Jared Lorenzen was arguably one of the greatest high school athletes ever. At Highlands High School in Fort Thomas, Kentucky, he was the football quarterback who led his team to a four-year 41-2 won/loss record, passed for 6,822 yards and had 89 career touchdown passes. As a senior in 1998, he led his team to the state championship with a perfect 15-0 record, completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,393 yards, 45 touchdowns and six interceptions. At the same time, he also rushed for 904 yards (8.4 average per carry) and 15 touchdowns. He also led his team to three consecutive Boys’ State Basketball Tournament appearances (1997-99) and was the best high school baseball pitcher and hitter in the state. He went on to become the quarterback at the University of Kentucky who could throw 70 yard passes and gain running yardage even when he had to carry members of the opposing team on his back to do so. He also played quarterback in the National Football League.
A Lifetime of Obesity
In addition to being a gifted athlete, he was huge. He weighed 13 pounds at birth and by high school he was 6' 4" tall and weighed more than 250 pounds. By college he weighed more than 290 pounds and he weighed more than 350 pounds as a National Football League quarterback, in spite of working out up to three times a day. Later in life he weighed almost 600 pounds.
Photos show that he already had a large belly in high school, a sign that he was at high risk for diabetes, heart attacks and premature death. He described how as a child he never ate any vegetables, just hamburgers, French fries, fried chicken, ham and cheese sandwiches, pizza, all kinds of sugared desserts and Mountain Dew. At age 14, he was the star of his pee wee football team, but he weighed more than 200 pounds and the rules were that he had to weigh less than 155 pounds to play. He had one month to lose more than 50 pounds, so for the entire month he ate only Wheaties and skim milk for breakfast and a bag of grapes for lunch. The entire team would run with him twice a day. On the morning before his weigh-in, he weighed 156 pounds, so he ate nothing that morning and ran sprints with the team twice that day. After he weighed in at 155 pounds, he sat down with the team, ate uncounted pizzas and drank more than two liters of Mountain Dew.
In college, he was told that he should lose weight, so he went to health food stores and bought stimulant ephedra pills to reduce his hunger. He was told to take only two pills, but he took more than 12 a day. He describes lying awake at night and feeling his heart beat wildly inside his chest. He also describes how he knew that the pills could kill him because an athlete at Florida State had died after taking ephedra.
Things got even worse in the National Football League. He was weighed every Friday and fined big bucks for every extra pound in his body, so on Thursdays, he would not eat or drink anything and alternate between sitting in the sauna and using the elliptical machine for hours. At 7:35 the next morning he would be weighed. Soon after he was weighed, he would eat massive amounts of fast food and drink bottles of Mountain Dew so he would have enough energy to practice with the team.
Lorenzen retired from professional football in 2009, worked as a coach and manager, and played indoor football, but without the discipline of regular weigh-ins, his weight ballooned even higher.
The Jared Lorenzen Project
At more than 500 pounds in July 2017, he started the Jared Lorenzen Project, a multi-episode YouTube program that used his life story and his own ongoing weight loss program to teach other overweight people to eat more healthfully and exercise regularly.
He found out that his thyroid and testicles were underactive, so he started taking thyroid hormones. I could not find out if he was taking testosterone, which could have damaged his heart. By April 2018, he had lost 100 pounds and, as a result, he received the Lifestyle Change Award at the Central Kentucky Heart Walk at Keeneland and his program was the subject of an ESPN documentary.
Lorenzen lost 100 pounds by taking 10,000 steps a day, doing yoga exercises, eating chicken six nights a week “with the skin off, of course," shakes for lunch, and strawberries and unsalted cashews for a snack. He said that he had replaced ice cream with “a more healthy ice pop or yogurt”. For the first time in his life, he ate lots of microwaved vegetables and fresh fruits, including strawberries and grapes, and drank only water in place of Diet Coke and Diet Mountain Dew.
When he started the Jared Lorenzen Project, he was already suffering from diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and sleep apnea, and had liver, kidney and heart failure. In spite of his heroic efforts to reverse a lifetime of morbid obesity, he died on July 3, 2019, at the very young age of 38. The cause of death was given as an infection complicated by his kidney and heart failure. Your immune system is supposed to be able to seek out and destroy invading germs, but when multiple organs fail, the immune system is also damaged and can no longer do its job of searching out and killing germs. Inflammation Can Help or Harm
Lessons from Jared Lorenzen's Young Death
• I believe that people who are morbidly obese virtually from birth are different from their peers. Most of us could not gain as much weight as Lorenzen did, no matter how hard we tried. I think that something in the brain makes people like Lorenzen hungry all the time, so they have to eat all the time, and that they have some not-yet diagnosed medical condition that made them so extremely obese.
• However, most people can help to avoid being overweight by being more active and avoiding foods that are associated with gaining weight. Lorenzen said that when he was a child, no one ever told him about healthful eating. Monitoring weight is a lifelong necessity for most people. Any month, year or decade that you show a weight gain should be a signal to take off the extra pounds and get back to your normal or ideal weight. I recommend intermittent fasting for weight loss and weight control.
• The bacteria in your colon appear to influence how many calories you absorb from the food that you eat. They have enzymes that you don't have to break down food, so some bacteria in your colon can break down leftover food in your colon to cause you to absorb calories that would have otherwise passed from your body. What you eat determines the types of bacteria that live in your colon because the bacteria eat the same foods that you do. See How Gut Bacteria Affect Weight
• To avoid becoming overweight as you age, I recommend that you restrict or avoid sugar-added foods, sugared drinks including fruit juices, other refined carbohydrates (all foods made from flour, such as bakery products, pastas and most refined breakfast cereals), and meat from mammals. Eat plenty of vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and fruits in their natural state.
• Try to exercise every day for at least a half hour.
February 14, 1981 – July 3, 2019