The dean has lost it — and is he ever happy

Health Professions’ Harold Jones lost 70 pounds — very publicly —through his school’s weight-loss program and blogged about it all the way.

A biting comment by a member of the faculty helped motivate Harold Jones, Ph.D., dean of the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Health Professions, to change the course of his life. His highly successful journey was chronicled on his blog, aptly named “Dean Jones is Losing It."


Dean Jones, before and after losing 70 pounds

“The faculty had written on an anonymous evaluation that someone overweight like me shouldn’t be leading a health-professions school,” Jones said. “Though the comment was highly insensitive and offensive to most faculty in the school, it stuck in my mind over the years.”

It was on his mind in December 2010 when Jones decided to lose weight. He had just turned 59 years old and was topping the scales at 254 pounds on a five-foot-11-inch frame. He wasn’t just fat, he said; he was clinically obese.

“I really didn’t like what I saw when I looked in the mirror,” Jones said.

Instead of waiting to start his diet in the New Year as many do, Jones started during the hardest time of the year — in the middle of the holiday season, on Dec. 8, 2010. “I needed to start while I was motivated,” said Jones. “It seemed better than waiting until after the holidays when I would have been certain to put on more weight.”

Jones didn’t have to look far to find help. He joined EatRight, a weight-management program developed at UAB and housed in in his own school’s Department of Nutrition Sciences. EatRight, created more than 30 years ago, stresses a lifestyle approach to weight loss — eat healthier foods, consume fewer calories and increase physical activity. Its physicians, dietitians and exercise trainers say it takes effort and determination, but the statistics show it works.

“I knew the EatRight program was one of the most, if not the most, well-researched weight-loss programs in the country,” Jones said.” I also wanted a comprehensive approach — one that would support me in keeping weight off once I lost it.”

Jones’ goal was to lose 69 pounds and reach a goal weight of 185 pounds. The last time he had seen that number on the scale was in the ninth grade, he said. To keep himself accountable, he wrote about his trials and tribulations on his blog.

“I’ve never been a person who enjoyed food journaling, which, according to EatRight, is one of the best methods for keeping yourself accountable,” said Jones. “But I knew if I made my journey public, there was no way I would miss my target.”

During the past year, he has written about his weight-loss and the temptations he had to overcome. He talked about how he handled hosts in foreign countries who offered food at every meeting he attended and the big Italian dinners cooked by his wife.

Jones’ journey encouraged others.

“What surprised me was the way people across the country contacted me to encourage me and also tell me how my weight-loss had inspired them to begin their own journey,” he said.

A man whose clothing size once was moving from XL to XXL, Jones now wears a medium. He reached his lowest weight of 176 pounds after four months on the program, and he has stabilized at his target weight of 185 pounds for the past eight months.

A year after his weight-loss journey began, he likes what he sees in the mirror now.

-By Melanie Davis: