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Bryan Paschal, 43, Knoxville
– Bryan is a Gresham Middle School teacher who always wanted to change the world. He says he’s noticed that his former students may not always remember the math lessons he’s taught them, but they do remember his lessons about life. Diabetic and borderline obese, Paschal has decided that accepting the marathon challenge will be a life lesson that could change young lives for the better. Bryan has earned National Board Certification in Teaching and was recognized as the 2006 Tennessee Association of Middle Schools Educator of the Year. But he says all of that success is nothing compared to feeling he gets when a student who has struggled finally "gets it."
As a child, Bryan says he was addicted to sports and super thin, tall and weighing in at 120 pounds in middle school. At one time in his life, Bryan's new year's resolution was to gain 20 pounds.
Bryan grew up and stayed healthy and fit for years, but about seven years ago, left the classroom to take a job in the school system's central office. He was also taking night classes at the University of Tennessee. Suddenly sedentary and living on fast food because of a tight schedule, he started gaining weight. Then about four years ago, illness sidelined him completely. He couldn't even go to work, let alone exercise.
The turning point came after he healed and began ministry work with the Southern Baptist Disaster Relief Team, a group that helps disaster victims locally, nationally, and around the world. Working in the wake of storms in 2011 in South Knoxville, he and others began clearing a driveway of some fallen trees. Bryan quickly realized he couldn't keep up with everyone else. He was covered with sweat and truly realized how out of shape he was. Seeing a picture of himself afterwards sealed it. He weighed 250 pounds.
In the past year, Bryan has been working out at a gym but just couldn't seem to get the results he had hoped for. "When I went to the doctor, it always seemed like they had to increase my medicines," Bryan says. "After losing a few pounds at the beginning, I remained at the same weight for the next year, 235 pounds. I realized I couldn't do it alone. So, I applied to be in the Biggest Winner program. Here I am."
Being an ambassador for health and fitness is a perfect fit for Bryan. "When I went to college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to be, but I knew I liked being in front of people. I liked the idea of helping people make their lives better," says Bryan. It almost caused him to go into ministry and it's what led him to a profession of teaching. His students at Grehsam Middle have learned a little bit about health as he incorporates his journey and what he's learning into lessons. He hopes to inspire his students to live healthy and he wants to be a positive influence on other teachers. "I just want to use this to glorify God in some way," Bryan says. "I have no idea yet how He will use this in my life."
Leaving behind his diet of fast food, Bryan says that on the first day of this journey with the Biggest Winner, he made a commitment to do whatever he had to, to change his life.
"I had a basketball coach who said that anything in life that is worthwhile, you must work for," Bryan says. "In my case, the thing that is worthwhile is me and my health. I know it will be work. I know it won't be easy. I know it will be worth it."
|Advice from Bryan:
- See your doctor and be honest with yourself about your weight and health.
- Commit to making a change and realize that it will begin with one small step.
- Seek out the help you need and realize it won't be easy.
- Remember it will be worth it in the end. Keep your eyes on the prize.
- Celebrate every victory along the way!