Firefighter, father, First In Family: Joseph Blackwelder


The only thing I didn't expect was the legitimate problem of having to buy new clothes. I had never been smaller than a 34 since high school. When I reached 32, not only did nothing fit me, it was very difficult to fake it till I had a chance to buy new clothes. I was swimming in my work pants. I was totally not expecting the change to happen so quick.”

Tell us a little bit about yourself... ​

Hey, I am Joseph Blackwelder, originally from Orlando, FL, but live and work in Tampa.

My day job is serving the residents of Hillsborough County as a Lieutenant with the fire department.

My better half Jessica is also apart of First In as well. 

What brought you to the First In Family initially?

My initial exposure to First In was my coach Steve and observing his eating habits at Lunch/Dinner while at the fire department. Watching the weighing of literally everything and tracking what was on his plate.

At the time, it seemed ludicrous to have that level of tracking of your daily intake. When asked, he would explain it in general terms, always referring me to the group if I was serious about it and give them a ring.

So that went on for a bit while I was at the station, but eventually I moved on from that house and on to other places around the county, which is expected.

But each station I went to, I would come across people whom has had success with First In and noticed a drastic change in their appearance. 

Tell us a little bit about your background and history with food.

I had a very love/hate relationship with food. Within the past couple of years, I found out I hate a gluten allergy. So that transition was interesting at best. It’s in a ton more things that you would never know existed.

Afterwards, my diet consisted of sushi and tacos. In my mind I though sushi was healthy. You know…Fish and rice, right? So I was eating a ton of rice. On top of all this my eating patterns were inconsistent at best.

Coming from work where you eat when the day lets you, to home where bored eating was the plan of the day. So some days I would eat 600 calories, when I legitimately forgot to eat because I was so busy, to other days snacking every 15 minutes and those snacks add up.

The funny part of all that was I was not gaining or losing much weight. I was consistently inconsistent, so I sort of evened out in the wash.

That’s not to say I didn’t have decent swings in the scale though. This sort of lead to the thinking I was doing ok with eating because I wasn’t gaining weight fast enough to notice it day by day, but it was starting to creep up. 

What was the turning point in your life when you realized you needed to make a change?

After seeing at the people that First In had helped and realizing that if this many people can have a positive change within a reasonable time frame, that I could accomplish that as well.

Plus by making an initial investment into the program, I knew it would help keep me motivated and accountable due to all the resources I put in. 

What was the journey like and what changes did you make?

Oh my. Umm, my initially transition was rough at first. There was a ton of shock and awe.

I was all excited to take my new found app and start scanning “ALL THE THINGS” and start my new journey. Come to find out all the things I was eating were way too dense for the amount I was eating.

Lots of sadness after finding the calorie counts of rice, peanut butter, potatoes, and other things I have some to love. I was very lost at this point of how to move forward. After a ton of googling, I started finding all the low calorie foods, macro isolated foods, and alternative ways to get the flavors I like.

After a while it turned into to a game trying to make the “triple zeros” happen. I finally found my food staples and towards the end managing some of those higher calorie foods into my plan because I was able to make them fit. 

How do you feel after making those changes?

I felt very empowered about what I was eating and that I didn’t have to feel guilty about all the ice cream I had planned for the day.

Physically, It was other people that noticed the change. People at work were consistently complimenting me on my progress. Even people I haven’t seen in a while.

The only thing I didn’t expect was the legitimate problem of having to buy new clothes. I was only expecting to lose 2 pants sizes. I had never been smaller than a 34 since high school.

When I reached 32, not only did nothing fit me, it was very difficult to fake it till I had a chance to buy new clothes. I was swimming in my work pants.

This process happened over 4 months. I was totally not expecting the change to happen so quick. 

What did your friends/family think of your transformation?

I was lucky to have someone that was eating in a similar fashion. Not having that temptation of poor choices really helped.

We essentially cleaned out the pantry and filled it with things that were on plan. Out of sight, out of mind plays a big role for me. I can’t have it in the house or I’ll find a way to justify to eat it.

We motivated each other with the progress we were both making.

Were you active or did you workout during your journey?

I am moderately active with my job and home life, but I am by no means a gym rat.

What does being First In mean to you?

I am First In by my commitment to process, consistency in my program, and my willingness to help others do the same.

Where do you think you'd be right now had you not joined the First In Family?

What was the biggest challenge or change when you started with First In and how did you overcome it?

Biggest challenge was reaching my plateau. I had lost 30 pounds, felt great, but got to a point I wasn’t losing anymore weight.

Feeling the mission accomplished vibe, but still had more progress to go on my body composition. It was hard to stay consistent when nothing was moving. It took a bit, but it was a shift in thinking I had to do.

Correlating progress with visual change and not just scale movement.

I have recently finished with my initial 24 weeks and have been on my own for a couple of months.

My goal has been to take all this new found food enlightenment and continue making good choices even when no one is watching and see how that goes.

I know I can always jump back on if I get too far from the wagon. 

What are your top 5 "secrets" for success?

1- Have a plan before going to the store. You can always adjust numbers on the fly in your app if your favorite food isn’t available or you want to try something different. The scan feature is your friend.

2- Always prep at least the day before. Knowing all the calories you have available makes it super easy not to stray or miscalculate.

3- Use the community for answers. Everyone has been through a similar situation and has found a way to overcome it. No sense in reinventing the wheel.

4- Invest in a decent set of food containers if you don’t have them. They are a life saver when your away and have to bring your food.

5- Still eat the foods you love, but now within your plan. Some might have to come later, but eating things that are familiar will help keep you consistent.


Any advice for someone thinking about getting started?

I tell people this isn’t a diet, it’s more food enlightenment. To show you what you’re eating and how many calories you are actually putting in your body.

You’ll be surprised by what you learn and can find out by tracking what you’re eating for the first time.

On top of that you’re not restricted from eating anything. You can eat chili dogs, T.V. dinners, or donuts, as long as it fits in the plan.

Take your time, fit the foods you like, trust the process, and let the progress happen. 


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    Testimonials were given freely and service members did not receive any preferential treatment, discount, or other benefit due to the nature of their service, rank, or position and in no way are the views or beliefs of any branch of the armed forces or uniformed services.