Actor Ethan Suplee was 24 years old in 2001 when he found himself standing on a freight scale at a shipping center.
It was a humiliating detour for Suplee before checking into a treatment center for drug and alcohol addiction. The facility required his weight for intake, but they didn’t have a scale for patients his size.
“I was utterly horrified,” Suplee, now 44, told TODAY Health.
At the time, the “Boy Meets World” alum was carrying approximately 536 pounds on his 6-foot-1 frame and was suffering from congestive heart failure.
But despite the wake-up call, Suplee estimates he gained an additional 14 pounds in rehab.
“I’d eat and eat,” Suplee revealed. “It’s what I’d always done.”
Today, the actor best known for his role as dim-witted Randy Hickey on “My Name Is Earl,” weighs 255 pounds and has shredded down to just 11% body fat.
But as Suplee talks about on his “American Glutton” podcast, it was not a linear journey to health.
Over the course of his lifetime, Suplee has lost and gained roughly 1,000 pounds. He tried countless diets from Atkins to anti-inflammatory eating plans. At points, he was riding his bike 100 miles a week.
It wasn’t until 2018, when everything clicked for Suplee, who shares four children with his wife, Brandy Lewis. That’s when Suplee stumbled across a TED Talk by Mike Isratel and realized carbs and gluten weren’t the problem. The problem was his relationship with food.
Suplee’s complicated relationship with food dates back to age 5, when his well-meaning grandparents put him on a restrictive eating plan.
“It was coming from a place of love and concern, but it had this terrible reverse effect where I was like, ‘OK. I’m just gonna sneak food whenever I possibly can.’ And that became my habit,” Suplee recalled. “I would binge when nobody was looking.”
On TV and movie sets, Suplee would take advantage of the free catering, but only if the coast was clear.
“I’d fill my pockets and go back to my trailer,” he said. “Then I’d hit a drive-thru and buy enough food to feed a small family and sit in my house alone and eat it.”
Suplee dreaded traveling on airplanes because it meant asking a flight attendant for a seat belt extender. He was too self-conscious to join his kids in the water.
“Everything was a struggle,” he said. “I couldn’t sit down in a chair without first trying to conspicuously test its strength. I couldn’t stand in a line of people without having certain parts of my stomach brush up against them.”
When Suplee had success with a diet — and he often did — the weight would come crashing back on, leaving him feeling defeated.
“I always truly believed that I’d found the diet, the best diet, and then when I failed, I’d think, ‘Why should I try something that’s not the best diet?’” he explained. “It was a bad cycle.”
Suplee was following a very low-carb, high-fat ketogenic diet when he landed on Isratel’s TED Talk in 2018 and had a life-changing epiphany. It wasn’t what he was eating, it was how much he was eating.
“I began tracking what I was putting in my body and introduced carbs back into my diet,” Suplee said. “I started eating what I wanted, but in portions that were appropriate for my body.”
Last year, Suplee wrote an essay for Men’s Health outlining his balanced approach.
“The main thing I had to do was make sure I didn’t eat more calories than I expended each day. And guess what? Foods that were nutritious — dark leafy greens, chicken, salmon — also tended to be much lower in calories than, say, a two-patty Super Star,” he shared. “As I became more calorie conscious, I started to binge less and fill up on healthier foods. After a few months of this, calories stopped being calories. They started being food.”
Suplee now follows a high-protein, moderate-carb, low-fat plan that allows for rice, potatoes and pasta — although he limits himself to one cup.
“I don’t want to call it a diet,” Suplee explained. “I’m just eating like a normal person.”
Suplee also lifts weights six times a week for an hour a day. Sometimes he’ll do cardio, but only for 20 minutes at a time.
At 255 pounds, he is currently in maintenance mode, with a clean bill of health.
Suplee’s entire family is reaping the benefits — especially his wife.
“She’s very happy. You know, Brandy’s been with me through very, very extreme miserable diets where I was eating like 400 calories a day and wasn’t such a pleasant person,” he told TODAY. “I have the energy to do things now. Life is so much better.”