To play Division I football, Ball State’s Cameron Lowry had to pile on 50-plus pounds. By the end of his senior season, he was feeling every one of them.
“My body was breaking down,” said Lowry, who tore two ligaments in his knees during his time as a Cardinal. “I was developing heart palpitations. … I felt terrible.”
At 300 pounds and 31 percent body fat, the 6-foot-6 offensive lineman had a huge decision to make: Did he want to keep playing football after he graduated?
“I thought about a shot at the pros but realized I cared more about my health and being in the best position to take care of myself so I could play with my kids someday.”
Three days after his last bowl game in December 2012, Lowry made use of his major in biochemistry, his workout knowledge from football and the information he’d learned from his own research to draw up a detailed nutrition and workout plan.
Five months later, the Indianapolis native accepted his diploma weighing about 50 pounds less. The number on the scale was one he hadn’t seen since he set foot on campus his freshman year.
“There’s nothing surprising about Cameron’s success,” said Dave Feeley, one of Lowry’s former strength coaches. “Once he sets his mind on something, he’s the type of guy who immediately creates a roadmap for how he’ll achieve it.”
‘That guy wasn’t the real me’
Lowry’s weight-loss roadmap is now at the fingertips of anyone who downloads his first book, “Under Construction: Building a Better Me.”
Inside is the story of the 25-year-old’s remarkable transformation, including the eating and workout plans that helped him shed a total of 75 pounds. He was inspired to write it after fielding many questions about his efforts to better his health.
“People would always ask how I’d lost the weight, and when I told them I ate right and worked out, they’d respond with ‘Hmmm, OK,’ and then move on. I realized if I wanted to give them a better answer, it needed to come in the form of this book.”
“Under Construction” takes its name from a poignant college memory for Lowry. “I’ve been a big guy my whole life, but when I played football, I’d look in the mirror and see this person covered in stretch marks who dreamed of a six-pack. I knew that guy wasn’t the real me, so I pictured an ‘Under Construction’ sign hanging over my body.”
Football gave him his education
Lowry said he has no regrets about the weight he had to gain to play for Ball State.
“I chose to do it, and I’m glad because playing football is how I got my college education. If the position I had to play was offensive lineman, that meant I had to be big to do it.”
In the years since leaving the sport, he’s kept the weight off by practicing what he preaches. “I’m a big proponent of eating the same thing, which I write about in the book. If you know the food on your plate is good for you, then keep eating it day after day.”
That advice has also stuck with former teammate Austin Holtz. Back when he and Lowry played offensive tackle, the two strapping men would try to out-eat each other. Pizza, burgers, pasta — the two ate everything, especially their favorite, buffalo chicken dip.
Nowadays a trimmer Holtz is a police officer in Indianapolis who sticks mostly to chicken and steamed vegetables. He’s one of a growing number of friends who credits Lowry for inspiring their own weight-loss journey. “Cameron is such an encouraging guy. You ask for his help, and he’s going to drop what he’s doing and give it to you.”
A bit of the old college competitiveness may also have been a factor. “Watching him lose the weight,” Holtz said, “it was like, ‘All right, now I gotta do it, too.’ ”
Helping people is what he loves
When it comes to bulking up college athletes, Feeley said football trainers and coaches do their best to encourage weight gain with healthy foods.
“You go to a training table buffet, and you’re going to see a lot of potatoes and pasta and chicken and steak. It’s not like you can give a kid 19 Snickers bars and expect him to perform the way you want him to.”
As Lowry knows, the experience can be a slippery slope. “I had to consume over 4,000 calories a day, so I ate a lot of pizza and junk food, too. Can those expectations set you up for an unhealthy path? Sure. I just chose not to let the bad habits I’d picked up define me.”
What he loves most about his weight-loss journey is how it’s become another vehicle for him to help others.
At his job for a North Carolina-based recruiting firm, he seeks out the best-qualified drug safety professionals in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries. For people asking about “Under Construction,” he offers help and encouragement hitting their goal weight.
Lowry is quick to acknowledge he’s not a certified nutritionist or fitness expert. “I’m just a guy who sat down and figured out how to do this for myself, and now I want to help others do the same.”
But Feeley said he wouldn’t rule out the possibility of one day hearing about a fitness enterprise with Lowry’s name attached.
“Cameron has that something people gravitate to. He’s so smart and confident that when he talks about what he’s been through losing weight, he makes them think, ‘Wow, maybe I can do that, too.’ It sounds like such a cliche, but he’s got ‘it,’ whatever ‘it’ is.”
Cameron Lowry’s desire to help others goes far beyond weight loss. Last year, he even offered a kidney to his ailing father, former Indianapolis Colt and current Indianapolis high school football coach Orlando Lowry, who has chronic kidney disease.
“We found out I have a genetic mutation, so I can’t do it,” Lowry said, “but my mother, Penny, was selected as the donor.”
He talked about how he wanted to help his parents after the surgery. “It’ll be the perfect time to educate them about how to eat properly,” he said. “Once my father gets his new kidney, we want to make sure it stays in top form.”
The transplant was successful, and he’s since been working with his parents.