Ryan Haczynski was 22, a college drop-out who worked at an auto parts store and smoked. No girlfriend, no future. He was depressed, and he had the body to show for it.
While doing laundry at his mom’s house one day, the 6-foot-1 Haczynski stepped on her bathroom scale.
“That was my rock bottom,” Haczynski says. “I actually had to lean forward to look past my stomach to see what the number was on the scale. I just snapped.”
Haczynski drove to a bike shop he’d remembered seeing. He spotted a blue hybrid bike–he’s a sucker for blue–and within 15 minutes was driving home, the bike stuffed into the trunk of his Oldsmobile.
That day on his new bicycle, Haczynski rode 5 miles. By the time he reached his apartment, he was dry-heaving.
The next day, Haczynski did what any stubborn man would do: He got back on the bike.
2005: Brandon, Florida
By the eve of his 30th birthday, Haczynski–by now a teacher in Florida–had quit smoking and exercised himself down to 195 pounds. And he had a date.
Erin Gentry was also a teacher. On their first date at Barnes and Noble, she laughed when Haczynski read her excerpts from a David Sedaris book. That sealed it.
“The more that I fell in love with her, the more that I wanted to know that I want to live as much as possible with her,” Haczynski says.
Meeting Erin, turning 30 and books like The Omnivore’s Dilemma spurned Haczynski to get even healthier.
Adios, Taco Bell. Hit the road, Jack Daniels.
2012: Plant City, Florida
The sign on the door to Haczynski’s social studies room reads, FOOD ALLOWED IN THIS CLASSROOM!* Restrictions Apply.
Between lessons on West African capitals and global economic trends, Durant High School’s reigning Teacher of the Year rails against high-fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils and, occasionally, credit card debt.
He’d charged that blue bike–and a lot of other things–to his Visa. He paid off his debts a few years ago, after winning $50,000 on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
Financial health, physical health; it’s all fair game.
The 36-year-old Haczynski advises Durant’s Namaste Yoga Club–both he and Erin, now his wife, got their yoga teacher certification last year. He offers extra credit for reading books like Fast Food Nation and writes a blog, Letters of Encouragement to Nobody in Particular.
Haczynski’s very first blog post, dated June 18, 2010, ends “success sure is sweet.”
Even without high-fructose corn syrup.
Dalia Colòn is a reporter with healthystate.org, WUSF's health reporting project.