Chad Dean kicked off 2019 on his usual truck route from Fort Worth, Texas, to Cranston, Rhode Island. His 14-year-old daughter, Taqua, accompanied him on his week-long commute, and during a routine rest stop, he suggested they run a few laps around the truck for 15 minutes.
They laughed the whole way through, but when he sat back inside the driver’s seat, Dean began to cry.
“Daddy, what’s wrong?” Taqua asked.
“I just realized what you said in the first episode of My 600-Lb Life, and what you wanted to do with your father,” Dean responded.
“That I wanted to run with you,” Taqua added, before tearing up herself.
Nearly three years ago, the idea of Dean and Taqua doing any physical activity together seemed impossible. In April 2016, Dean, a self-proclaimed food addict, weighed 701 pounds. He was confined to his couch and was forced to collect disability checks after his trucking career came to a halt when, because of his size, he could no longer fit in an 18-wheeler.
Desperate for help, Dean’s wife, Ayesha, recorded a video of her husband and sent an application for him to appear on TLC’s reality show, My 600-Lb Life, as a last-ditch effort to help him lose the weight. Producers began filming Dean as he visited Dr. Nowzaradan (affectionally called “Dr. Now”), who specializes in bariatric surgery.
“When he accepted me as a patient — that right there was the reality check,” Dean tells Men’s Health. “To have someone take an interest in helping me when no one else wanted to, you can’t put a price tag on it.”
After showing his level of commitment by dropping 51 pounds on his own, Dr. Now approved Dean for bariatric surgery, a medical procedure that helps achieve weight loss by making the part of the stomach which receives food smaller.
“It’s not a quick fix, but having bariatric surgery is like being reborn,” Dean says. According to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, up to 50 percent of patients actually regain a small amount of weight two years or more after surgery.
Today, Dean has lost a total of 406 pounds and and is down to 295 pounds. He has continued to document his journey in a memoir told to and written by Celeste Prater called I’m In Here Somewhere, which was released Tuesday.
“Never in a million years did I ever expect myself to be smaller at the age of 46 than I was at age 18,” Dean says. “Right now, from what my life used to be, I’m in heaven.”
Here, Dean explains how bariatric surgery was only the first step of his body transformation, and how he’s been able to keep the weight off ever since.
His post-surgery exercise regimen began with just a few baby steps.
“I think the hardest thing after my bypass was the next day Dr. Now wanted me to walk. It was hard because I’m still big and now I have all of this pain from the surgery, but you have to do it. The more you walk, the better you’ll feel when you get home. You just walk right around the hospital floor that you’re on for as long as you possibly can.”
Dean’s trainer, Brad Tillery, of BCS Fitness, then focused on him regaining his functionality.
“With so much extra weight, he wasn’t able to move really well, so we did a combination of strength training, muscle training, conditioning, and kind of moved forward from there,” Tillery tells us. “He came in about three to four times a week.”
“[Towards the end], we started to use more free weights because he gained functionality, so we were able to do dumbbell deadlifts and we even used the TRX once he got more comfortable with his body weight. We just did a mixture of conditioning work with strength training.”
After consuming only liquids for two months, Dean reincorporated solids, but made healthier choices.
“I eat everything everybody else eats, but I watch [how] I eat: the amounts, the times that I eat. The majority of what goes on my plate is protein – whether it’s steak or fish — and then I’ll have some vegetables. I do a lot of stir fry. I use peanut oil, not a lot of it, and I dip everything into a little bit of corn starch, and all of my seasoning that I use is fresh. My wife just got me an air fryer and now I don’t have to use any oil.”
When he’s tempted to binge on unhealthy foods, he distracts himself. “I try to take my mind off of the cravings,” Dean says. “Whether it’s lifting weights or turning the radio up, you just have to get your mind off of it. And I try to reward myself once a month, but the day I do reward myself, I exercise a little bit more. ”
Because of his weight loss, he is back to work. But being on the road is no longer an excuse to eat junk.
“I have dumbbells in my truck’s chair, and as I’m driving down the road, I’ll do curls with my arms — about 500 a day. I do curls, crunches, push-ups, and hook up exercise bands to the back of my truck.”
His wife and two kids are his biggest motivators.
“It’s dedication. You really have to want it. My biggest motivation is my wife and kids. My son [JoJo] is autistic, and now that I’m smaller I can play with him more. Just to see that smile, it’s worth everything.”
“I think it’s been incredible,” Tillery says of Dean’s transformation. “The fact that he’s been able to regain his ability to live life and work — his whole life changed.”
Here is a sample workout from Tillery when Dean would visit the gym three to four times a week.
Warm up: Walk around our complex followed by a few dynamic stretches as his mobility allowed.
Block 1 repeating 3 times
1. 30 seconds Ski Erg
2. Incline Push Ups x 10
3. Dumbbell Hip Hinges x 10
Block 2 repeating 3 times
1. 30 Battle Rope
2. Seated Abdominal Tucks (alternating legs) x 10
3. Seated Db Curl to Press (to give his legs some rest) x 12
Block 3 repeating 3 times
1. Low Box Step Ups x 8 per leg
2. Straight Leg Lifts x 20 per leg
3. Ball Slams x 10
100 yard sled push x 2
Theragun on tight/sore areas and coach assisted stretching.