Joseph Wiese’s years of poor dietary choices led him down an unhealthy path, but a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis led him to change his life for the better.
Wiese attended UNO right out of high school and had a scholarship with the Thompson Learning Community to pursue a degree in Sociology.
“I was rock wall climbing back then as well, it was my first time ever doing it and I really fell in love with it,” Wiese said. “I was working full-time and it was a lot all at once. Eventually, I wasn’t able to fit everything together like I wanted to.”
When the five-year mark hit, he decided to take a break and began working at a local bar. Easy access to discounted bar food and drinks led Wiese to gain most of his weight from 2017 to 2020 — a lifestyle would lead him to weigh 323 pounds at his heaviest.
“I started to drink a lot more, eat a lot more, and it was a bar that had a lot of fried food,” he said. “It’s really easy to get into that habit when you’re off work at three, four in the morning and you have half-priced food all the time.”
In March 2020, Wiese just became the general manager of the bar. The job gave him benefits that he hadn’t received before such as health insurance.
It wasn’t until June 2020 that Wiese went in to get a physical done following the onset of COVID-19. He didn’t expect what would come next.
The doctor diagnosed him with Type 2 diabetes, at age 26, after ordering blood work and checking his A1C (blood sugar) levels.
“At first I was just shocked. With [Type 2] diabetes, people tend to blame themselves because it’s often one of those things where it’s based on your own actions. So I was very self-critical, upset, and gave myself a week or two to just be angry and let it out,” Wiese said. “After I got all the anger and frustration out, I focused on making a change.”
When the Nebraska Promise was announced, which guarantees tuition to any Nebraska resident whose household income is less than $60k, Wiese decided to go back to school at UNO and focus on himself mentally and physically at the same time. That was also when he started walking and cutting out his vices.
“At first I could only walk a couple of blocks. I was easily winded and well over 300 pounds at the time. As the months went on, I was able to walk further for longer periods of time, and by the end of it, I was walking for 2 to 2 ½ hours a day and I just couldn’t sustain that,” Wiese said. “Therefore, I switched to biking to UNO and using the rock wall.”
“At first I could only walk a couple of blocks. I was easily winded and well over 300 pounds at the time. As the months went on, I was able to walk further for longer periods of time, and by the end of it, I was walking for 2 to 2 ½ hours a day and I just couldn’t sustain that. Therefore, I switched to biking to UNO and using the rock wall.”
- Joseph Wiese
Wiese reached an incredible milestone in May 2021. Walking for five miles a day and biking to and from UNO paid off as he reached 150 pounds of weight loss.
His four brothers, in particular, were an incredible support system on his weight loss journey and they’d often accompany him on his walks up and down the Field Club Trail.
“We’d start doing laps back and forth, and they didn’t really exercise before this either, so they’d come with me on my walks and they stopped eating fried foods and carbs. They also stopped drinking around me just to get me through that initial phase,” Wiese said.
After shedding the first couple dozens of pounds people would tell Wiese that he must feel great, but he remembers feeling “like death,” feeling constantly sweaty and tired. However, after a few months of routine exercise he started feeling much better overall, in fact, better than he had felt in a long time.
Since then he started putting on more pounds in the form of muscle from rock wall climbing. He has shifted the goalpost from losing weight to maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
“When I hit that mark, I had a couple of beverages [beer] because that’s a lot of weight to come off. I got together with a bunch of friends, people who supported me through this journey, my brothers, my best friend, and we had a celebration for it,” Wiese said.
About the University of Nebraska at Omaha
Located in one of America’s best cities to live, work and learn, the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) is Nebraska’s premier metropolitan university. With more than 15,000 students enrolled in 200-plus programs of study, UNO is recognized nationally for its online education, graduate education, military friendliness and community engagement efforts. Founded in 1908, UNO has served learners of all backgrounds for more than 100 years and is dedicated to another century of excellence both in the classroom and in the community.