Jay Marschall, owner of Gym Jay in Billings, never had to call 911 for a client until he met Carl Parker.
But on Feb. 4, during Parker’s initial workout of burpees, push-ups and sit-ups, Marschall noticed immediately that something was wrong.
“He was ashen, and he kept saying he couldn’t see,” Marschall said.
Ultimately, Parker, 48, was fine, just out of shape. Way out of shape.
A family friend had been after Parker, who was nearing the 300-pound mark, to get to the gym. After all, Parker was no stranger to competitive athletics — he played all-state football in high school for Three Forks.
A car accident near Billings a few years later didn’t help matters. Parker’s pelvis was broken in 15 places, he said, and he was in traction for nearly two months.
“I couldn’t move at all, then I was in a wheelchair and then crutches,” he said.
Parker “healed up OK,” but gained a considerable amount of weight. He eventually had both hips replaced, which did help with mobility. Things got back to normal, but the pounds kept piling on.
Back at Gym Jay, Parker’s second workout was a little less strenuous.
“We took a big step back, and I just had him walk on the treadmill,” Marschall said.
Parker’s journey had begun. He finished 20 personal training sessions and built up his cardio exercises. After one week, he had lost three pounds.
“I was the guy who would sit on the couch and watch ‘Biggest Loser’ while I ate ice cream and popcorn,” Parker said. “And when Jay told me I’d need to work out six days a week, I thought, ‘There’s no way I’ll have time.’ ”
But Parker made time, and by the end of the second week, he started losing, as Marschall called it, “real numbers.” He has stuck to a food plan of fruits and vegetables, lean protein, such as chicken, and some ground beef, and yogurt. He uses Advocare supplements to “fill in the blanks,” and there is no trace of bread, potatoes or pasta on his plate. His wife Lael, daughter Aimee and son Tyler have fully supported the changes in eating habits.
“He had to be on a calorie deficit every day,” Marschall said. He explained that the timing of when Parker would eat certain foods was important, as was being prepared with snacks.
“People will make bad decisions if they aren’t prepared,” Marschall said.
Parker also used a phone app called “My Fitness Pal” to help him track his food intake, and admits that changing his eating habits has made a huge difference.
Paired with Marschall’s exercise regimen, his client made headway.
“Since Carl played football, he had that competitiveness, and now he’s competing against younger people here at the gym,” he said. “It was about guiding him with the right steps, the right intensity and the right level of fitness. It’s been very gratifying.”
Parker’s weight loss has been substantial. At one point, he had lost 80 pounds in 80 days. Then 85 pounds in 85 days. As of Tuesday morning, his total weight loss was 90 pounds.
“It would be cool to lose 100 pounds, but I’m kind of letting my body tell me how much,” he said.
Parker has experienced some unforeseen benefits after whittling his body down to his high-school weight. Mentally, he’s in a much better place. His hobby and true passion, team roping, has become considerably easier. He has less padding and more balance.
“And his horse is a lot happier,” joked Marschall.
Of course, losing a pound a day draws out some skeptics. Parker has heard everything from “What made you do this?” to “Are you sick?”
“I’m not a doctor or a nutritionist. But I know this pound a day is true,” Marschall said. “It takes a special person and he has to do his part. When he goes home, the fridge is still there.
“But this is a real-life story and there’s no corporate sponsor.”