This Guy Lost More than 80 Pounds When He Started Doing Yoga

This story is part of our ongoing “First Steps” series, where we share extraordinary stories of men who transformed their bodies, minds, and lives with a focus on the first steps it took them to get there (because, after all, nothing can change without a first step!). Read all of the stories here.

Zach Wolf, 35, in Independent Financial Planning Operations in Royersford, PA, went about his busy life and weight came on—until his body gave him a scary wake-up call. When he decided to make change, he found a fitness studio that changed everything. Here, in his own words, is how it happened.

“I’LL START TOMORROW.” That’s what I would always tell myself. Start that diet, get that early morning workout in, pay that bill, study for the exam, make the call I was dreading. The problem is, tomorrow never came. For as long as I can remember I would make excuses for myself about why I couldn’t do any of these things, let alone one. And the day would end and ultimately, I would say, “I’ll start tomorrow.” That vicious cycle was all I knew for years and I’d eventually find out I didn’t want to be that person anymore.

Growing up, I always struggled with weight. I played sports, got good grades, and had different friend groups but I could never seem to be consistent with eating and exercise, so my weight would drastically change. I thought I was my heaviest in college, but life shocked me when I hit my all-time high in my early 30s.

Both sides of my family suffer from a multitude of genetic and hereditary conditions, but the most serious is on my dad’s side: heart disease. Losing multiple family members due to heart attacks, bypass surgeries, etc., even in their 60s. I decided to start seeing a cardiologist at age 18 who told me if I didn’t change my ways long term, I’d be just like them. Unfortunately, I didn’t listen.

I started working a high-pressure job in New York City in my 20’s. I worked long hours, sometimes spending many late evenings and early mornings which lead to unhealthy eating habits and ways of coping with the stress and anxiety. After a while, my relief was food and alcohol. Six years later, I moved back to Philadelphia, PA, got married and had two beautiful girls, but the weight kept coming and I didn’t seem to care because deep down I knew I wasn’t happy. Eventually, I got to 24 pounds.

zach with his 2 kids

Zach Wolf

Zach Wolf’s changes kicked into high gear when he realized he wanted to be there to see his kids grow up.

Everything changed for me in November 2021 at 33 years old when I woke up sweating profusely, with shortness of breath, chest pains and I thought…is this it? Will I be like my own father who had a massive heart attack at 33 and is lucky to be alive (and I’m so glad to say he is currently thriving). I was taken to the ER that morning and got the “all clear” from the doctor but he did let me know that my blood work was one of the worst he has ever seen for a 33-year-old male. And once again I heard, “you need to make a change.” This time it hit me differently.

I decided to get through the holidays and make a change. Make a personal change so I could be there to see my girls grow up to make an impact on this world. Enter Lacey Schmidt and the YogaSix studio in Collegeville, PA studio. I started a program called “75 Hard,” where the weight loss is secondary. The end goal seems “easy” but achieving it would be a lot of hard work and required the one thing I was significantly lacking…discipline. Part of the program is designed to have you complete two 45-minute workouts each day; one inside and one outside. These can be anything! Her studio had just opened that week so I decided to go check it out and inquire, and everyone was so nice and welcoming. I was insanely nervous not knowing anyone, but I took my first class at noon on a Wednesday and although it was challenging (I even had to step out during class to catch my breath)…I was hooked.

I started going to YogaSix three to five times a week and ended up developing an incredible relationship with the owner, who was a vibrant person that I always wanted to be around. Even after the program (or 75 days later), I continued to go to YogaSix every morning at 6 am.There, I met some of the most amazing people who’ve been highly supportive of me, my goals and my journey. In the beginning, my friends who knew the “old Zach” laughed and said I could never do yoga. I needed to lift weights to be strong and lose weight, but I eventually realized I LOVED yoga and how it made me feel. I was calm. I could be present and let go. I could be there for 60 minutes and the world didn’t exist except for me and my mat.

“At long last I found a BALANCE and a HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP with food where I can still LIVE LIFE and ENJOY enough of the things I LOVE.

I would look at some of these experienced yogis and think I could never be that good or get to that level. But I learned and I practiced. I didn’t judge myself, and neither did the instructors or the person I was next to each class. I built relationships with people who wanted to me to succeed and would push me to improve my practice and to my surprise it worked!

Suddenly everyone who “thought” they knew me about having the willpower to see something through or try new things outside my comfort zone started to see the results. And guess what, now they wanted to be a part of it. Since then, I have brought multiple guests who fell in love with yoga and the YogaSix studio just as I did, and now our community is even bigger.

My relationship with food has also changed. Interestingly enough, I never had a sweet tooth. I never craved candy or chocolate or even salty snacks, my downfall was always the processed food, bread, and beer. I would eat multiple times a day in unhealthy amounts, late at night right before sleep and always had the feeling of never being full. I fell in love with cooking, but it doesn’t help when you add that extra butter or other unhealthy items in excess to your “healthy” meal.

During the program, I stuck with the Mediterranean diet but to enhance my program, I cut out all bread, alcohol, and red meat. I was amazed to see the transformation of having the mental discipline to not indulge in the things I loved that were unhealthy for me. At long last I found a balance and a healthy relationship with food where I can still live life and enjoy enough of the things I love. I’ve found amazing alternatives through the process that are just as delicious.

These Three Tips Have Made My Weight Loss Journey a Success:

Be Disciplined About Sticking to a Schedule

FIND WHAT WORKS for you and stick to it. You have to be disciplined.

Allow Yourself to be Comfortable in Uncomfortable Situations

I WOULD GET to the yoga studio and constantly compare myself to others, thinking that I didn’t fit in or couldn’t do certain yoga poses. Get comfortable being uncomfortable because if you stick to your plan, in time, you will see results.

Know that Some Days You’re Just Going to Have a Bad Day but You Still Have to Put the Work In

BAD DAYS ARE inevitable, and negative thoughts and life events will greatly impact your mental perspective and discipline. It’s not easy, but I learned that if you take those feelings and channel them toward something positive, you’ll benefit in the long run, no matter how pointless or unnecessary it seems in the short term.

At 35, I am currently in the best shape of my life physically, mentally, and emotionally. I fully believe the y6 community is responsible for my transformation. It’s crazy how drastically I saw an improvement in my life; more confidence, self-esteem, self-respect, better sleeping habits and in general, just making better life choices. Although my daughters are young (6 and 5), I feel proud to be a role model for them and to teach dedication. I love being an example to them that it’s never too late to change and work towards a healthy body and mind. I’ve lost over 80 pounds—I now weigh 146—have reduced my waist size from a 38 to a 30, and recently just completed my 350th yoga class at the YogaSix studio!

zach with his two kids

Zach Wolf

Wolf has participated in some physical challenges, but says the ultimate benefit is how you feel each and every day.

Yoga at YogaSix has been one of the best things in my life, and I am so grateful for the love and support of that studio and the dedicated people who work there and are part of the community. I truly don’t know if I could have stayed on my path without them. If I have any advice for someone reading this, it would be to feel the fear, embrace it, and do it anyway. Life is too short for the mentality of, “I’ll do it tomorrow” because I know—and you know—it never comes.

People ask me about my end goal. Do you have a goal weight or event that you’re training for? And although I have participated in different physical events, I personally had an epiphany where I realized it’s not about the number on the scale or the time you finish the run. It’s about how you mentally prepare yourself for each day and how you FEEL each and every day. For me, I choose to surround myself with the positivity of the YogaSix community.

I realized throughout my transformation that you don’t have to go through it alone. In the end, YOU have to want to make that change for yourself but it’s amazing to have the love and support of friends and family. As I mentioned earlier, I was lucky enough to meet some amazing people on my journey. I’ve made lifelong friends, fell in love, and started being the person and father I know I was meant to be in this world.

Headshot of Emily Shiffer

Emily Shiffer is a freelance health and wellness writer living in Pennsylvania.