Extreme Weight Loss (ABC) was pre-empted by the NBA Playoffs, but it will be back on television Tuesday, June 25. That episode will be about Ryan Sawlsville, and it will be the first time in the show’s history that hosts Chris Powell and his wife, Heidi, help a person lose weight who has lost his arm in an accident.
The loss of his arm hasn’t kept Ryan Sawlsville down, though. His strong faith in God and the love of his family and friends has kept him going, and helped him on his road to meeting his weight loss goals during the year that Chris and his wife worked with this young man.
I had the honor and privilege of interviewing Ryan and I feel like I have been personally changed for the better by the experience. I hope that you will also enjoy reading the following interview, which has many touching moments in it.
Also, please tune into Extreme Weight Loss on Tuesday, June 25, a two-hour episode, to see Ryan as he takes on the challenges of meeting his weight loss goal in the year’s time that Chris and Heidi Powell spend with him.
Douglas Cobb: Did you have a weight problem before you lost your arm in an accident? What was the accident? Did that have any effect on any further weight gain you had?
Ryan Sawlsville: I was always heavier, but I didn’t ever really focus on my weight. I had many restrictions, but I just lived life that way. I was attending culinary school and enjoying cooking and attending college; however, that all changed 4 years ago when I was in a bad car accident. I should have died that night, but God had a different plan. I lost my left arm in the accident; however, I realized that God spared my life for a reason. I realized I needed to change. I wanted to help others, but knew at my current weight, I would be unable to. I continued to gain weight after the accident, sitting at home and not living my life. Losing my arm was difficult; however, I began to realize that being 410 pounds was even more of a disability to me. My life needed to change if I was going to impact others, but I knew I couldn’t change on my own. I decided to try and get help, and that’s when I found Chris Powell and the Extreme Weight Loss show.
Douglas Cobb: How old were you when you realized you had a weight problem? Do you think that you overate to make up for something else?
Ryan Sawlsville: I never really thought I needed to change prior to the accident. I may have thought I was big, but after the accident is when I knew I needed to change. Cooking and performing tasks were more difficult with one arm, but when I couldn’t get jobs, I realized it was probably more due to the fact I was overweight and unable function in many jobs. I ate more after the accident, because I never wanted to leave my house- I couldn’t leave. I was unable to fully function independently and didn’t know where to begin to change.
Douglas Cobb: What did you weigh at the start of the show? What was your overall weight loss goal, and the one you wanted to reach at the various intervals when there were weigh-ins?
Ryan Sawlsville: I began the show at 410 pounds, and had a personal goal of reaching 195 pounds. The show wants you to lose 25% of your body weight in the first phase, and approximately 50% within the first 9 months so that you are able to get the skin surgery.
Douglas Cobb: What were your thoughts when you saw the host, Chris Powell, in person the first time? How did you feel when you were selected to be on the show?
Ryan Sawlsville: When I first saw him, he was surprising me in the locker room at Lambeau Field. The experience itself was surreal. I couldn’t believe I was going to be on the show, much less that Chris Powell was standing in front of me wearing a Packers jersey and a cheesehead! I thought meeting him was like meeting a celebrity like Donald Driver or Clay Matthews. The first question I asked him was, “Do you think you are really going to be able to work with someone with no arm and someone who is this big?” His response was so uplifting and positive, “Absolutely!” He said. The man you see on TV, the kind-hearted person who cares so much about you, is who Chris Powell is. He is tough when he needs to be; There are times when I wanted to give up and I needed someone to push me, keep me going, and fight for me, and he did just that. He truly is the transformation specialist you see on TV. His wife Heidi is just as amazing and just as involved with us as Chris is.
Douglas Cobb: What were some of the things your parents do to support you in your quest to lose the weight and get down to 195 pounds?
Ryan Sawlsville: My parents became part of the lifestyle that I was living, even though I didn’t ask them to. When they sent me home from finals week (the week all the “cuts” are made determining who will or will not be on the show), the show told me I would be on if I could show them I was able to make changed in my eating habits. My parents immediately cleaned out the refrigerator and changed their lifestyle, trying to cook healthier meals, have family dinners and grocery shop (instead of eating fast food). They worked with the show to remodel the house, and so dad many others from the community. My mom would even go to the gym with me. They were great!
Douglas Cobb: I could tell when I went to your FB page, Ryan, that you are a religious person, a man of faith. What role did your religious faith and belief in God play in your quest to lose weight?
Ryan Sawlsville: This year wasn’t easy. It was very difficult, and there were times I would probably have given up if I didn’t have my faith. I endured a lot of ups and downs, trials and tribulations. When I didn’t understand why something happened, I was able to give it to God and remind myself he was using this for a purpose and a reason, and I trusted Him. He was going to get me to where I wanted to be and I was going to be used to glorify Himself, so all I needed was faith.
Douglas Cobb: What was the milestone challenge to Chris had planned for you to accomplish? Could you tell our readers something about it?
Ryan Sawlsville: I have always had a fear of riding a bike; I have never done it. Chris knew this, and he wanted to make sure I would accomplish this goal. It was a huge personal challenge of mine. When it was time for me to attempt this challenge, I was able to work with one of my all-time heroes, which made it extraordinary. It also ended up being a huge family effort, and the challenge also had personal sentiment for me as well.
Douglas Cobb: What were a couple of other things that Chris asked you to do that you found were difficult? Were you able, ultimately, to do those things?
Ryan Sawlsville: The most difficult task was the bike challenge, due to the fact I had a huge fear of riding. From the very first workout, Chris attempted to get me on a bike. I went into this having a goal for myself and I knew that I had to do anything and everything to accomplish my goal. At one point, I was even doing things that weren’t healthy to try and lose more weight. I thought, “If I eat less I can lose more weight.” I had to give up my habits and trust God and Chris. That was the most difficult for me.
Douglas Cobb: Were there any times during your year’s journey to lose weight and get to your goal that you felt like giving up? Could you tell our readers about any of these times, if you had any? What kept you going on?
Ryan Sawlsville: Biking was something I have NEVER been able to accomplish. I wanted to do it, but didn’t think I could. I struggled. There were times I was SO tired, and exhausted, and I felt my body would just give out. I was working out 4 hours a day, six days a week-that was my job. There were times I thought I would quit, but there was never actually a time I would actually said, “I’m going to quit.” God kept saying to me, “Come all who are weary, I will give you rest…” God always gave me my strength back when I would turn to Him and His word for answers. My emotional health was way more important than my physical health. If I didn’t have that in check, I knew I would never keep the weight off long term.
Douglas Cobb: What did you like most/least about your experiences during the year?
Ryan Sawlsville: There was really nothing I didn’t like…Who wouldn’t like working with Donald Driver and Clay Matthews, or going to the Super Bowl? It was hard, but all things that are hard are worthwhile. Nothing comes easy. I loved being able to discover my full potential and realize that nothing can stop me, as long as I gave it all to the Lord. Because of my hard work this year, others were (and will be) positively impacted and I also was able to do really amazing things. My family was able to meet Donald Driver, and my football team went to the Super Bowl.
Douglas Cobb: What advice would you give to anyone else who is trying to lose weight?
Ryan Sawlsville: If you want to lose weight, you need the right mindset. Realize it isn’t a quick fix overnight. It is a journey that will take you places emotionally and physically, but don’t be deterred. Keep working hard and don’t give up-make it a lifestyle change. Know that your success isn’t about the number on the scale, but about how you positively changed on the inside. If you are too focused on the number (your pounds), you will not have long term success. You want to make a lifelong lifestyle change. That is the key to wellness!
Again I just want to give thanks to the whole Extreme Weight Loss crew, and Chris and Heidi Powell. They aren’t just my trainers, they are my family. They encouraged me and believed in me. I believe in myself, I am confident, and I know that I can do all things with Christ who gives me strength- Phil 4:13. Please check out my website and find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! Thank you!!
Douglas Cobb: Thanks so much, Ryan, for agreeing to do this interview with me! I am now more interested in watching the June 25 episode of Extreme Weight Loss that you’re featured in.
To contact Ryan and Tweet him, here are some links:
Written by: Douglas Cobb