Jeremiah Peterson was bullied in school so he decided to get fitter so he could protect himself. He even graduated college with a degree in coaching for sports. However, life got in the way of fitness eventually.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on October 3, 2019. It has since been updated.
A 39-year-old dad who went hiking with his family was left ashamed when he got out of breath while his family, which includes his three children walked ahead calmly. It was at that moment that he decided to make changes to get healthier because he wanted to be there for his children.
“I remember being bent over heaving just trying to catch my breath,” Jeremiah Peterson, of Missoula, Montana, told PEOPLE. “When I looked up, I saw my wife and three kids [10, 8 and 7] easily hiking, talking and laughing with each other — without me. It was a hard-hitting moment," he said.
The former fitness coach "felt sadness and shame in that moment" and was forced to think about how he got there. "If I continued to live like this, I would not live,” he realised.
Peterson has had a complex relationship with his body and confidence over the years. As a kid, he was very active and spent a lot of time outdoors. However, he was bullied when he was in school and that had been a defining experience for him. He wanted to get fit to be able to protect himself, according to Men's Health.
"In junior high, I made the decision to not get knocked around anymore," he said. "I practically lived at the local Y lifting and shooting hoops. I chose then, at the age of 15, to get stronger and gain confidence within myself."
His love for sports became a big part of him and he went on to gain a degree in coaching from Trinity Bible College in North Dakota. He opened a small personal training studio in Scottsdale, Arizona after graduating where he met his yoga instructor wife. Eventually, the couple and their son moved back to Montana and opened an antiques store. Running that business became their "only focus."
Since that store took up most of his time, he wouldn't even eat during the day. When he got home, he would have a few beers and eat dinner. “Putting my body into starvation mode and then overeating made my body blow up like a balloon, quite literally. I had constant bloating, heartburn and awful stomach issues," he told PEOPLE.
So after that hiking trip, when he got home, he started researching weight-loss options until he decided to go on a Keto diet that includes healthy fats, lean protein, and green vegetables. The diet and twice-daily hour-long hikes “made the weight start to pour off.” One of the reasons he picked the Keto diet was his gluten intolerance. The father-of-three lost 82 lbs. during the 150-day transformation contest, called the 1st Phorm Transphormation Challenge — and he won the $50,000 grand prize.
He has maintained his fitness journey and uses social media to inspire people. He now weighs 198 lbs. “I have so much more energy and I feel like I am always in a great mood. I feel like I have become the dad and husband that I really wanted to be,” says Peterson. “I feel like I have drive and ambition like I have never had before in my life — and I’m almost 40!” he said.
The hunky 40-year-old dad said that when he chose to get into shape it was because he didn't have enough energy to be productive at work, says Daily Mail. "I want to be productive at work because it’s important to provide for my family. I want to provide for my family because being a great parent is rewarding. I want to be an amazing parent because I believe it’s part of leading a good life...I will do this. No matter what! My family is counting on me!"