MEDFORD — Losing nearly 60 pounds would be a major milestone for almost anybody on the path to physical transformation.
But television news anchor Larry Miller is still going the distance — literally — more than a year after embarking on a highly public weight-loss and fitness challenge.
“I didn’t think it was going to be that profound,” says the co-host of KOBI-TV’s morning show. “You can change if you really want to.”
Viewers in April saw Miller, 28, cap off six months of changing his diet and body composition by finishing Medford’s 10-mile Pear Blossom Run. When the cameras stopped rolling, though, Miller kept running.
He participated in July’s 50-kilometer Siskiyou Outback near Ashland. Less than a year after tipping the scales at 247 pounds, Miller ran the Lithia Loop Trail Marathon. He’s now “hooked” on the sport.
“He wasn’t a runner,” says Miller’s former personal trainer, Justyn Yarbrough. “Now, he’s running 50-milers.”
Of course, Miller didn’t start down that road immediately. Putting a local angle on “The Dr. Oz Show” segment, “Transformation Nation” gave Miller a professional purpose for dieting and working out.
He had fallen victim to emotional eating habits and was confronted in his mid-20s with high blood pressure and prediabetic symptoms. Attending school full time to earn his master’s degree in journalism while working full time at a Pittsburgh rape-crisis center exacerbated the situation.
“When you’re under that much stress and anxiety, you don’t make the healthiest decisions,” says Miller.
He’d been a KOBI reporter and weekend producer for more than a year when the station’s news director, Julie Akins, asked Miller to consider taking Dr. Oz’s “Transformation Nation” challenge. Miller and Akins agree this was no ploy to polish his on-air image — KOBI hired Miller based on a résumé video filmed when he was significantly overweight.
“He was concerned with his health, and because of his concern, I worried, too,” said Akins.
“I felt like this was my shot,” said Miller. “There’s a support network here ... you just kind of have to take that first step.”
KOBI unveiled Miller’s “Transformation Nation” segment in September 2011. Updates showing Miller’s weekly progress followed on the 7 p.m. newscast every Thursday through May.
“There were some moments in there I would have liked to have kept private,” he said. “I didn’t want people seeing me struggling at the gym.”
A professional ballet dancer for seven years before attending college, Miller was well-versed in weight and image issues. Supportive emails, Facebook messages and calls from KOBI viewers strengthened his resolve not to disappoint them — or himself. His broadcasts, he says, were “honest” and revealed his weaknesses and missteps.
“I owned it,” he says.
To accept himself as overweight and change his lifestyle, Miller had help from Weight Watchers, one of Dr. Oz’s project sponsors. Miller and KOBI sought a partnership with Medford’s Oz Fitness, which assigned Yarbrough to work with Miller three days per week. It was Yarbrough who suggested Miller set the Pear Blossom Run as his fitness goal, and he even agreed to run alongside.
“Once (Miller) starts something, he’s definitely 100 percent into it,” says Yarbrough.
Eventually, Yarbrough introduced Miller to CrossFit, a low-tech, high-intensity workout with a nationwide fanbase. Miller went to Medford’s The Den six days per week while following Yarbrough’s regimen at the same time.
“He got stronger; he got more endurance,” said Yarbrough.
Yet Miller’s “Transformation Nation” segments acknowledged that there’s more than one way to get in shape. He profiled local viewers who shed pounds walking and taking Zumba classes. One man was closing in on a 200-pound weight loss while another no longer needed diabetes medications.
“People were kind of divulging their stories to me,” says Miller.
He also was asked plenty of times for the secret to his success. Miller says it’s finding support, which his colleagues offered in spades, whether by skipping over his desk with the box of doughnuts or forgoing late-night food at Shari’s for taking a walk.
“My friends kind of had to change in order for me to be successful.”
Miller counts new friends among the rewards of “Transformation Nation.” In addition to Yarbrough, Miller now keeps company with local runners, including ultramarathoner Hal Koerner.
“Southern Oregon has this great running community here.”
Running 15 to 20 miles at a stretch, Miller no longer is so vigilant about portion control at mealtimes. His typical, daily workout consists of a half-hour on the stair machine at Oz, then a four- to five-mile run outside, often with a group of three friends he calls the “rat pack.” He still does CrossFit twice a week, takes a weekly ballet class at Medford Dance Arts Center and recently resumed weightlifting, which he had let slide to train for races.
“Physically, I feel amazing — more than when I danced professionally,” he says. “I’m having fun right now.”