David Porter accomplished what many only dream about. He shed nearly half his body weight and has kept the weight off for five years.
Now, the Rural King Regional Manager is inspiring his coworkers to run with him on his very first 5K at Sarah Bush Lincoln’s Races for All Paces on Saturday, May 12, at Eastern Illinois University’s O’Brien Stadium. He will be joined by his wife, Joan, and close to 40 coworkers from this year’s 5K partner Rural King.
“To be honest, the idea of running a 5K is not about running it and finishing it in a certain time. Just five and a half years ago, I couldn’t walk up a flight of steps without being out of breath,” Porter said. “I just want to get out there and I don’t care if it takes me three hours, I just want to finish it.”
Porter’s weight loss journey wasn’t easy. “I was always a big guy, but I ballooned to more than 400 pound in 1999,” he said. “I was on my own working as a store manager and I absolutely made really bad food choices.”
After years of yo-yo dieting, Porter considered bariatric surgery, but opted to work out instead because the surgery scared him. He befriended a retired Navy SEAL while working at a store in Pennsylvania. “I knew I needed help. I didn’t know how to work out or what exercises to do and he offered to train me for free,” he said. Porter lost nearly 80 pounds by rigorously working out six days a week with his trainer for nearly a year. “We’d run together, do cardio, weight training and then he’d make me swim two miles after every work out,” he said.
Unfortunately, the weight quickly came back on when he stopped working out because he didn’t change his eating habits. That’s when Porter revisited the option of having bariatric surgery. He opted to have the gastric sleeve procedure in February 2013, not long after losing both parents in West Virginia 19 weeks apart. “My doctor told me that my health risk in my current condition far out weighed any risk of the surgery,” he said. “I was a ticking time bomb.”
Happily married since 2002, Porter said his wife and his family provided the only motivation he needed. “I felt like there were too many people in my life that loved me and I was letting them down and I didn’t want to be that irresponsible,” he said.
Porter dropped 100 pounds in 90 days after the surgery and another 100 pounds over the course of the next year. His weight dropped from 430 to 210 pounds, at its lowest point. He has maintained his current weight of 240 for the past five years.
“There’s a stereotype that bariatric surgery is the easy way out, but I’m going to tell you it was the hardest thing I’ve ever been through. I could not have done it without my wife,” he said. “She packed all my lunches and made sure I was eating the proper amounts. We followed the program and I lost weight.”
With the weight off, Porter feels great and is ready to start exercising more to be healthier. “I really enjoy running but when you’re 400 plus pounds, it hurts to run. It hurts your back. It hurts your knees and you get very winded and it’s embarrassing. I have always wanted to run a 5K and I’m actually to the point where I can run three miles on the treadmill,” he said.
Porter first approached Rural King’s human resources team with hopes of establishing a company 5K, but he was excited when corporate recruiter, Barb Nuxoll, discovered an opportunity to partner with Sarah Bush Lincoln for the 5K at Races for All Paces. He is especially grateful for CEO Alex Melvin’s support. “He didn’t hesitate to sponsor the 5K and he even signed up to run,” Porter said.
In addition, Rural King is donating water for all race participants, including the half marathon, individual 10K, 5K Run/Walk, 1-Mile Run/Walk, Toddler Trot and Diaper Dash. Nuxoll expects more Rural King employees to register as well and many are bringing friends and family members. “We are going to have a big group and we’re excited about it,” she said.
Porter, who moved to the area with the company in 2014, is touched by his coworkers’ support and the emphasis his employer puts on health and wellness. “I love Rural King and would do anything for this company,” he said.
To register for Races for All Paces, go to www.sarahbush.org. T-shirts and medals are guaranteed for all runners registered (excluding Toddler Trot and Diaper Dash). Please note, registration fees are non-refundable and are used to support Healthy Communities programs. Parking is available in the O’Brien Stadium parking lot.
For more information, contact SBL Healthy Communities Director Laura Bollan at 217 345-6828. Race course maps are available at www.sarahbush.org.