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Photo illustrations by NHM

Photo illustrations by NHM

The elevator wasn’t working the day that Dan Harnatkiewicz, a 43-year-old IRS employee, was forced to climb eight flights of stairs to get to his Parkway apartment. “I was so out of breath and my heart was beating so fast I seriously considered calling an ambulance,” he says. “I realized big changes were needed.”

That’s when Harnatkiewicz began what would become almost a year-long independent exercise and dietary regime. “I started on Feb. 22 last year at the beginning of Lent,” he says. “I figured in the season of giving up things, I decided to take it to the extreme. So I quit smoking completely and quit drinking for the 46 days.”

He also started juicing and running several miles a day. He’s since lost almost 80 pounds in eight months.

As a gay man, he admits that he had once felt a great deal of pressure to look a certain way. “For so long, I thought I wanted a body like some of the muscle guys or even the cute twinks,” he admits, “but when I started my workouts, it was for health reasons and the weight loss was a side effect of that exercise – and not the full purpose. In doing this, I am happy with my accomplishments and have become happy with my body. I no longer feel the pressure to look good for others. It truly is what is on the inside that counts.”

Here are six ways this runner made it happen:

Dan Harnatkiewicz 2Put down the pizza: “While I have never been big on sweets – I have a big weakness for pizza, not the healthy veggie pizza either. We’re talking large meat lovers pan pizza with extra cheese – and hot dogs.”

Take small steps – literally: “My better health comes from daily routines of walking whenever and wherever I can. I walk during lunch and downtown to do shopping or errands, and I walk on my lunch break at work. I also take an evening run.”

It’s a balancing act: “With a combination of healthy low-fat and low-sodium food choices – and walking and running everyday – I have been able to maintain a consistant weight for the past five months.” He even made it through the holidays gaining less than five pounds.

Fruit rules: “I wake up and have coffee and a healthy snack in the morning to start my day. During my morning break, I eat fruit as a snack – usually an apple, banana or an orange. I walk a mile and a half at lunch and have a veggie shake and more fruit during my afternoon break. When I get home from work, I run three-to-five miles along Kelly Drive and then have a light meal for dinner.”

Log into Facebook: “Staying motivated is a constant struggle sometimes. Believe it or not, Facebook has been an important tool. When posting my progress – and before and after pictures – I have so much constant positive feedback from my friends, it has definitely helped to keep me inspired.

Splurge a little: “I try to make good choices for my meals and snacks throughout the week. Veggie juicing is a big part of my diet throughout the week, but on Sundays I enjoy whatever I want to eat.”

Do you have an inspirational story you’d like to share? Send us the details: ThePhillyQ@yahoo.com

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