A few years ago at a Houston Astros game on Dollar Dog Night, a friend challenged Amer Ismail to eat 18 hot dogs in one sitting. Ismail, who weighed approximately 470 pounds at the time, accepted the challenge.
“People took photos and made Facebook posts of me eating 18 hot dogs,” Ismail said. “I was proud of it at the time. I saw it as an achievement. Months later, I told my sister what I did, how I ate all 18 hot dogs at the game. Her response to me was, ‘Why?’ That resonated with me. I realized that people were not laughing with me, but they were laughing at me.”
Beginning His Journey to a Healthy Weight
Ismail had always dreamed of living an active lifestyle. According to Ismail, he grew up as a kid who was too overweight to do most things. He never went skateboarding; his knees and ankles hurt while running; and he couldn’t rollerblade, ice skate or ski. He was too big to ride roller coasters or try go-karting.
That night’s hot dog challenge was the catalyst that set Ismail on a path to better health.
He started with small steps, such as drinking diet sodas and limiting portion sizes. This helped him shed the first 40 pounds. He then began counting calories and swapped junk foods for healthier options such as chicken and broccoli.
“The biggest challenges were mental,” Ismail said.
In December 2017, when Ismail was about 90 pounds into his weight loss journey, he unexpectedly tore his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in his knee. Surgery was going to make Ismail’s weight loss journey a lot more difficult since he had only recently started to work out more and become more active.
Starting Over After ACL Surgery
“I had to start over after surgery,” Ismail said. “After a procedure like that, you feel helpless and impatient. You have to relearn to do a lot of basic tasks like walking and bending down. Managing my diet after surgery was also very difficult. I didn’t know how much I should eat to recover while also continuing to lose weight. “
Ismail researched therapists to help him with his recovery. He pursued physical therapy at the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute in early 2018. Jaime Aparicio, a board-certified sports clinical specialist and strength and conditioning specialist with The Institute, helped Ismail along the way.
“My life changed once I started physical therapy,” Ismail said. “I started therapy three times a week at The Institute around April 2018. Jaime helped take me from limping around to running, jumping and lifting again. Everyone has always been available for questions and helped to lead me on the path to not only recovering but being the healthiest I have ever been.”
Getting Fit for Skiing, Running, Biking & More
After his therapy, Ismail continued to work at The Institute with Chris Slocum, senior performance coach with Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute and Athlete Training and Health.
Ismail’s continued fitness got him below 300 pounds in September 2018. In January 2019, Ismail got to see snow for the first time in Colorado during a ski trip.
“I remember how happy I was being able to ski,” Ismail said. “It was something I had never been able to do. It’s why I’ve worked so hard. I can’t wait to go back. After losing all of this weight and being able to start participating in activities like skiing, running, lifting and biking, I’ve realized that I don’t want to stop. I want to get to a low body fat, build muscle and build endurance. Not just for my health, but so I can go out and live my best life. I want to find my peak and be the best possible me.”
Ismail is now down 200 pounds (the equivalent of one Hugh Jackman, as he pointed out), and is focused on losing another 60 pounds in 2019 to get to his goal weight of 210 pounds.
“I am very thankful to the IRONMAN team who helped me get to this point,” Ismail said. “The physical therapy has helped me move past injuries so that I can continue reaching my goals.”
At the Memorial Hermann IRONMAN Sports Medicine Institute, human performance specialists help every athlete—professional, competitive or recreational—to compete at their highest level of performance. For more information, or to schedule an appointment, click here.
Follow Ismail’s journey to fitness on Instagram: @uncovering.amer