When Losing is winning

Brian Engle sidled up to his late father’s plane, looking over the mustard-yellow two seater. 

After his dad passed away, he purchased the aircraft, hoping to realize his own dream of becoming a pilot.

But the last time he sat in the cockpit of the 1946 Piper J-3 Cub, it had been a tight fit. 

“I went and sat in it, and I could barely get in it,” Engle said. “It’s small enough also, that I wasn’t going to get a full tank of fuel and get off the ground with an instructor. So, if  I wanted to fulfill some of my lifelong dreams, I was going to have to make some changes.” 

That was six months ago.

The plane didn’t change during that time, but Engle did.

He is 53 pounds lighter, and perhaps more importantly — happier. 

The prospective pilot grabbed hold of a bar inside the aircraft and hoisted himself into the narrow cavity. 

“This is a lot different than the last time,” Engle said, with a shy smile.

And it was — he fit, with room to spare.

— Program basics —

Engle’s transformation began six months ago when he signed up for the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) at Pioneer Medical Center. The goal of the program was — and is — to teach participants the hows and whys of healthy eating and exercising over a yearlong period. During the first six months, 41 participants met with Registered Dietician Nutritionist Kelsey Proue on a weekly basis to learn about leading a healthier lifestyle and to discuss their individual weight loss challenges and victories. In the coming months, members will meet on a monthly basis working towards the program goal of 7 percent weight loss. 

Thus far, participants have lost an average of 17.6 pounds, with 59 percent shedding 15 pounds or more. 

“That’s all we’re hoping for,” Proue said. “Because we know if you can do that, that’s where you start seeing those benefits.”

For some, that means removing unhealthy foods from the home or eating out less. Others are able to recognize the signs of emotional eating or cut down on habitual snacking. The results can be life-changing.  

“I had somebody come in my office today and they said, ‘Guess what? My diabetes is gone,’” Proue said. 

But she also said that change has to start from within. 

“You have to want to change,” Proue said. “The thing that helps with that is accountability, and that’s what this class really provides.”

Throughout the program, members have tracked not only what they ate, but the nutritional values in those foods, such as fat content and calories — in addition to logging hours at the gym.

After the first week of tracking, participants collectively lost more than 100 pounds — all without adjusting their diet or exercise habits. Their loss-to-date is 721 pounds, Proue said. 

“I think why it’s really successful is because it is built on behavior change,” she said. “That’s really what it comes down to.” 


For Engle, the first two weeks of the program were difficult. Sure, he had the motivation to change, but he also had unhealthy habits to break. 

Engle bid farewell to fried foods and rib-eye steak, exchanging the latter for healthier cuts like sirloin and flat iron. He keeps healthy snacks around his office at Pioneer Meats, and even started going to the gym. 

“Exercise was the thing that really helped, and I’d never been to the gym in my entire life,” Engle said. “I forced myself to do it because I knew I had to. I finally convinced myself that I had to become healthier if I wanted to survive.”

Engle utilized The Firehouse gym membership that came with the program and dropped two pant and shirt sizes — he’s currently working on the third. 

“The pants I’m wearing now, I last wore in 1998,” he said. 

He’s also off his blood pressure and cholesterol medications. 

But the hurdles Engle overcame weren’t isolated to the weight room. For him, it was a mental game too. 

“I had it in my mind that I would never be able to lose weight,” he said. “In 1996 or ’97 I actually tried and I think I lost three pounds. I worked my ass off, but I didn’t educate myself. I didn’t know how to eat properly.”

To read the full story, pick up the Aug. 18 edition of the Pioneer or subscribe to our e-edition. Current subscribers are provided complimentary access to the e-edition with registration.

Story and photos by Mackenzie Reiss / Pioneer Staff Writer

CUTLINE: Brian Engle stands beside his late father’s plane, affectionately known as the yellow beater, in early August at Big Timber Airport. After six months in the Big Timber Diabetes Prevention Program, Engle was able to comfortably sit in the aircraft.