130 Pounds Worth of Motivation

Lucas Irwin

This story “torn from today’s headlines” is about a young Canadian who devoted a year to losing 130 pounds. Lucas Irwin decided to surprise his parents with what the reporter characterized as “the ultimate Christmas gift,” and in this he succeeded, partly by carrying out a harmless ruse. Rather than visiting twice a year, as had been his habit, he told them that a summertime trip to his hometown would not be possible. This gave him the full year between winter holiday seasons to complete his transformation.

This program, astonishingly, consisted mainly of careful food choices and “from scratch” preparation. Irwin went from 300 to 170, he told NBC News, mostly by limiting his intake according to a strict regimen of 1,350 calories per day. He also participated in Reddit.com’s “Loseit” community and wrote there, “No foods were off limit, but I survived mostly on tuna salad, chicken with salsa, frozen vegetables, beans and rice, turkey/roast beef sandwiches, spinach, and eggs.”

The Reddit group offers mutual psychological support and encourages respect among its members; it even organizes in-person meetings if the participants live in a large enough city to generate interest in a mass get-together. It boasts a “Hall of Fame” page, containing many before-and-after pictures, although Irwin doesn’t appear to be on it.

NBC News noted that Irwin’s big weight loss was achieved “after years of struggle,” but does not delve into what that struggle consisted of. It would be interesting to hear more about what converted his awareness of needing to slim down into the actual ability to carry through with the intention. Can the desire to surprise loved ones really carry a person through a year of constant attention to diet, and sustain the drive necessary to turn resolve into reality? Apparently so. Dr. Pretlow discusses the influence Irwin’s childhood may have had on his later sensibilities:

His mother is overweight, so perhaps she enabled his overeating as a child? Or, perhaps he feared his weight loss would reflect on her? Perhaps obese youth are afraid of what life would be like if they lose weight? Not only would they lose the emotional crutch of food, but also people would view them differently. Change is scary.

In the news video, Irwin says he was really nervous about meeting with his parents for the surprise. Why? It’s not like he had a sex change or got a facial tattoo. It would be interesting to know more about the family dynamic. Irwin’s stepmother is overweight, so while it’s useless to look there for a genetic liability, it would be interesting to know how long they have been related and whether she was a major influence on him growing up or only entered the picture later.

One wonders who shot the surprise reunion video and how the whole matter came to the attention of the TV news crew, and if maybe the possibility of making news in this way was also part of the motivation.

Keeping track

One important detail of the story is that Irwin kept a record of everything he ingested throughout the entire year. It is a tool that helps develop awareness, and if used properly it can cut down on the kind of “automatic” eating that a person often doesn’t even realize is going on. Speaking of the W8Loss2Go program under development, Dr. Pretlow notes:

Our app contains a food diary (actually a food/emotion diary). The food/emotion diary was rated fairly low by most participants in our studies, although some said it showed them that they were overeating because of emotions.

This may only be indicative of the difference between a bunch of teenagers and a grown man who is employed, accomplishing something in the world, and accustomed to the requirements of paperwork. While some children and teens adapt readily to filling out worksheets and keeping track of things, many are totally unimpressed by the importance of documentation.

Age might explain another difference, too. Irwin enthusiastically credits his participation in social media, which is now widely recognized as a helpful tool in many cases. The W8Loss2Go program provides capabilities for a buddy chat, a group chat, a group bulletin board and connection to the Weigh2Rock.com bulletin boards. Dr. Pretlow says of the application’s second trial:

Very surprisingly, the app’s social media features were rated as not helpful by most participants and were used interactively by only three participants. Most said that they were not comfortable discussing their weight with someone that they didn’t know.

And what about physical activity? Irwin reports that he did not even think about exercise until nearly eight months had gone by and he had already lost 100 pounds, at which point he walked to and from work for a couple of months. In other words, this significant 130-pound weight loss was brought about through improved diet alone.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Son surprises parents with 130-pound weight loss,” Today.com, 01/08/14
Source: “Comments” Reddit.com, 12/10/13
Image by Examiner.com


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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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