Transformation Story: James Patterson

James Patterson, 53, of Chicago, Illinois, was obese, pre-hypertensive,  and on the verge of losing all control of his health. Today, he is a triathlete in the best shape of his life and continuing to become the best he can be. 

1. Who or what was your biggest inspiration in changing your life?
Originally, I was just inspired to be a little more fit. I wasn’t looking to make big changes or radically change my body. I was focused on doing a little aerobic exercise three or four days each week and maybe dropping a few pounds. I started taking medication for “pre-hypertension” which scared me a bit, but I didn’t have a great life-changing moment of inspiration. I started first with modest swimming, and a little running, and then discovered triathlon. Once I did my first tri, I was hooked and just started to get more into endurance sports – triathlons, marathons and other endurance races.

2. What is your diet like now compared to how it was in the past? Do you allow room for a cheat meal? If so, what is your favorite ‘cheat meal’? In some ways, my diet is very different than before and in other ways it doesn’t seem very different at all. I made gradual changes. I use common sense and moderation. I don’t eat a lot of fried foods. I eat more lean protein now, as well as more whole fruits and vegetables. I drink more water and avoid sugary sodas and fruit juice. I try to be more careful with my carbs – especially when I’m not training for a race and watch my consumption of bread, pasta and desserts. Since I often eat on the run, I’ve gotten smarter about eating fast food. I can go to McDonald’s and still not blow my diet. I have also educated myself more about eating by reading books like “Eat This, Not That.”

Despite all of that, I do cheat! Fortunately – or unfortunately – when I’m in the mood to indulge, the South Side of Chicago is full of places to get chicken wings and rib tips – my favorite.

3. What was your original fitness goal, compared to your goals today?
As I mentioned above, I was focused on doing a little aerobic exercise three or four days each week and maybe dropping a few pounds. Today, I’m working to be as fit as I can be. I love breaking the stereotype of what it means to be middle-aged. I do intend to push myself even more in 2013. I love endurance sports and as a triathlete, I’m planning on doing my first iron distance tri next year (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile run).

4. How do you stay committed to your goals?
I embrace fitness as part of a lifestyle. It’s a journey, not a destination. One missed workout, bad race or cheat meal is not the end of the world. I also try to mix it up. In addition to endurance sports, I’ve tried fitness programs like p90x and Insanity. I try to keep it challenging and interesting.

5. How has your health improved since adding healthy eating and exercise to your life? Overall, I’m in the best shape of my life. I’ve gone from a size 44 pants to a size 33. My blood pressure is in check. My cholesterol is in check. My body fat percentage is probably as low as it has ever been.

6. What advice would you give to someone looking to improve his or her health and fitness but are afraid of failure? The only failure is not trying. You have nothing to lose, and your health to gain.

7. How can people contact you if they would like to ask you questions about your transformation? (Twitter, Facebook, Email)
They can send me a message on Facebook |

Do you have a “Transformation Story” or know someone who does? Submit your information to be featured on our website! For more information click here

Ilen & Lauren Bell are the husband and wife team behind Black Fitness Today, born, in 2011, out of their motivation to change culture, build a platform and lead the charge. Their purpose is to help change the culture towards health and fitness in the African-American community, showcase those who are making an impact, and promote healthier living. They also aim to serve as a platform for African-American fitness and health professionals and enthusiasts who are otherwise overlooked in traditional fitness media.

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