HAVERHILL — It's the most daunting health and fitness challenge — losing weight and keeping it off.
Adam Kinser, 22, an engineering student at Northern Essex Community College, accepted this challenge and won. He worked off a total of 108 pounds, dropping from 293 in the summer of 2016 to 185 last December.
"The goal was to get healthier," he explained during a recent interview at Northern Essex's Wellness and Fitness Center. It was a fitting location – because that's where Kinser did much of the work that resulted in such a dramatic weight loss.
He continues to make use of the elliptical machines, often going for 30 minutes each day. An elliptical device allows the user to get a thorough cardiovascular workout without putting lots of stress on the knees and other joints, he pointed out.
Initially, Kinser said he wanted to get under 200 pounds. A 2014 Whittier Technical High School graduate, he hadn't been that light since middle school, he said.
He had gone through a period of feeling depressed and "eating too much," he said. Several friends encouraged him to start working out.
One friend, Frank Thompson of Methuen, lost 60 pounds. Kinser decided that if Thompson could lose 60 pounds, he could, too.
Getting into the habit of working out wasn't difficult for Kinser. After all, at Whittier, he was a three-sport athlete. He played football for a couple of years at center. He also wrestled – at heavyweight – and played catcher and first base for the Wildcats baseball team.
Changing his dietary habits, however, was more challenging, he said. He got to a point where he said to himself, "I need to change."
He quit eating snacks, abstained from sweets and restricted himself to three meals a day.
"Just three meals a day, nothing else," he said. During his heavier days, he used to drink a lot of milk, juice and soda. He cut all of that out, he said.
"For the most part, I just drink water," he said. He also used to drink beer, he added. Ever since he started losing weight, he has consumed no more than two or three beers altogether, he said.
When he first reduced his food intake, "I was measuring everything," he said. For supper, for example, he would eat brown rice, a vegetable and no more than eight ounces of meat.
Breakfast alternated between oatmeal one day, chicken and eggs the next.
Kinser's newfound combination of diet and exercise began to get notice – or sometimes lack thereof.
"People I knew would walk past me and not say anything – because they didn't recognize me. I would say, 'Aren't you going to say hi?'" he recalled.
Kinser's fitness program is all the more challenging because not only does he intend to keep his weight at 200, he also wants to gain physical strength. That means lifting weights, which can add pounds, albeit in muscle.
He can bench press 250 pounds and he's confident he can push it up much higher. On the nutrition front, it all comes down to eating not too much but not too little, he noted.
Kinser now boasts an optimistic outlook on life in general, his own future in particular. He attends classes at both Northern Essex and UMass Lowell and has a 3.6 grade point average.
He's on track to graduate from Northern Essex this spring, then from UMass Lowell in 2021. He aspires to be a mechanical engineer and work in the automotive industry. He likes "anything with an engine," said Kinser, who recently bought his second motorcycle.
His message to others who want to lose weight – and keep it off – is simple: "You've got to really want it," he said.