DECATUR (AP) – Macon County Sheriff Thomas Schneider has struggled with his weight for years, but about a year ago, he made a big decision that changed his life.
“I started on the [sheriff’s] department [in 1988] at 6 foot 5, 245 pounds, working out two to three times a day and just enjoying being a law enforcement officer,” he said. “And I had lost probably about 50 pounds to become a cop.”
A basketball player in high school, Schneider enjoyed being active, but as he started his family and became a deputy sheriff in 1990, his lifestyle began to change, he explained.
“I had a family,” he said, “and then everything became more sedentary. Everything was about working extra, and unfortunately, in my line of work, the working extra was basically confined to either a squad car seat or a desk chair, so I gained the weight.”
Working in an administrative position and then becoming sheriff in 2007, Schneider said it became easy to go from meeting to meeting without doing anything active in between.
“In 1993, my wife, Amy, and I had our son, Alex, and I had to take on a second job to provide for my family,” he said. “And that’s when I really started to notice the weight gain. Once I was providing for my family, I became comfortable and started to relax. I didn’t put the emphasis on cardio anymore, just lifting weights.”
As the weight began to add up, Schneider said it began to hinder his ability to do things with his son.
“I ran the Junior Football League at Meridian and coached my son in all his activities, and there were times that my weight limited me,” he said. “But my son was able to give me tough love when he needed to.”
By last fall, however, Schneider, 46, said he knew he had to do something to address the weight.
“I knew all along that I needed to lose weight,” he said. “I had high blood pressure, and my doctors had been telling me I needed to lose weight throughout my life . but my son Alex was the person who made me want to lose weight. Everybody else accepted me – my wife, she accepted me and encouraged me to lose weight. My mother and father and brother and sister have wanted me to lose weight for health reasons, but my son pretty much just looked at me and said, ‘Dad, come on, let’s go do something and get going.’
“And when you have your son telling you that, that’s not your son telling you you’re fat and you need to lose weight; that’s your son telling you, ‘Dad, I want you to be there for me down the road,’ and I could not overlook him encouraging me in the manner that he did. It chokes you up a little bit.”
Turning to Physician’s Choice Wellness LLC, a medically monitored weight-loss program, Schneider began his weight loss journey Oct. 1, 2012, and today, weighing 130 pounds less, said he feels like an entirely new person.
“I feel like a million dollars,” he said, smiling. “I chose Physician’s Choice Wellness as a healthy way to lose weight. It’s easy for me to lose weight but hard to maintain it; but they help me stay on top of it.”
Utilizing a liquid diet, which allows him to receive his daily nutrients in the form of a supplement, Schneider said the program has worked for him because it gives him a variety of options.
“I can have my supplement as a shake, but I could also have it as a muffin or a soup,” he said. I’m able to have four meals a day, and it’s very easy and fulfilling.”
In addition to diet, Schneider said daily walks, sessions with a personal trainer and support from his family, friends and co-workers has been critical to his success.
“To do this, you not only have to incorporate your family, but also your friends and workplace to get to both your short-term and long-term goals,” he said. “I’ve increased my daily activity as part of my physical fitness and usually take a walk every day around 12:30 p.m. I also push mow our three-quarters of an acre lawn twice a week and try to get in to my personal trainer, John Davis, at Club Fitness of Decatur twice a week.”
Schneider said the physical activity can sometimes be a challenge to his work schedule but acknowledged that it’s tremendously important to not only his health but also his job performance.
“My job is nonstop, and I love it,” he said. “I get a lot of satisfaction out of helping people in the community, and now, I’m willing to help anybody out with weight loss. I’ve always been a confident person, but now I can represent myself the way I want to and do things with my head held high.”
One of the things Schneider was able to do proudly recently was complete his first two 5Ks.
“I did the Penguin in the Park 5K and also did a Physician’s Choice Wellness 5K, which I was able to jog more of,” he said.
Schneider said he couldn’t have lost all of the weight he has without his wife and son.
“Amy has been with me every step of the way,” he said. “She makes a lot of my meals for me and goes with me on all of my walks and runs. She’s been the one to really push me, and Alex is the one who is relentless in trying to get me in to my personal trainer. They mean everything to me.”
“We’re very proud of him,” Amy Schneider, 41, said of her husband of 21 years. “He’s an amazing husband, father and person, and we want him to be all he can be. We want him to be healthy and around for many, many years, and this has been a wonderful journey for all of us. Any time we can be a part of his journey, we want to seize it, and assisting him in his accomplishment has been great. It’s been a win-win for all of us.”
“It’s been an honor [to see him do this],” agreed Alex Schneider, 20, a Richland Community College student and a Club Fitness employee. “My whole life he has been there for me, coaching me. I’ve always wanted to make him proud, and now he’s making me proud. It’s awesome now to be able to go on a long walk with him or play a pickup game [of basketball] with him. It’s amazing.”
Schneider’s trainer, John Davis, said he’s “speechless when it comes to [Schneider’s] work ethic.”
“It’s been a privilege to work with him,” Davis said. “He’s determined and does a great job, and I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s just a great guy.”
Marking the one-year anniversary of his weight loss Oct. 1 with 130 pounds down, Schneider said he hopes to continue losing weight. He said he also hopes to work up to some more physically demanding activities.
“I want to do more neighborhood and community walks, and my big goal is to get to the point where I can do CrossFit,” he said. “It’s a level of fitness I never thought would be possible for me. I’d also love to do a half-marathon or maybe even a full marathon.”
For now, however, Schneider said he’s busy just enjoying life and spending time with his family.
“I feel like I have a whole new life,” he said. “I just want to be able to be healthy for my family and to be healthier, so that I can help more people.”
Note to readers: This is an Illinois Exchange story shared by the (Decatur) Herald and Review.