LAKE ORION, Mich. (FOX 2) - He's a beloved high school coach who brings the best out in students but knew he needed to work on himself - so the teacher is now the student.
Everyone calls Eric Jennings "Coach E." He is a fixture of Lake Orion sports as a coach, volunteer and all-around good guy. But recently we've noticed something is different.
"Since Dec. 1 I have lost 56 pounds," he said. "I am in shock. I do have a lot to lose, obviously."
How? His lunch salad says it all. After years of struggling with his weight and health, Jennings has gotten support from a health coach, who has completely altered the way he eats.
"I almost 100-percent plant-based, I have not had any alcohol," he said. "And anyone who knows me, will say I am the Diet Pepsi king. I have had no soda since the first of December."
For those who know him, this is remarkable.
FOX 2: "Would you be surprised to know that Coach E is eating Tofu?"
"I would have never guessed he was eating Tofu," said Sam Parillo, a Lake Orion HS senior. "I'm very proud of Coach E, he's one of my favorite people at the high school."
When he's not coaching, E sits at desk-working a sedentary day job. And he's the first to admit, he fell into some bad eating habits.
"I love pizza, pastas," he said. "You put a lasagna down in front of me and everybody better get out of the way."
His real weight struggle started in 2000 when a lengthy treatment for advanced cancer caused him to pack on the pounds.
But as E encourages kids to be their best, he realized he too, had some work to do. And people are noticing.
"We love him, he loves the football team, he loves all of us, we appreciate what he does for us," said Josh Wuensch, Lake Orion senior.
But there is no more pizza in the picture. Now he's enjoying his favorite foods differently.
"What I do now is take a corn tortilla, I will crisp it up in a little olive oil, now I can put some veggies, a little marinara sauce, some cheese or feta on it, and there's my pizza," said Jennings.
With food prep and planning, those decisions are getting easier. The goal is to stick with lots of vegetables, healthy proteins and the right-sized portions.
The end goal is not a number to get to, pound-wise," Coach E said. "My end goal is to get off blood pressure medicine. If I can get off that, whatever I weigh is what I weigh. Whatever it takes."
"Coach E, everything he does, he does with a passion," said Drew Van Heck, Lake Orion HS junior “I'm really proud of him."
Coach E is now down 65 pounds and used to struggle with stairs and sometimes even walking. We hope to follow his progress with his heart healthy journey.