Lighten Up Legends – Mike’s Story

A good friend of TheFatGuy's recently made him the first "Lighten Up Legend" for the City of Charleston's Lighten Up Charleston initiative. He is excited about this recognition and hopes that anyone that takes time to read his story, starts their own journey!

Lighten Up Legends – Mike’s Story

Mike Campbell Feb 2009Mike CampbellMike Campbell Running Stoney Steps

From age 19 to almost 53 I was a eating machine housed in an obese body. Stress and addictive behavior lead to a person that was 360 pounds approaching his 53rd birthday. During the second week of February 2009 three things happened that triggered me (TheFatGuy) to start thinking about my struggle with weight and obesity.

First, attached you will find a picture of me with my wonderful wife (Polly) and God Child (Sara Jane). The picture was taken at Sara Jane’s High School where she was in a production of 42nd Street. The person you see in this picture felt horrible. I had to literally squeeze my body into the theater style seats in the auditorium. My health was a list of issues that included, High Blood Pressure, High Cholesterol, Anxiety, Sleep Issues, Migraines, Asthma, cervical vertebrae issues and Esophageal Reflux. I was on 7 medications for these issues and using a CPAP machine to breath while sleeping. I could barely scale one flight of steps and struggled just to pick up the dogs bowls off of the floor to feed them each day. I could write forever about how bad I felt and not totally capture the feelings I experienced as I sat in that theater at 360 pounds.

Second, my wife, Polly, was struggling with my weight issues that were causing that list of health issues in the paragraph above. She was worried and for good reason that my next health issues could lead to a heart attack, stroke, or worse. She was thinking ‘Just how big are you going to get’. She even told a good friend she was thinking about asking me ‘Just how big are you going to get’? Her friend suggested she put that question/statement in a letter or email rather than have a conversation with me. I think her friend knew it would not be a pleasant conversation and Polly knew it, also. Polly did not tell me about this thought until I was 2 months into my journey to health and wellness. But, the 2nd week of February 2009 I knew she was worried, upset, and concerned. After 24 years of marriage you just know these things.

Third and most critical, was ‘The Fire’ story. This major life changing event was a story my wife told me about a speaker she heard at a course she attended in February 2009. She came home from the class and said they had a guest speaker tell them a story and ask them a question. The speaker asked if you are in a burning building with the president of the US, the governor of your state, the mayor of your town, the pope, and all of your family members, who is the most important person in the fire? I asked my wife who? She said it was her, because if she could not find her way out of the fire she could not help anyone else find their way! This story stuck with me and bounced around in my head for several weeks. THE FIRE story was important.

This story above all of my health issues, above how horrible I felt, and above anything else, was the trigger to cause the chain of events that needed to happen to change my life. I woke up on March 2, 2009 knowing that I had to do a better job taking care of ME if I wanted to help anyone else in my life. I needed to find my way out of my own personal ‘Fire’. I went to my laptop first thing that morning and started a spreadsheet that still guides me today. In my very first entry I identified the fact that I needed to make this a journey and that I needed to be a better ME for the people I loved most in my life. I log my eating and exercise daily on this sheet. I saved that document as FatGuyDiary on that day to identify my major issue and to emphasize my need to log to attain success.

I lost 150 pounds in 363 days! I worked on better eating, better exercise, better life habits, and learning how to be a better healthier ME. I am off of the 7 medications I was taking in 2009, as well as, my CPAP machine. I am fitter and healthier at 56 years of age than any other time in my life. I have gone from TheFatGuy to TheFitGuy to TheBEAST! I have done this using my log, KISS (Keeping It Simple Stupid), and HAW (waking up each day being Honest with myself about what I have done well and not so well the day before, Choosing a good Attitude to make good choices, and drinking Water!)

Now I share my story on a website ( ) and volunteer with a number of obesity prevention efforts in South Carolina, to include, Eat Smart Move More SC, Eat Smart Move More Charleston Tri-County, The Lean Team, Lighten Up Charleston, and I am volunteer director of the Youth Marathon Program. Obesity, especially Childhood Obesity, is something I use my story to help change. I want to show people that if I can change my life in my mid-fifties that they can change it at any time.


Note: One thing that really help my journey was challenging myself to walk the bleachers at a local High School football stadium near my house (Stoney Field). They became that mountain I would climb. At 360 pounds I avoided even one flight of steps. As I worked on ways to improve my weight loss and fitness I stopped at the stadium as I past one day. I walked up 17 bleachers and down 34 steps. I did this regularly till I could do 100 straight reps in under an hour. This year I made a resolution to do 150 straight reps of the bleachers and accomplished this in mid-February, doing 150 straight reps in 93 minutes. Not bad for TheFatGuy that could not scale one flight of steps in 2009!

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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