Mr. Pope’s amazing journey

Football coach and Church History teacher Mr. Pope has changed his life. Read his story to find out more.

Nick Rackers '15

Football coach and Church History teacher Mr. Pope has changed his life. Read his story to find out more.

Every new school year at Elder High brings many changes. It brings new students, new sports seasons, and new victories. This year, a change many students have noted is Mr. Pope’s weight loss.

Over the course of many months, the football coach and former Building Catholic Character teacher has noticeably slimmed down. With no pills, surgery, or New-Age techniques, Mr. Pope rejected the easy way out and made true lifestyle changes. To uncover the story of his amazing journey and learn about lifestyle changes, I took the initiative to interview Mr. Pope.

“Mr. Pope, how and when did you start making lifestyle changes?”

“Well, I guess it all really got going around November or December of 2012.  Every August before football I have a full check-up, and I was feeling like crap, and I was the heaviest I had been. I decided then that some changes were coming at the end of that football season. I would like to consider myself a fairly common sense no-nonsense kind of person, and I essentially got tired of feeling like crap for no necessary reason. Why complain about how you feel, when you don’t have to feel that way?  I am in my mid 40’s now, and as you get older health issues become more and more common.  I want to enjoy the second half of life.

“So after the 2012 season, right around November or December, I was out with one of my closest friends, Betsy McNally, who is a former fitness competitor and is now a professional trainer and nutritionist,” said Pope. “I told her it was time to go full speed ahead into a lifestyle change.  She was instantly on board and agreed to plan all of my meals for me (five meals a day) for five weeks.  In return I had to promise her that I would commit to it for five weeks.”

“Betsy’s whole life revolves around fitness and nutrition, and it definitely helped that we are such close friends.  It definitely helped with overcoming any skepticism or trust issues,” said Pope.  “I think because she knew me pretty well, she knew the best way to approach me with this major challenge.   She knew of my background in athletics and just stressed the fact that all former athletes have it in them and that I could be successful if I took on this challenge. If I committed, I could win this challenge.”

“So I set my start date for this challenge to begin on February 4th, which was the day after the Super Bowl.  It was seriously intimidating, but exciting. I had never even owned a scale before,” said Pope.  “The first thing Betsy did was email me my grocery list which included about 75% of items I never buy, and some I had never bought before!  I spend more time now in the grocery store checking the fresh produce and organic foods, and reading the back of labels than I’d ever imagined.”

“To get me started, Betsy put me on a strict, restrictive diet, and I would need to do cardio for at least 30-45 minutes a day, 4 days a week,” said Pope.  “Well, almost 8 months later, I hold pretty strong to my restrictions when it comes to what I eat, I do an hour -to an hour and a half of cardio EVERY day,  I lift weights every other day, and I am closing in on being down about 80 pounds since that August check-up back in 2012.  So, all in all, things are going well.”

“How would you describe the fundamentals of healthy living?”

Mr. Pope knows quite alot about healthy living
Mr. Pope knows quite alot about healthy living

“Have a plan and stick to your plan.  It works to my advantage that I am a ‘creature of habit,’ I like routines, and I don’t like to deviate from the norm too much, which makes me a pretty boring person, but helps a lot with sticking to a diet and work-out regimen,” said Pope. “One thing I remember is Betsy alluding to the fact that there are 100 excuses that you can make for not working out or dieting.  Every time I don’t feel like working out, or I feel like eating something that I love, I just remember-the easiest way to fall off of the diet is to give in to the excuses.”

“The number one easiest excuse is ‘I just don’t have the time’.  I don’t think people understand how many hours coaches, especially football coaches here at Elder, put in during a regular day. There is no such thing as an abundance of free personal time during the season,” said Pope.  “So to compensate for that, three days a week I get up at 4:30am and walk 2.5-3 miles before I shower and leave for school.  I absolutely hate getting up that early, but it allows me to get my cardio in-and avoid excuses.  Believe it or not, it actually energizes you for the start of the day.”

“What are your tips for healthy living?”

“Commit to make time for cardio (the more you do, the easier it gets).  Be very, very strict with your meal plan (there will always be people urging you to cheat) and come up with healthy meal options that you actually enjoy (I don’t see myself ever leaving my meal plan that I follow now, because I actually enjoy the food I eat),” said Pope. “Find someone that will be in your corner and that will encourage you through the ‘rough patches’ without judging you.  Set a weight goal, and keep a close track of your weigh-ins. See the big picture.”

“So what is your advice for breaking bad lifestyle habits? What are some strategies?”

“Well, for me I just made the decision to change them and I knew the best thing for me is to not surround myself with temptations.  When it comes to fast food and fast food restaurants, don’t even go to them (even for their so-called “healthy” choices),” said Pope.  “I don’t ever bring potato chips, pop, etc. into my house.  If I have friends or family come over to watch a game, and they bring snacks with them, I politely ask them to take the leftovers with them or I immediately pitch it once everyone is gone.  The ONLY items I bring into my house are foods that I am okay to eat and that stay within the boundaries of my diet menu.  You have to know your weaknesses, and I know if I am hungry enough I will snack on whatever is available.  I snack on a lot of fruit, Special K chips, and almonds.”

“And what is the best way to keep motivated?”

“This is an easy one, and I ALWAYS, ALWAYS say this to myself, ‘think about how great I physically feel now, and how horrible I felt before this lifestyle change’.  That keeps me motivated,” said Pope.  “That thought always energizes me whether I am walking, lifting weights, on the bike, or on the treadmill.  Life is just better now.  The entire journey has been more rewarding than I would have ever imagined.  And really it all started with a candid, open discussion with a good friend.”