When his daughter gave him the news that she was pregnant with a girl, Mark Kuhns was overjoyed. “I’m going to be a grandfather!” he proclaimed.
But that same spring night in 2014, as Kuhns lie in bed, a troubling thought invaded his mind. Kuhns, the director of grounds at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey, realized he might not get to watch his granddaughter grow up if he didn’t lose weight. At the time, Kuhns was pushing an alarming 400 pounds.
The next morning, with the thought still racing in his mind, Kuhns called his doctor to make an appointment to have a physical and talk about weight-loss options. He had vowed to lose weight before and had done so, but only to gain it back. But this time was different.
Kuhns’ doctor had told him before that he could add 10 to 15 years to his life if he lost weight, and that if he didn’t his life would be shortened. That revelation now was hitting him hard, like ice-cold water in the face. Kuhns didn’t just want to be around for a few of his granddaughter’s birthday parties; he wanted to see her grow into an adult. He wanted to be there for her.
“I knew I had to make a commitment,” he says.
After visiting his doctor and analyzing alternatives to lose weight, Kuhns decided to have gastric sleeve surgery, where the bottom of the stomach is removed.
“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done in my life,” says Kuhns, who had the surgery in October 2014.
Kuhns lost 35 pounds before the surgery, which was a prerequisite to prove to his doctor that he was serious about getting fit. He has lost another 75 pounds since the surgery. All told, Kuhns has lost 130 pounds and now weighs about 250.
Kuhns also hired a trainer, who he meets with two or three times a week. He wears a Fitbit, which hasn’t left his wrist in two years.
“I still have a way to go, and I will make greater strides,” Kuhns vows.
Despite his commitment, it has been a challenging few years.
“Whether you quit smoking, quit drinking or decide to lose weight, it’s never easy,” Kuhns says. “Changing your whole lifestyle is difficult.”
In 1985, Kuhns weighed a svelte 170 pounds and ran several miles a day. But being a golf course superintendent caught up with him. Kuhns found himself working longer hours and working out less. He often ate on the run, meaning he was a regular at McDonald’s and other greasy fast-food joints. While the stress of the job didn’t cause Kuhns to drink, it did cause him to eat more. So instead of ordering one Big Mac, he would order two.
Kuhns is not embarrassed to tell people that he had surgery to help him lose weight, including a few overweight superintendents who confided in him about how he did it.
“I’m not afraid to talk about it,” he says. Kuhns’ message to others is, “Don’t be afraid to take a drastic measure to help you succeed.”
The weight loss has not only added years back to his life, it has also literally put a spring in Kuhns’ step. He can now walk 18 holes of golf and climb the stairs without having to stop to catch his breath.
But Kuhns’ biggest motivation to lose weight is Abigail, his 18-month-old granddaughter who was born a week after Kuhns had his surgery.
When Kuhns speaks of her, he lights up like a fireworks show on the Fourth of July.
He is a proud, doting grandfather – and Kuhns expects to play that role for many years to come.