Monday, May 3, 2010

Daniel Greenlees: His ship came in

From the time he was 12, Daniel Greenlees’s family lived on a 65-foot sailboat. In November 2006, the boat was damaged in a storm and the family was forced to dock in Norfolk, Va.

The family rented an apartment in nearby Virginia Beach while they waited out the repairs. One day, Daniel took off his shirt, and his stepfather looked at him in alarm—ugly stretch marks sprawled across the boy’s chest. “We’ve got to do something about that,” he told Daniel. At 5-foot, 7 inches, Daniel weighed 236 pounds.

Daniel had always struggled with his weight. As a home-schooled teen, he would sit at the computer 14 or 15 hours a day, studying, eating, surfing and playing games. Not attending a traditional school and moving every few years, he had little contact with others. He didn’t mind that so much, though. When he was younger and attended public schools, he often found his interactions with other children painful.

“I had no trouble at a small school I attended, where no one picked on me,” Daniel says. “But at one large school, kids were not nice to me at all. They acted like a mob.”

A few times, Daniel and his mom tried to do something about the extra pounds. But good intentions can backfire.

“One time, my mom decided we were going to eat healthier food,” he says. “But instead of just buying some good things, that night for dinner she made her own pasta from scratch… from eggplant! It was awful.”

In Norfolk, the family’s apartment was just steps away from Jim White Fitness Studios. Daniel and his mother went over to check it out. He liked what he saw, and he knew it was time to act. “I knew this was the best opportunity I’d ever have to lose weight, and so I took it,” Daniel says.

Jim paired Daniel with personal trainer Eric McGlaughlin. The first thing he had the family do was clean out their pantry and refrigerator. “We threw out pancakes, waffles, toaster strudels, Hot Pockets, Poptarts, a lot of different things,” Daniel says. He and his mom went shopping for fruits, vegetables, lean meats and other healthy foods and began cooking low-fat, low-calorie meals.

Daniel worked two days a week with Eric and three days by himself, each time for 45 minutes to an hour and a half, splitting his time between cardio workouts and weight training. Although he was self-motivated, he credits Eric with much of his success. “I worked out as hard as I could, and Eric wouldn’t let me slack off,” Daniel says. “He could tell when I was getting bored, and he’d change things around to keep me motivated.”

Now 70 pounds lighter, Daniel loves being outdoors and he participates in sports. He says with wonder, but a little shyly, that girls are interested in him. He’s still amazed at how much he’s changed, when not so long ago his future looked hopeless.

“I used to see people jogging or playing games outdoors and I’d think, ‘Why do people want to do that?’” he remembers. “I was always tired before and I’d think to myself, ‘Why bother?’”

Today, Daniel has joined the Army, where fitness is a must, and he is stationed overseas.

“It’s nice fitting into decent clothes now. I’m able to get places—I can run up stairs—instead of moving at a waddling pace,” he says. “I can’t sit still all the time, like I used to. There are people out there I want to meet.”

And, judging from his newly found optimism for life, I bet those people want to meet Daniel, too.


  1. What an inspiration he is! Good for him on getting in shape while he is still young! He looks amazing!

  2. Your blog is exactly what I need to give the the encouragement I need! After months of agonizing, feeling ashamed, and overwhelmed I've decided to lose weight. I've read several weightloss books but I want to find what's really working for real people. So I started searching out blogs. I'm a seriously reluctant blogger but I think that starting a blog is a good first step on this journey! Thanks so much for taking the time to put this out there!!!