John Lambright Chooses to Invest in Wellness Over Illness
So many people start CrossFit to lose weight and get healthy. Most of the time, it is the stubborn 20-30 pounds and the desire to get off blood pressure medicine, but occasionally, it’s much more.
For John Lambright, it saved his life.
Early on in Lambright’s life, the path was laid for a battle with weight before he even realized it.
Lambright is a self-proclaimed open book:
- “Childhood was a slew of difficulties for me. There was all kinds of abuse in my life, and one of the ways I worked through it was by eating my emotions. And so, very quickly, I went from a skinny child to a very overweight child.”
His eating habits and overall health took a dive, and by fifth grade, he was well over 200 pounds and six feet tall. In a world where kids make fun of anyone different, Lambright had a tough time; add on the fact that his family moved around frequently, and it was a recipe for even more tough times ahead.
But he loved sports.
- “I did basketball and loved playing, even though I was probably 325 pounds, most of my high school career. And then, my senior year, I was over 400.”
He found support from the guys on his team, especially his coach, and even being as heavy as he was, Lambright continued playing, and the joy greatly aided his mental health. But it was physically tough on his body and grounded his ankles down to nothing.
- “I was always pivoting on one ankle, and it was at the point where I was so heavy I couldn’t get the needed surgery for it because I couldn’t tolerate the parts that would need to be put in. So, the doctor discussed amputation at the knee at about 20 years old.”
- “My ankle had died–there was a vascular necrosis in my right ankle.”
Lambright wasn’t going to let that happen.
- “Once we had that conversation about amputation, I had the lap band bariatric surgery. It was not successful–I lost weight–but I gained it all right back, and it also brought out that I had autoimmune inflammatory diseases.”
Like a domino effect, the health issues kept on coming. Lambright was told how poor his bone quality was and how, because of that, he needed knee and hip surgery. He was told he had failure to thrive and his body was not absorbing nutrients. He had the lap band removed because it was causing so many health issues, and he began to look for other solutions.
His wife was incredibly supportive through this, taking care of John through his surgeries while working full-time. To make the recovery process even more complicated, their family more than doubled in size overnight.
- “We couldn’t have children, partially because of the medications I was on for the autoimmune disorder. So, we became foster parents. All of our four kids were adopted out of foster care.
The kids started coming into John’s life when he was close to 425 pounds.
He reflected on the life change:
- “Here I am barely able to move. I can’t even walk across the yard without extreme pain. And now I’m a father.”
The Lambrights went from zero to three children in two hours with one set of twins. It was a crazy time becoming parents so quickly while still dealing with John’s weight and health, but the Lambrights have never regretted a moment.
After the arrival of the kids, John tried yet another surgery, this time the gastric sleeve, which shrinks your stomach size from a football to a banana. It was the same story–he lost 75 pounds after that procedure but neglected to attack the underlying causes and gained a lot back.
Lambright was sitting at around 340 pounds when COVID-19 hit. It was a blessing in disguise because it forced him to look at himself and his habits and make a change that would stick. He now had the time, so what was holding him back?
- “I could be home and focus on family and health without distractions. I had a friend who lived close to us and was one of the top CrossFitters in Michigan, and we started training together and built a small gym out of my huge garage.”
- “I started losing weight because I could focus on it–I did three little workouts a day and was intermittent fasting religiously, making sure to educate myself and count macros. I kept it public throughout the whole time on social media. All of a sudden, people were messaging me that they were dropping weight because of me. I gained a following in my tiny town of about 300.”
With his wife working from home and himself there to take care of the family, Lambright finally tackled the underlying issues of his weight problem and understood that a quick fix would never be the solution–fitness had to be a lifelong commitment.
- “I lost over 100 pounds in the first year of COVID because I was so consistent with it. I even got into running. Running to me was when I finally made it health-wise; I was healthy if I could be a runner.”
Fitness became the therapy he had always needed.
- “I find running great for my mental health–it’s just my time. And the social aspect of CrossFit is huge for me and my mental health as well.”
After the long road he took to find health, Lambright knew he wanted to help others do the same thing.
- “I had built my gym for myself and friends, but I realized that others would never step foot in a regular gym because they had these wrong perceptions of what it would be like. I had been there; I had had those feelings. So I opened my space to the public and did it as cheaply as possible.”
- “People started coming a few at a time, and we started a year and a half ago with one family. And now I’m just over 30 members. At first, I was the only coach, but I just expanded and brought two coaches on who bought into this mission.”
Lambright lives in a poor rural area, and he understands that money and travel time often cause people to be unable to work fitness into their lives. He keeps it as cheap as possible for members and welcomes kids and families so parents don’t have to worry about childcare.
- “We are a tiny community unwilling to pay for health, which seems crazy to me now. If you’re not willing to pay and invest in your wellness, you are investing in your illness. I encourage members to bring their kids so they can play and see their parents working out. It’s a generational thing.”
Lambright is currently at about 225 pounds, feeling physically and mentally strong, and wants to continue to pay it forward. He is a forensic interviewer, mainly focusing on child abuse victims, and it comes full circle for him as he attempts to help these children heal the trauma that often becomes an underlying issue for weight gain and poor health.
“I love paying it forward; so many people have helped me take the steps that I needed to take. I am a person of faith, and even as a little kid, I always believed that everything I went through was because someday I’d be able to help somebody else go through the same thing. I’m very thankful that I’ve been able to help hundreds of people in a way that many people cannot.”