By Eun Kyung Kim, TODAY contributor
The overweight child star of a controversial Nike ad that aired during the 2012 Summer Olympics has shed 32 pounds in the past six months, and credits in part the ad titled “Greatness” that made him famous.
“I would never have changed my lifestyle if I was never in this commercial,” Nathan Sorrell told TODAY’s Savannah Guthrie on Thursday. “That’s not the only reason, but that really did help.”
Now 13, Nathan was 5 feet tall and weighed 232 pounds last year when he shot the ad, which showed him slowly jogging down a country road, panting and sweating heavily, while a voiceover declared: “Greatness is no more unique to us than breathing. We’re all capable of it. All of us.”
Nathan started working with a personal trainer and a nutritionist after shooting the commercial, which has been viewed more than 1.6 million times on YouTube. Although most people found the ad inspirational, some criticized the spot as exploitative. The ad exposed Nathan and his family to criticism, but he took it in stride.
“I’m starting to learn, even if somebody completely physically fit did that commercial, they would still get, as they say, haters,” he told TODAY last August.
More important than the critics were the supporters who rallied around Nathan after seeing the ad, and supported his weight-loss efforts.
“All of a sudden, they were just helping me,” he said.
Nathan’s mother noticed her son’s confidence and energy increased as his weight dropped.
“It’s wonderful to see him be able to enjoy the things he loves, like basketball. Keep up with his friends without being so tired all the time,” Monica Sorrell said.
In an email, Sorrell told TODAY.com that she struggled for years to try to teach Nathan to make good food choices and be more active, but she’s realized they couldn’t do it alone. In the past six months, her entire family has changed its habits: grocery shopping differently, preparing healthier meals and finding time to get Nathan to numerous personal training sessions.
“Yes, there are days we do not want to stick to the plan. It’s just easier, cheaper and quicker to order a pizza with our busy lives and everyone is happy,” she wrote. “However, with the help, support and encouragement from our ‘little army,’ Nathan is having great success! We have learned to set short, reasonable goals and reward him with something other than food.”
Birthdays used to mean store-bought ice cream cakes loaded with sugar; now, Monica Sorrell says, she bakes her own with egg whites and applesauce. They’re all making time to eat a healthy breakfast and exercise daily, even if it’s just a walk around the neighborhood.
Nathan told he recently went out to dinner at Bob Evans and made different choices than ones he would gone with six months ago.
“I got a turkey sandwich. Usually that would be a double hamburger, cheese and all that bad stuff,” he said. He also opted for a side of fruit. “Usually, it would be fries. Just stuff like that. Just little changes but that’s obviously carrying me 32 pounds less.”
Nathan, who hopes to drop another 30 pounds in the next six months, said he still doesn’t like running but he loves playing basketball — so much so that his trainer makes it a reward at the end of each workout.
“I still can’t believe that was me then, and this is me now,” he said. “It just looks a lot different.”