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Exercise and healthy diet choices pay off for NS employee

August 2017

Keith Farmer, pictured before and after he made changes leading to a healthier lifestyle.


Through WellNS, Norfolk Southern’s voluntary employee wellness program, employees across the railroad’s 22-state operating territory are taking steps to improve their health and fitness. During 2017, BizNS is featuring WellNS Champions, employees who are getting active and eating healthier – and inspiring co-workers as they do.

Weight loss turns NS electrician into a running man

Three years after topping the scales at nearly 300 pounds and barely able to walk a mile, Keith Farmer is training for a 200-mile relay race through the hills of Tennessee.

The relay race, the Reebok Ragnar Tennessee, kicks off March 23, 2018, on the banks of the Tennessee River in Chattanooga and ends the next day at Nashville’s Music City Walk of Fame. Farmer plans to run 18.5 miles over three legs of the race as part of a 12-person team.

“It’s a challenge, and I’m looking forward to it,” said Farmer, an electrician in Norfolk Southern’s Chattanooga Diesel Shop.

Since January 2015, Farmer has dropped 90 pounds. Memories of his father’s struggles with weight-related health issues, combined with his increasing girth and overall lethargy, convinced Farmer to make changes.

“I was miserable,” he recalled. “I couldn’t sleep, and I had no energy.”

Finding the tools to lose weight

Farmer joined Weight Watchers after learning that Norfolk Southern employees and spouses, through the company’s WellNS program, are eligible for reduced rates on meetings and products. Farmer initially shed weight fairly rapidly but then reached a plateau. “I hit a wall after dropping 50 pounds,” he recalled.

Advised to exercise, Farmer began walking, although completing a mile was an arduous task when he first started. “I gradually built myself up and started running with a group and got hooked.” With his running mates, Farmer participated in a 5k, followed by the Soldiers Marathon in Columbus, Ga., which he completed in four hours and 44 minutes. 

Along with exercise, Farmer now makes healthier food choices. He’s added more fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and fish to his diet.

“This is the longest I’ve ever kept weight off,” he said. “I went from 286 pounds to 196 pounds and gained muscle. Once my mind was set to it, I was able to do it.”

Farmer credits Weight Watchers with giving him the tools to lose weight and the mindset to maintain it. Knowing portion sizes is vital to weight loss, he added.

“You don’t have to quit eating your favorite foods, but Weight Watchers gives you choices and teaches you portion size,” he said. “It gradually trains your mind to say, ‘Hey, I really don’t need that,’ or ‘Just get a small piece of cake.’”

With his weight now below 200 pounds and muscle replacing fat, Farmer is enjoying his improved lifestyle.

“I sleep better and have more energy, and,” he said, “I can tie my shoes without holding my breath.”