KENNEWICK — No magic wand, secret formula or fad diet ever did the trick for Brian Steinwand.
Instead, the 49-year-old relied on his Kennewick chapter of Take Off Pounds Sensibly, and the proven combination of a healthy diet and exercise, to lose 67 pounds.
He was dubbed the TOPS Washington King for his achievement, and his reign as the state's male champion will end in May.
"I was a big carb addict," Steinwand said. "I began to lose weight right away when I cut out carbs."
His ultimate transformation didn't come quickly or easily.
Steinwand joined TOPS in 1998 when he weighed in a 325 pounds. After years of losses and gains, Steinwand began 2010 at 297 pounds with the resolve to reach his target weight of 230. His success has allowed him to represent Washington at TOPS meetings and conventions for a year.
Recently, after hitting his goal of 230, his doctor reset his goal weight to 245.
"I've been lifting weights at the gym and have put on so much muscle -- which weighs more than fat -- my doctor allowed me to add another 15 pounds to my goal weight," Steinwand said.
When he was young, Steinwand never worried about his weight.
"I was an active person," he said. "I ate healthy food."
However, poor eating habits crept in. He couldn't find time for the gym. And the pounds added up.
During the course of 15 years, he had packed an extra 100 pounds onto his 6-foot-5 frame.
"My cholesterol was high, 275, my blood pressure was 144 over 110, and I had sleep apnea. My doctor sent me to a sleep study and I was told I stopped breathing up to 86 times an hour. I had to wear a breathing machine at night to keep me alive," Steinwand said.
His doctor gave him a choice. He could either lose weight -- lots of it -- or be on medications and the breathing machine for the rest of his life.
"I decided that was no way to live," he said. "All my health problems were caused by my weight."
The pounds didn't come off easily or quickly.
As a member of TOPS, Steinwand lost weight, then gained it back, lost some and put it back on.
"This went on for years," he said. "Finally, I got to the point I was tired of being a yo-yo dieter and decided to get it done."
Jyl Purington, coordinator of 60 TOPS chapters in southeastern Washington, witnessed Steinwand's transformation as the leader his chapter in Kennewick -- No. WA152.
The reasons he has been so successful, Purington said, came down to "mindset and determination."
Purington said TOPS always sees a spike in membership at the first of the year.
"It's those New Year's resolutions," she said.
Those who have reached their goal weight, like Steinwand and Purington, are called KOPS -- Keeping Pounds Off Sensibly.
"At that point it's all about maintenance," she said. "We still attend chapter meetings because we need that reinforcement for ourselves, and others need our help to get to their goal. We are the light that shows the way."
Steinwand said he feels better than he has in years.
His blood pressure and cholesterol have dropped to healthy levels. He no longer sleeps with a breathing machine.
"It's definitely been a lifestyle change," he said. "I work out at the gym three to four times a week, take long, brisk walks and have cleaned up my eating habits."
Steinwand credited the diet change with about 70 percent of his weight loss. The rest, he chalked up to exercise.
"You have to do both; you can't have one without the other," he said.
He cut processed foods out of his diet. He discovered he was allergic to wheat, so he embraced a gluten-free regimen.
He upped his intake of veggies, added three to five servings of fruits a day and discovered a fondness for oatmeal and quinoa.
His advice for others?
"Don't give up," Steinwand said. "Sure, some days are tough, but don't count every little bite. Pick one day a week to eat what you really like.
"If you have a dinner date, make that your splurge," he continued. "Don't beat yourself up over that, otherwise it's just existing, not living."
Purington said there are TOPS chapters in every city in the Mid-Columbia, meeting at all times of day.
"If one's not available, all you need is yourself and three others to open your own chapter," she said.
To find one, go to www.tops.org, or call Purington, 521-3526.
-- Loretto J. Hulse: 509-582-1513; firstname.lastname@example.org