Success Story: John Hillesland

Success Story: John Hillesland

Hometown: Lisle, Ill.
Age: 24
Height: 6’1″
Weight Before: 205 lbs
Weight After: 165 lbs



Some guys are lucky: They’re blessed with good genetics that allows them to eat whatever they want without gaining weight. John Hillesland used to be one of those guys. Sure, in high school he played football and basketball and lifted regularly, but he was also a typical teen, indulging in all kinds of junk food. Still, no matter how badly he ate, flab never stuck to his 6’1″, 160-pound frame.

All that changed in 2004, when he left Lisle, Ill., to study finance at the University of Iowa. Like most college kids, Hillesland soon replaced his workouts and favorite sports with late-night drinking. Since he wasn’t a big fan of dining hall meals, he started making fast-food runs up to five times a week. By summer, he’d packed on 30 pounds of fat. He dropped 10 that summer but gained it all back the next semester—the beginning of a vicious cycle.

It wasn’t until a game of pickup basketball his senior year that Hillesland knew he had to lose the weight. struggling to move his 205-pound body up and down the court, he was winded after five minutes. Later, he compared high school photos with what he saw in the mirror and was shocked. “I couldn’t believe how far I’d let myself go,” he says.

The next day, Hillesland turned to one of his friends, a personal trainer, and began a four-day-a-week lifting program, based on key moved like the bench, squat, and deadlift. But he knew lifting alone wouldn’t make him lean, so he retooled his diet as well. “I kicked fast food and immediately felt much better.”

Finally, the guy who used to dread even short sprints began running regularly on a treadmill a few days a week.

In the beginning, he covered just a single mile. Yet he kept on, dutifully logging his progress on a spreadsheet

Little by little, Hillesland gained endurance, working up to running 20-plus miles a week. “I discovered I enjoyed running and set a goal to complete a half marathon,” he says. Last August, he did just that. And now at 165 pounds, with less than 6% body fat, Hillesland sees even bigger accomplishments on the horizon. Forget finish lines, he says. “I don’t see an end point. I just want to keep going and going.”

John’s Tip: Never Give Up
“Getting in shape and becoming healthier—successfully meeting my goals to get fit—has carried over into other aspects of my life. At work I’m unfazed by tasks that used to seem daunting. Socially, I’m more confident. It all comes from making an effort to change, then doing it.”


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