By David Mullen
In a few months, Michael Tew will be running in his first full marathon with a transformed mental outlook. But physically, he is half the man he used to be.
Tew had bariatric surgery and took up running after his body reached epic proportions. Once weighing more than 400 pounds, he is running the 2023 BMW Dallas Marathon on Sunday, Dec. 10. Currently, he weighs a triumphant 211 pounds on a 6-foot-2-inch frame and has gotten down to a willowy 199 pounds.
“I’ve always been heavy,” Tew said, “and I have never been athletically inclined by any stretch of the imagination.”
Tew never considered himself athletic growing up in smalltown Haughton, La., 15 miles east of the Shreveport/Bossier City metro area. “I graduated from the same high school as [Dallas Cowboys starting quarterback] Dak Prescott,” Tew said.
Unlike the physical prowess of the famous alum from Haughton High, Tew’s athletic ability was notable for a different reason. “I was always the last kid in PE. I hated PE,” Tew said. “I actually have a report card that has either a D or an F in PE. I have never met another person that failed PE.
“Movement was always really difficult because I was so heavy, even at a young age,” Tew said. “Healthy habits wasn’t really a part of growing up. It wasn’t due to lack of caring by my parents or the adults in my life. It was just passing down the bad habits. Not eating properly. Too much TV. [I was] leading a very sedentary life.”
Tew has spent his entire career in television news as a video editor. His first job in Shreveport, the Nielsen rated No. 89 DMA (Designated Market Area), led to an improbable leap to the No. 7 Houston market. “I had made friends with the right people,” Tew said.
In 2004, he moved to the No. 5 DMA in Dallas-Fort Worth and currently works as a video editor at KDFW Fox 4, preparing evening news segments. He worked the early a.m. news shift in Houston. “I want to stay as far away from that as possible,” Tew said. His current work schedule is loosely from 2 to 11 p.m. Moving from the couch to a career in a TV control room, Tew continued to face challenges. “A Krispy Kreme opens up a new location nearby,” Tew said, “and they send their press kit over and it’s a buffet of donuts.”
Tew got married and had the best intentions with his new wife Deborah to slow the consistent weight gain by incorporating a healthier routine. “The pivotal moment for us is that we signed up for a 5K at our church,” Tew said. He had run in the Dallas Turkey Trot a decade before. “We made it about half a mile. We realized, ‘Wow. We have about three miles to go. This is not going to work.’ We had to do an about-face and come back to the starting line.
“I remember this lady handing me what felt like a sympathy medal. We were the first ones to cross the finish line, and it wasn’t because we finished. I was so frustrated that the next trash can I found, I threw it away. It sent me into a spiral and I knew I had to do something different. My wife was on board as well.” Tew and Deborah returned home knowing that they had to seek dramatic changes. They had just failed at something “anyone can do,” Tew noted. Adding to the equation was that Deborah’s parents had died young, and his own parent’s health was declining due to obesity related issues. “We knew we had to break that cycle. You just can’t sit around and wish about it. You actually have to go and make it happen.”
In 2018, Tew contacted the Nicholson Clinic in Plano to inquire about bariatric surgery. “[It’s] getting to that place of, ‘I have to do something radical in order to change this and change my path.’” During the consultation, Tew raised skepticism about the long-term success of the procedure, knowing people that have lost weight and gained it right back.
The doctor leaned over, looked Tew in the eyes and said, “In order to be different, you have to do different.” The physician stressed the importance of a complete lifestyle overhaul. The recovery from surgery alters eating patterns with a liquid protein diet. Carbonated beverages are prohibited. He lost 80 pounds in the first nine months after his 2019 surgery. “It was effortless,” Tew said. “But then [the weight loss] starts to slow down and my hunger cues started to come back. I felt a little bit more like my old self. I knew I had to incorporate movement and exercise.”
A friend invited Tew to join a Facebook exercise group, where participants posted a 20-minute workout each day. Mostly, he would take walks in his Wylie neighborhood. “From there, I got the hankering to do it myself,” Tew said. “I created my own workout group on Facebook. I had people from all over the U.S. Friends of friends and relatives of relatives all joined. We had about 250 people posting their workouts. Twenty minutes of anything. “I learned from leading that group that I had a voice that people listened to and acknowledged. I was helping all of these people that were kind of sedentary or weren’t doing much exercise. They started listening and interacting with me.” Tew has been assisting others who have undergone bariatric surgery, offering guidance and support. “I want to normalize having a problem, finding a solution and working on that problem.”
Short walks led to longer runs and Tew began embracing the running community. With his work schedule, Tew is an early morning runner. “Running sucks so bad, and then, at one moment, it doesn’t suck anymore. I think the belief in yourself takes over.”
In losing 200 pounds and getting into shape to run 26.2 miles, Tew found running was easy compared to combating food issues. “The hardest thing to give up was the comfort. Realizing that you had emotional eating and boredom eating issues. Giving up the satisfaction of eating a large amount of food. It is learning to self sooth, rather than soothing with food, which I had done my entire life.”
From 2020 to 2022, Tew has accomplished three half-Dallas Marathons, including a virtual half-marathon during the pandemic. “I realized that I had already put in the work and completed the race to get there. Now, I’m just taking the final step.”
On the second Sunday in December, Tew will join thousands of other runners who have made the trek to Dallas to conquer the marathon. While Tew’s journey was different from other runners, his drive is the same. “I made my mind up and just did it.”