Running the latest 5th Line 5K Race on Feb. 5 was an achievement for Kevin Schroeder.
He finished the race in 33 minutes, 29 seconds. His time last year was 1:06.
Now he's preparing for two other runs: the Cap City Commit to be Fit 5K on April 29 and the Ohio State Four-Miler on Oct. 22.
He's fit now, but he wasn't a year ago.
Schroeder had been struggling with an eating disorder that caused his weight to balloon to 370 pounds.
He was profoundly unhappy, hiding those feelings behind the substantial girth he used as "Dancing Kevin" to entertain Columbus Blue Jacket fans at Nationwide Arena and to "dabble" in stand-up comedy.
Persona was a mask
Schroeder became a favorite of the hockey crowds when he began to paint his ample belly with inspirational messages, spill beer onto himself and wildly gyrate for 30 seconds or so -- all broadcast on the Jumbotron at home games.Video •Kevin Schroeder, also known as "Dancing Kevin" to Columbus Blue Jackets fans, explains how he first was noticed at a hockey game.
He began attending Blue Jackets home games in the 2001-02 season, he said. His persona as "Dancing Kevin" grew each year, even after he moved to Colorado, where he lived for 10 years before returning in 2013.
He routinely would fly to Columbus to attend hockey games, always happy to please the crowd, he said. The persona even earned him some paid appearances.
"It was fun, but it would mask what was really going on with me," said Schroeder, a Dayton native who lives near the Ohio State University campus.
The long road to recovery started a little more than two years ago, when the eating disorder had led him to his maximum weight.
Food was his drug, Schroeder said.
Like a junkie going to a dealer, he would go to a restaurant drive-thru and order enough food for several people and two drinks to make it appear as if it weren't all for him.
At his apartment, he would eat it all, getting a high from the calories he had consumed.
Then would come the crash and, unfortunately, the repeat.
Schroeder figures he ate about 4,000 calories a day.
"If I didn't feel comfortable, I would eat," he said. "If I was bored, I'd eat."
Realization sets in
Schroeder said he can pinpoint the day of his epiphany: Dec. 14, 2015.
"That's when I finally decided I needed a change," he said. "I was desperate. I was miserable. I was mentally, physically and spiritually broken."
He said he seriously had contemplated suicide.
"Something told me, 'You're worth more than that,' " he said.
Schroeder immediately reached out to a friend, who helped him confront his disorder and surrounded him with a network of support.
It's a situation Dr. Samuel Cataland has seen far too often.
Cataland, an endocrinologist and medical director of the Central Ohio Diabetes Association, noted a correlation between obesity and Type 2 diabetes, as 85 percent of those with the disease are overweight.
Schroeder, 45, said he was never diagnosed with a pre-diabetic condition, but his blood-sugar level was more than 200; the normal level for a person who is fasting is between 70 and 139, according to the Central Ohio Diabetes Association's website, diabetesohio.org.
Schroeder said he experienced other painful scenarios -- some physical, some emotional -- associated with his obesity, including sore joints and difficulty in climbing stairs. He said he was embarrassed when going to restaurants because he couldn't fit comfortably in a booth. He couldn't go to regular stores because the clothes didn't fit.
"I didn't just want to lose weight," he said. "I came to the realization I wanted to be healthy."
Long road to
The journey started Jan. 28, 2015. At the time, Schroeder weighed 358 pounds, having lost some weight because he already had given up pop and beer.
The first order of business was to throw away frozen pizzas, sweet snacks and pop and replace them with healthful items. He joined a gym and hired a personal trainer.
His training schedule includes yoga, cardio, weights, walking and, occasionally, jogging, Schroeder said.
These days, a much thinner Schroeder still roots for the home team, but his bopping days are over, he said.
Instead of gorging on takeout food, he plans his meals. Instead of drinking massive quantities of pop and beer, he prefers water.
Just before the Blue Jackets home opener in mid-October, he said, he was down to his lowest weight since high school: 196 pounds. He is now 205, but his weight fluctuates about 10 pounds, he said.
The weight seemingly melted away, he said.
He said he had become close to some Blue Jackets team members, and they were supportive of his lifestyle change.
"They helped me on this journey like you wouldn't believe," he said.
Schroeder, now a craft-beer salesman, said he doesn't miss his celebrity status or the occasional payday associated with it.
"I'm happier," he said. "I'm healthy."