Cut the Caramel Rolls, Avoid the Knife

By Emily Beers – June 26th, 2018

408 lb.

That’s how much Adam Kuntz weighed at 6 feet when he showed up at Big Muddy CrossFit in Bismarck, North Dakota, in 2016.

“Maybe if I casually walk out, nobody will notice,” he thought to himself as he labored through his first workout.

Though fearful and apprehensive, he had decided it was time to make a change. He was tired of being an overweight smoker suffering from obstructive sleep apnea, dependent on two different medications for high blood pressure.

CrossFit had an immediate impact on his life, he said.

“I was working out and feeling better, and I became more physically capable and could do things that I couldn’t do before, like a push-up,” said Kuntz, 38, who also quit smoking when he started CrossFit.

But still, the scale didn’t budge.

Although he was committed to training, Kuntz, a computer technician, was addicted to sugar. Soda and cinnamon buns with caramel were his kryptonite.

“Caramel rolls: Those are my weakness,” he said. “I grew up on a farm, and we had them every Sunday. I didn’t get to be 400 pounds without eating things like that.”

ALT TEXTThough Adam Kuntz (right) had done CrossFit for two years, the scale didn’t move until he stopped eating sugar and processed foods. (Courtesy of Chris Padilla)

He had been doing CrossFit for two years when one of his coaches suggested Kuntz change his diet. Kuntz considered his situation.

“When you fail for over a decade, you just want to give up,” he said. “I finally decided I can no longer fail. I have a beautiful wife and two kids that count on me. It was time for the ultimate change.”

He immediately eliminated sugar, starch and processed foods and adopted a diet of meat, eggs, vegetables and healthy fats. He lost 12 lb. in just one week.

“Already I had more energy and power and stamina, so I kept going.”

Though his weight dropped quickly once he cleaned up his diet, it wasn’t always easy.

“I haven’t had a caramel roll in over a year, but I still think about them every single day,” Kuntz said. “It was emotionally devastating. But if I ever wanted to be the person I wanted to be, it had to happen.”

Today, the temptation to indulge is not as strong. And when the cravings do kick in, Kuntz has a plan.

“I tell myself, ‘Hey, we are going to make it. Let’s do this,’” he said. “Failure is not an option.”

Sometimes he’ll make a healthier dessert alternative, mixing heavy cream with protein powder and stevia to make a whipped mousse.

“The protein powder adds some flavor. Sometimes I’ll put it in the freezer and it’s almost like eating ice cream,” he said.

It might not be quite as satisfying as ice cream, but Kuntz is working toward something more important than dessert.

“My brother-in-law had gastric-bypass surgery because he was 380 pounds,” Kuntz said. “That was his solution—that’s not my solution. I was dumb getting (into this situation) and I’m going to be smart getting myself out.”

ALT TEXTInstead of going under the knife and rearranging his digestive organs, Kuntz decided to save his life the smart way: with good nutrition and exercise. (Courtesy of Adam Kuntz)

Chris Padilla, one of Kuntz’s coaches, said getting people to change their diets is the most difficult part of his job. It’s where many athletes fall short.

“Nutrition changes are the hardest thing for most members,” Padilla said. “We are creatures of habit and desire quick, fast meals.”

Seeing Kuntz change his attitude, embrace difficult change and stick with it shows others they can do it, too, he added.

“Adam is driven,” Padilla continued. “He (decided) he wants to set a good example for his family. He wants to get off his medications—which he already has—and be around for his family for the long haul. His doctors were advising gastric-bypass surgery. … He knew he did not want this. Adam decided he wants quality of life and not the quick medical Band-Aid approach.”

For eight months and counting, this relentless drive has helped Kuntz embrace a diet of vegetables—often cauliflower, broccoli or a salad—and protein such as chicken, venison or elk, which he prepares in his smoker.

He had tried many diets before, but they were all short-term plans. This time, it’s for life, Kuntz said.

“This was never a diet for me. It was a lifestyle change, and I’m treating it like that,” he said.

The more time goes by, the easier it gets.

“I think my palate has definitely changed a lot, so it’s getting easier and easier to stick with it. … It has also let me branch out (to) new variations of food. Things I didn’t used to want to eat, I enjoy eating now,” he said.

Though some people find balance with an 80/20 mentality—80 percent healthy foods, 20 percent indulgences—Kuntz knows he needs to be 100 percent committed to ensure continued success.

“I can’t do moderation, so I know I need to make my diet as strict as possible,” he said.

Still, he allows himself one cheat meal each month.

“Once a month, I’ll have something like pizza and a milkshake, and then I’ll feel guilty as hell, but then I’ll just get right back to it the next day,” Kuntz said.

In March 2018, eight months into his new lifestyle, Kuntz weighed in at 325 lb.—more than 80 lb. lighter than his heaviest weight. In the same month, his doctor cleared him to stop taking his blood-pressure medication.

ALT TEXTBefore CrossFit, Kuntz weighed more than 400 lb., had high blood pressure and suffered from severe obstructive sleep apnea.

ALT TEXTAfter cleaning up his diet and continuing to do CrossFit, Kuntz has lost 80 lb., gotten off his blood-pressure medication and significantly reduced his nightly sleep-apnea episodes. (Both: Courtesy of Adam Kuntz)

His fitness has taken a great leap forward, too.

“When I used to do burpees, I needed defib paddles, and now I can do burpees without feeling like I’m dying,” Kuntz joked. “Running, too: I don’t have a problem running anymore. I can do the warm-up laps without stopping. Before, I would go one block and be winded and gassed.”

Meanwhile, his sleep apnea—which he has lived with for 18 years—has also improved dramatically.

Kuntz sleeps with a CPAP machine, which supplies him with a consistent flow of air at a prescribed pressure so that his airway doesn’t close. He used to require airflow at a pressure of 28 cmH20. Today, that number is down to 12 cmH20, meaning that the machine requires less pressure to keep his airway open. Furthermore, his apnea episodes—the number of times he stops breathing each night—are down by 60 percent.

“Twenty-eight to 12 is a drastic improvement,” he said. “After two decades of being tethered to this electronic bastard when I sleep—I hate that machine—hopefully I’ll be off it soon.”

He knows his best chance of accomplishing that—as well as his next weight-loss goal, which is a body weight of 280 lb.—is to continue to go to Big Muddy CrossFit five or six days a week and to continue to eat whole, unprocessed foods.

“It feels amazing that my health and my life has improved considerably. It has been a slow road, but (in) the last seven months, the change has been drastic,” he said.

“And I’m not nearly done yet.”

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and does not constitute medical or other professional advice.

About the Author: Emily Beers is a CrossFit Journal contributor and coach at CrossFit Vancouver. She finished 37th at the 2014 Reebok CrossFit Games.

Cover image: Courtesy of Chris Padilla

This article was originally published on the CrossFit Journal. You can find it here.

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About The Author

Neil Scholtz

Neil Scholtz is a certified Personal Trainer turned CrossFit coach. He has competed at the CrossFit Games and coached athletes that have competed at the CrossFit Games, but that's not his main focus. Most of his time is spent consulting or coaching individuals to improve their lives through fitness. He has worked with over 1000 individuals from various walks of life. Tailoring solutions to their lifestyle needs.