Needing A Jump Start: Survival Instructor Takes Steps to Get Healthy

Scott Vernon (left) weighed 240 lbs three and a half years ago. A walk through the woods sparked a healthy change. Contributed photo.

By Amie Knowles
September 25, 2020

A wilderness instructor questions his own survival when his weight takes a toll

RIDGEWAY – Three and a half years ago, Scott Vernon led a survival camp through the woods. It was an normal adventure for the owner of the Sustainable Homestead Institute, as he enjoyed teaching survival skills to others.

But on one particular walk up an incline, the man who could easily live off the land suddenly fought it.

“Leading that class through the woods, I was just breathing pretty heavy as we were walking up the hill,” Vernon said. “And I remember saying this quote in my head: ‘Like, you’re a survival instructor, but you can’t even save yourself right now if you had to. Like, what are you doing?’”

Time for a change

Vernon suspected that he no longer weighed between 190 lbs and 210 lbs, a normal range for his adult life. When he got home, the scale confirmed his suspicion.

At his heaviest, Vernon weighed 240 lbs.

“I was like, ‘Man, you’ve got to do better,’” Vernon said. “And secretly, you know you’ve got to do better, but sometimes it takes some things to kind of, you know, give you that jump-start.”

Vernon wasn’t alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that from 2017 to 2018, 42.4% of Americans faced obesity.

With the desire lurking, the survivalist faced an internal issue: losing weight seemed unnatural.

“It’s in our best interest, from a survival perspective, to be eating and storing as many calories as we can,” Vernon said. “So it’s not normal for your body to, like, eat itself and lose weight.”

Method in the making

Unsatisfied with his body, Vernon sought change. He didn’t necessarily have an end goal, but wanted to be in better shape.

At first, Vernon ran for an hour a day. But he wouldn’t recommend it.

“Because I didn’t know anything, I was just like, ‘I’ve got to do something. What could I do?’ So that’s how I got started,” Vernon said. “But the further I got into it, I started researching diet and about how all the different macro-nutrients affect your performance and things.”

He discovered that as long as he expelled more calories than he took in each day, he’d lose weight.

Vernon also started journaling his meals. And his snacks. And his drinks. Everything. Any time a food item or beverage touched Vernon’s lips, he wrote it down.

“If you drink a soda or something, so like 200 calories roughly, that’s 15, 20 minutes on an elliptical machine. There’s no way that you’re going to out-train a bad diet,” Vernon said. “So the thing about calories and what you’re putting in, and then how much effort that is to do it, was really instrumental for me trying to figure out how to eat better and stuff.”

When the pounds started leaving, Vernon didn’t quit journaling. He remained accountable to his plan, even after seeing results.

Vernon also wrote down his daily weight loss and compliments he received about it. Doing so helped him on days when giving up would’ve been easy.

“That’s really motivating to go back and see,” Vernon said. “‘Oh wow. This is where I’ve come from. I can continue doing it.’”

Meaningful connections

Approximately halfway through his weight loss journey, Vernon discovered mixed martial arts. He joined others practicing jiu jitsu and moi kai. The sports’ competitive nature kicked in, which further propelled Vernon toward a fit lifestyle.

“I was like, ‘If you’re going to do this at all, you’ve got to be in better shape,’” Vernon said. “There’s nothing like getting beat up by people who let you know that you’re not doing it right.”

It took a few years of perseverance and dedication, but Vernon stuck with his plan. He currently weighs right around 145 lbs.

Having a successful weight loss journey, Vernon now shares his methods with others also interested in shedding pounds.

First, he suggests getting a journal, whether it’s a pen and notebook, a phone app or a computer spreadsheet.

“Before you do anything, just give me two weeks, three weeks of you writing down everything that you eat and how much of it,” Vernon said. “It’ll jump out, what you’re doing incorrectly. Like, blazingly apparent, ‘This is what needs to change.’”

For those interested in embarking on their own weight loss journey, Vernon keeps his inbox open. Through email, he personally corresponds and helps people discover methods that work and encourages them to achieve their personal goals. Readers can reach Vernon at [email protected]

Amie Knowles reports for The Dogwood. She can be reached at [email protected]

  • Amie Knowles

    Amie is Dogwood's community editor. She has been in journalism for several years, winning multiple awards from the Virginia Press Association for news and features content. A lifelong Virginia resident, her work has appeared in the Martinsville Bulletin, Danville Register & Bee and NWNC Magazine.

Related Stories
Share This