Twenty-nine-year-old Billy Wessels is no stranger to press row at TCU athletic events.
For Wessels, writing is his game, something that dates back all the way to his days studying journalism at TCU, from Fall 2004 to Spring 2009. Wessels received more than 180 bylines with the TCU Daily Skiff, now known as TCU 360.
Even though Wessels has excelled in writing since his days as a Horned Frog, he was previously weighed down in a completely different area of his life.
At a height of 6 feet 5-inches, Wessels weighed 450 pounds when he was a senior at the university. Within two years of graduating, he maxed out at 485 pounds.
“I don’t know how I got so big, but I was just always the big guy when I was younger,” Wessels said. “I look at pictures from when I was a student and I just realize that I was just a massive human being.”
Though Wessels found himself in undesirable circumstances being overweight, his struggle set him up for an inspirational and triumphant future. His battle with weight would be forever changed when his grandfather died of cancer in February 2010.
“My grandfather and I were super close, and I want to have that same kind of relationship with my grandkids one day that he had with me,” Wessels said. “Only thing is, it’s really hard to have grandkids in the future when you are only 24 years old and you’re a cheeseburger away from being 500 pounds.”
With his grandfather’s death serving as a wake-up call on maintaining good health in order to live a long and fulfilling life, Wessels became motivated to make a major change.
“It was tough during that first year, and he was what really lit a fire in me. He was a World War II hero and we just had so much in common, so I wanted to do everything I could to be that all-American type of person he was,” Wessels said. “That couldn’t happen with my weight.”
On February 20, 2011, the one-year anniversary of his grandfather’s death, Wessels went to a 24 Hour Fitness in downtown Dallas. It was his first time working out in an attempt to lose weight.
“I was there on a treadmill for 20 minutes going 2 mph, and that was all I could do,” Wessels said. “It was only two-thirds of a mile and I thought I was going to die.”
However, the first time struggles would not outweigh Wessels’ motivation, that was inspired by his late grandfather. Within a month after his short treadmill run, Wessels had lost 35 pounds. By February 2012, he had lost 80 pounds.
“It’s all about consistency and forming a pattern, because if you keep it up, you’re going to see results,” Wessels said. “It’s about not giving up.”
In due time, Wessels began expanding his workout routine beyond just cardio exercises.
“Obviously the common way to lose weight is cardio only, but I read that weights are better in some form,” Wessels said. “I stuck with the machines and stayed away from all the big muscular guys. I kind of hid in my corner and just did my thing.”
And Wessels’ persistence paid dividends.
Today, Wessels weighs only 275 pounds and works as a trainer at 24 Hour Fitness on Halloran Street near Interstate-30 in Fort Worth.
While losing more than 200 pounds may seem like a difficult task, Wessels said the necessary lifestyle adjustments are not as drastic as one might expect. Wessels said that one of the most basic changes he made was in his eating habits.
“I used to eat fast food three or four times a day,” Wessels said. “I then cut it back to just on the weekends, before [I allowed] only one ‘cheat meal’ a week. When you’re eating healthy four days a week, you’re making four-sevenths better choices and so on.”
Wessels said that his change in eating habits was influenced by a podcast he frequently listened to in his early days of working out.
“I would listen to a podcast called the Nerdist, where they would have a guy on there named Tim Ferriss who makes a living through doing experiments with his body from weight loss to muscle building,” Wessels said. “He was an advocate of the slow-carb diet, so I began by trying that. Simply put, you could only eat beans, veggies and meat.”
Wessels has still yet to reach his personal goal of 240 pounds, but he has previously hit a low of 260 pounds, and will undergo skin removal surgery next month. The surgery will remove an additional 30 pounds.
“I saw a doctor on my birthday last year and he told me that the surgery is the only way for me to safely get below 250 pounds,” Wessels said. “If I can get back to 260 before then, I will actually pass my weight goal after the surgery.”
The most remarkable element of Wessels’ weight loss story however might be that he accomplished a large percentage of it on his own. He didn’t start working with a trainer until he had already lost 150 pounds.
“At that point I knew I was on the path to success, so I began to work with a trainer at a 24 Hour Fitness in Mansfield,” Wessels said. “Within a year I had reached 285 pounds, and on that day I left the job I had at the Waxahachie Daily Light and began working at a 24 Hour Fitness in Fort Worth.”
He said by February 2015 he became a personal trainer.