Big loss makes man a winner

By Karen Colbenson

At 367 pounds and with high blood pressure and cholesterol, Jeff Johnson of Grand Meadow had a choice to make. He could continue taking pills the rest of his life or he could change his lifestyle.

Johnson chose change.

For the second year in a row, he enrolled in the United Way Get Fit Healthy Living Challenge. He did pretty good in 2006, but already on a prescription for his high blood pressure and faced with the possibility of filling another prescription for his cholesterol level, Johnson knew he would need to do better this year.


Through diet and daily exercise over a nine-week period, Johnson lost 61 pounds —16.6 percent of his body weight. He was named the individual winner for most weight lost at United Way’s 29th annual meeting and victory party Tuesday.

"It’s a lifestyle change," said Johnson.

Daily exercise, which includes 10-minute morning workouts in addition to several cardio and weight training sessions during the week, has been incorporated into Johnson’s regular routine. He also completely changed his eating habits. Low sodium, fresh fruits and whole grains are key to his new diet, he said.

Johnson said the hardest part of it all wasn’t changing his eating habits, it was making time to work out every day.

But it’s been worth it, he said. Now it’s easier to climb stairs and tie his shoes.

"I can breathe," he said, smiling.

Johnson said because of his healthy lifestyle changes, he was able to stop taking his prescription for high blood pressure and avoided more pills for his cholesterol.

"I didn’t like taking the pills, but I had to be on it," said Johnson.


Grinning, Johnson added, "I never did fill the prescription for cholesterol. I didn’t want to take another pill."

With a personal goal to lose 100 more pounds, Johnson said he has a long way to go, but found the motivation he really needed through the competition.

Johnson said he plans to continue the new way of living for the rest of his life, which his wife Brenda said has now been extended.

"Our kids are so proud because they will have their dad around longer now," she said.

Jeff and Brenda Johnson were also part of "Team Purple" — the winning adult team in this year’s competition for a combined most weight lost and most activity points earned. Other members of the team are Rob Johnson, Tracy Benson, Lisa Glynn and Deanna Simonson.

To learn more, go to

United Way of Mower County

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