanan weighed around 420 pounds, probably the heaviest he had ever been in his life. He stands 5 feet, 11 inches tall.

“I had this relationship with food that was destroying me,” he said.

“I saw the medical issues that I was developing . . . I could tell that my sugar levels were spiking, my eyesight was getting worse, and I was getting so lethargic and tired all the time just from sitting in a chair and staring at a computer.

“I wasn’t sleeping. They put me on a machine to sleep because my neck was so large I guess I was collapsing my throat. I thought I would lose weight if I got better sleep, but that didn’t happen.

“I tried everything — pills, eating better, but I really didn’t know exactly what to do. It had to do with my mindset; it wasn’t there,” said Buchanan.

He hadn’t been diagnosed with diabetes, but Buchanan felt it was only a matter of time. He knew his sugar level was way off.

“For no reason at all, my eyesight would go dark, and I couldn’t see anything — why? It never happened while I was driving or walking around or active, but when I was sitting at my desk,” said Buchanan. “It would only be a few seconds. I would get up to walk around and be fine.”

The thought of being diagnosed with diabetes was the scariest thing for him — even more scary than being told his heart could stop.

“Telling me I would have to give myself shots all the time, I knew I wouldn’t do it,” said Buchanan.

Then he went on that elk hunting trip and the experience made him want to turn his life around.

“The entire week totally destroyed me, wore me out. As soon as we got back from hunting, we’d eat dinner, I’d go to sleep, and barely get up in time in the morning to go back out,” said Buchanan. “I knew that was not the performance of a normal person.

“So I tried half-heartedly to lose a little bit of weight, but nothing worked, so I realized, obviously, I’m not going to be able to do this on my own, and I want to be able to go elk hunting again.”

Food Is for Nutritional Value, Not Emotion

Buchanan was listening to the radio one day when he heard Charles D’Angelo and one of his clients talking about his program. On the website, www.charlesdangelo.com, he saw D’Angelo offered a free consultation and decided he had nothing to lose by putting in a request.

“He was pretty intense,” Buchanan recalled of their meeting. “He made a promise to me, and I wanted to see what it would do.”

He bought D’Angelo’s book, “Think and Grow Thin, The Revolutionary Diet and Weight-loss System That Will Change Your Life in 88 Days.” Halfway through it, Buchanan knew he was going to sign on as a client.

The book didn’t tell Buchanan anything he felt he didn’t already know, so he knew there had to be more to the program than just the knowledge. In the first three months, he lost a good amount of weight, which was an incentive to keep going with the program.

“Basically, his diet is simple. It’s chemically free, completely natural food, and an exercise program that is a small part of it,” said Buchanan.

“But the general idea is to bring yourself away from trying to get a feeling out of eating food, so no emotions are involved. The foods I eat are only for nutritional value,” he said.

“I’ve realized over these 11 months that I’ve been with Charles that what I eat the day before affects my athletic performance the next day. When I decide not to do what I’m supposed to do, my performance the next day is affected,” he said.

Although Buchanan didn’t want to reveal what the dollar amount of the program was, he stressed that it was money well spent.

“The cost was worth it to me,” he remarked. “I can’t believe I waited so long to do something like this.”

Being accountable to someone for his actions — both in diet and exercise — was a key part of making the program successful for him, said Buchanan.

Determining a Goal

When Buchanan started D’Angelo’s program, setting a goal was a challenge, in part because he was so overweight and because weight is just a number. A better question was, what kind of activities do you want to be able to do that you can’t now?

“Well, I’d kinda like to be able to tie my shoes without having to take a break,” Buchanan told him.

He set his goal weight at 225, but when he reached that, Buchanan felt so good he wanted to keep going.

“So I’m at a weight that I never envisioned I would be at in my entire life. Even when I was in high school and weighed 250 pounds, I never thought I could be this size,” said Buchanan, who is 40 years old. “When I got married, I was very thin, not for trying, but we just were poor, so I didn’t eat much.”

His wife is a marathon runner, and through this process, he has started going on runs with her. A week after his 40th birthday, Buchanan ran his first 5K. He also has signed up for a quarter-triathlon at Innsbrook in June, and he plans to run in the Vail for Valor half-marathon in Colorado.

Although he has reached his goal weight, Buchanan has remained in D’Angelo’s program as a maintenance client.

“Charles has been there himself. He was large at one point and lost weight, learned how to take it off and maintain it. I trust him,” said Buchanan.

For his daily workouts, Buchanan follows a general routine that begins with one hour of cardio exercise to get his heart rate up.

One year ago as he was just getting started in losing weight, Buchanan’s cardio was limited to walking on the treadmill. He graduated to longer journeys on the treadmill until that wasn’t getting his heart rate up enough, then he moved to the Stairmaster. Now he splits his time between those two.

“The biggest thing that took my weight off was taking away the thought process of what I’m trying to feel by eating food,” said Buchanan, noting that was where D’Angelo’s expertise helped.

A year ago his daily calorie intake was around 6,000 calories. He doesn’t eat anywhere close to that amount now.

“It’s a complicated process, but I basically just followed Charles’ rules on eating, and as the weight came off, it reinforced my commitment to sticking with the diet,” said Buchanan.