When Scott Ledford stepped on the scale and saw the big 360 show up, he knew it was time to make a change.
Ledford went through bariatric surgery to help with his weight loss in September 2016 and has kept the weight off through a combination of better eating and cycling more than 5,000 miles in a year.
No surprise he’s staying fit, and what started as his cycling hobby has become somewhat of an obsession for him.
“I had been walking and stuff, but I was like, ‘I want to do something different,’” Ledford, 48, said. “So I bought a basic road bike and the first month, I went over to the elementary school and rode around the track. I did that basically every day for about six weeks.”
He liked it more and more every day but eventually grew bored of riding around in circles. So Ledford decided to take things out on the road. The first time, he didn’t have a route planned — he was simply looking to enjoy the ride — but now, he knows his normal routes and usually maps them out with a GPS he takes along on the ride.
“It’s the freedom of just going basically anywhere you want to,” Ledford said. “You just got to make sure you have at least enough liquid and some cash.”
He takes Powerade or Gatorade Zero and starts playing Van Halen or Bon Jovi when he’s getting ready for big rides.
“I’ve come to the conclusion, for a faster pace, it’s either disco music or 80s hair band music,” Ledford said, laughing. “Just when you’re really pumping.”
Last year, he rode 5,500 miles on the road and on his trainer in his basement, which he uses when there’s bad weather. This year, he plans to ride at least 6,000 miles — or about 16.5 miles each day — and so far, he’s at 1,800 miles.
He rode the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia last year and plans to do it again this year. He’s gone on a few other shorter rides with BRAG and has even competed in a few duathlons, which involve running and bicycling.
“I never would have thought that I would enjoy it as much as I have,” Ledford said.
He used to enjoy riding his bike when he was young, but as time went on, he gained more and more weight. He started really struggling with it when he was a teenager and when he was in his 20s he started trying to get ahold of it.
He took weight-loss pills that worked, but the side effects and potential heart issues caused by the pills weren’t worth it.
He ended up losing 60 pounds on his own once by simply watching what he ate. But as soon as he lost the weight, he slipped up and gained the weight — plus more — back.
When he started working, things got worse. He would leave work for lunch and didn’t find many healthy options around.
“I would leave work and what’s around that you could go and get real quick?” Ledford said. “I’d either get McDonald’s, Dairy Queen, KFC. And I look back now, just going for one of those, that was over 1,000 calories just for lunch.”
He decided enough was enough and contacted the Longstreet Clinic in Gainesville to ask about bariatric surgery, which includes a range of procedures that either limit space in the stomach or bypass it to tamp down a patient’s appetite.
“He had a lot of medical problems that were affecting his health … and he wanted to turn his life around,” said Dr. Robert Richard, a bariatric surgeon at the Longstreet Clinic.
Ledford learned about the gastric sleeve procedure, also called the vertical sleeve gastrectomy. It removes about two-thirds of the stomach, so the patient is only able to eat a fraction of the food they used to.
Ledford actually went two times to the seminar required to sign up for the procedure before making the commitment.
“It was just one of those things,” Ledford said of the final push that made him fill out the paperwork. “I was just tired. Even working out in the yard, you’ve got to stop and take breaks.”
He was using a machine that helped him breathe at night and was taking blood pressure medicine every day. Even if he didn’t care to get the procedure for himself, he knew he had to do it for his family before things got worse.
Now, instead of eating large meals and going out for lunch every day, Ledford has a protein shake in the morning to make sure he’s meeting his protein goal for the day. And for lunch, he carries a 5-ounce cup with grilled chicken or tuna to eat.
Since the procedure, he’s down to 200 pounds — or almost half his body weight at his peak.
“For me, it’s very rewarding when you see somebody walk into the office or come in a wheelchair on oxygen and you know that if things go the way they should, you’ll be able to get that person out of the wheelchair or off the oxygen within a year,” Richard said. “That person will be a completely different health story.”
For Ledford, the procedure and the exercise has been well worth it.
“It’s kind of funny, especially with someone you haven’t seen in a while,” Ledford said. “Sometimes you don’t get recognized, because I mean, they’ll look at me and be like, ‘Where’d you go?’”
It hasn’t all been easy, though. He said there are still temptations, especially when family gathers for different occasions.
“Everything that a family does is basically based around food,” Ledford said. “Birthdays, you go out to eat, you have cake, you have ice cream. Easter, Thanksgiving, just about any kind of family gathering is food. And there are always temptations. Sometimes it’s difficult.”
But he’s thankful for his progress and doesn’t want to go back to the way things were in the past. So he eats a small helping of whatever he can find and moves on — or rides on — to a happier, healthier future.
“It’s just my overall health is superb,” Leddford said. “And I mean it’s made a tremendous, positive difference in my whole life.”