John robinson before & after weight lossTelevision audiences nationwide were amazed to see a Washington, D.C. VA Medical Center nurse shrink from 531 pounds to an astounding 316 pounds. The Desert Storm Army Veteran shared his story and life-changing transformation last year on ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss.

John Robinson’s journey began about four years ago as a simple road trip to accompany a friend who was auditioning for the television show.  While there, the show producers convinced John, a former offensive lineman with Winston-Salem State University and the New Jersey Red Dogs (Arena Football League) to audition for the show.

He wasn’t chosen, but the casting company kept him in mind for other shows, thinking he might be a better fit for Extreme Weight Loss.

Several years later, that fateful trip with his friend resulted in a phone call out of the blue from the producers of Extreme Weight Loss. “Basically, they wanted to know if I was still fat,” Robinson chuckled. “I told them yes I was and that I was still very interested in doing the show.”

Mother’s Final Wish

From that day forward, things began to move very quickly. He took a leave of absence from his nursing job in the medical center’s Surgical Intensive Care Unit and attended a 90-day boot camp in Colorado.  The camp was very hard for him. He attended his mother’s funeral the day before the filming was to begin. One of her last wishes was for him to become healthy again.

In honor of his mother and in spite of the dark days, he pressed forward with the boot camp. The potential contestants would often work out up to four and a half hours a day. “I have bad knees and a bad back, so I couldn’t run and do a lot of the exercises,” Robinson said.

By the time his 90 days were up, Robinson had managed to lose an amazing 125 pounds. Sadly, the boot camp participants are not guaranteed a spot on the show and in spite of his initial weight loss success; he was not selected to continue with the show. The show producers did not think he had the motivation to continue with the program.

He proved them wrong.

Kept Losing on His Own

“I was bummed, but I was determined to lose the weight on my own,” Robinson said.  So with no glaring lights, no cameras rolling and no trainers barking encouragement, he found an inner strength he didn’t know he had and continued the weight loss on his own.

The producers followed up and were so impressed with his motivation and progress, he was told to pack his bags as he was given a spot on the Extreme Weight Loss show, season 5.

His is a story of perseverance, transformation, keeping promises and using life’s lessons to help yourself and others. He is now back at work as a nurse, a weight loss coach and a leader for those who require life-changing motivation.

Sarah CoxAbout the Author: Sarah Cox is a Public Affairs Specialist at the Washington DC VA Medical Center




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Published on Jan. 28, 2016

Estimated reading time is 2.7 min.

Views to date: 136


  1. James February 3, 2016 at 7:22 am

    Thanks for the discouragement you bicycle riders. No kind of effort will keep a man fit if he is stressed, angry, hurt, injured, weighed down with PTSD issues and is dealing with everyday life matters that make life so hard.

    Touting your lifetime of bike riding Mr. Thayer does not help. Same as saying get up and get over it PTSD you who suffer with that issue!

    I heard the same misguided stuff from VA doctors when I came home from Nam about PTSD. Men who never dealt with such issues as screaming nightmares, constantly checking the house for security reasons, etc etc etc.

    Weight gain is not fun. It is not an easy thing to deal with. It is not a thing that going on a show can fix. Though I applaud Mr. Robinson for his losses I also remind him that it can all come back and worse if he is not careful about the issues.

    I know, I have lost and gained and have almost lost the battle now because of PTSD and the strains of everyday life that have made life hard. Comfort Food Mr. Thayer, injuries that make bike riding virtually impossible, environmental issues that make workable exercise actually work for someone are the issues.

    Encouragement is important as well. But telling those of us who are fat already to get on a bike and ride to health does not make you a prime good example.

  2. James Vincent January 31, 2016 at 6:42 pm

    Congratulations! are in order for you Sir, John Robinson, you are truly an inspiration to all who struggle to loose weight
    and you are also a testament to field of work you are in, moreover, you have truly put yourself in someone else’s shoes
    and learned how to and what it means to persevere in any endeavor.

    Thank You! for being at you best to serve your country

  3. Andy Bey January 31, 2016 at 12:02 am

    It’s truly wonderful to read about a success story these days with the apparent growing abundance of obstacles and issues we face daily, as Veterans and human beings. I Trust that, in some form, the nurse is able to share how he accomplished this courageous feat. Thank you both; you for sharing this story, and the nurse for his achievement. This is very inspirational, and utterly amazing.

  4. Michele S. Chalmers January 29, 2016 at 7:32 pm

    Congratulations are truly in order! You have beaten what, to some, may be insurmountable odds. I am so impressed by your commitment to your late Mother’s request for you, May she Rest in Peace. I am glad that I saw this article; it is truly an encouragement to this AF Vet.
    Continue the press, and the gifts in return will be the many persons that have a healthier and longer life.
    #BlessingsandFavor to you.

    A Viet Nam vet on her weight loss journey

  5. ISABEL M MARTELL January 29, 2016 at 1:14 pm

    I’m so proud you Nurse/Doctor John Robinson’s cause people’s don’t realize the weight they carry its a hurting burden, I was never a big girl but for my age at 55 to be in April I look younger for my age,I’m proud to service with the Army to keep my weight down and its a blessing. Keep up with the great work and continue with healthy life cause your mother its watching over you and she proud of you. God blessing you “YOU DAMN LOOK FOR YOUR AGE”

  6. Melanie Clark January 29, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    Congratulations! That was a tough row to hoe.

  7. harris k. thayer January 29, 2016 at 12:55 pm

    I am a Viet Nam veteran and I have been bicycle riding for 34 years and I have kept my weight level. I am 73 and my vitals are better than people in their 40’s. Why don’t people in the United States embrace the psychological and mechanical benefits of quality bicycle riding? People in Europe and other less affluent countries have embraced this fact. Wake up U.S.!

    • Andy Bey January 31, 2016 at 12:11 am

      When I was a teenager, bicycling was a daily event, and a great habit. Some day, I stop riding. I married a lady who was a couch potatoe. Reading your story has brought back memories of how envigorating and exciting it was. Thank you. How much cycling, or how many miles per day do you recommend for a guy to get back in stride without over doing it. I’m 59, and having really pushed the peddles hard in 40 years?

  8. Jill Steinbrunner January 29, 2016 at 11:56 am

    Article on John Robinsons weight loss was awesome! States he is a weight loss coach now as well as a motivator. I live in the Dayton, OH area. Where can one get in touch with his program?

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