Beards Behind the Brand: Jonathan Holbrook

beards behind the brand     
Ben York |

This is a brand new content series called Beards Behind the Brand! Our goal with this new series is to feature empowering stories from our community to encourage and inspire each other to be the best we can be.  

It's all about doing better every single day, and these stories unite us in that mission. This week we're featuring Live Bearded Brotherhood Member Jonathan Holbrook and one of the most inspiring body and health transformations that we've ever seen.  

When a life-changing moment presents itself - and it will - you have two options.

Define it… or let it define you. 

And make no mistake about it; you absolutely have a choice in the matter.  

“I remember that moment in my life vividly,” Jonathan Holbrook recalled. “I was a truck driver at the time. All of a sudden, it felt like my feet were starting to tingle. As if there were needles in my boots. I did a quick Google search of my symptoms, which said that I could possibly have diabetes. I made a doctor’s appointment and, sure enough, my diagnosis came back as type 2. I weighed almost 370 pounds.”

This was Jonathan’s defining moment. A literal life or death situation.

Yet before revealing what Jonathan chose to do, it’s important to know how he got to this point. 

“Ever since I was a kid, I loved movies,” he said. “I always wanted to be an actor. When I grew into my teens, I definitely met my calling as a creator as I would write stories, do photography, draw, and was a cartoonist for the paper.”

Jonathan graduated high school in 1987 and was trying to find himself as an artist - an incredibly frustrating process. That is, until he came across a film by David Lynch called, “Blue Velvet.” 

“That's when I decided to become an independent filmmaker as I could combine my writing camera skills,” he said. “I have been an independent filmmaker ever since and have produced two full-length feature films that were picked up by distributors. Both are horror/thrillers entitled ‘Tall Men’ and ‘Beloved Beast.’”

Jonathan got married in 1996 to a medical professional who supported his creativity through both the good and bad times. In 2000, he opened up a multimedia business providing video production and video workstation integration. But in 2005, not long after having a beautiful daughter, the economy impacted Jonathan on a personal and professional level. 

“I kept my business afloat for a while,” he said. “But in 2013 I decided to shut it down. I had put myself in too much debt by trying to make it survive through credit cards. Having a failing business, I realized that I needed to help support the family so I went back into the regular workforce.”

Ultimately, this decision would be the catalyst toward the most difficult journey of his life. Having always been his own boss, answering to someone else didn’t exactly come natural. Additionally, his former wife was forced to pull them out of all their financial debt from the risks they took to help Jonathan’s business thrive. 

That unrelenting stress, coupled with a knee accident, led to Jonathan gaining a significant amount of weight.

The weight gain led to depression… depression to a lack of self-worth.

“I felt like a loser,” Jonathan said. “To be fair, my wife tried to support me but I guess resentment got the best of us. The final few years of our marriage was loveless. I did try really hard to make up for everything, but it was too late.”

With no means of income, Jonathan began driving for a construction company to make ends meet. 

“I gained more and more weight,” he said. “All I was doing was sitting in a truck as I ate junk food and drank four Slurpees a day. When I got home, I would drink a couple glasses of Scotch and fall asleep in front of the TV.” 

Which leads us back to his defining moment. 

In the truck. 

Feet tingling. 

Three-hundred and seventy pounds. 

Facing the realization of a chronic illness. 

“I have always been an all or nothing guy,” he said. “So I changed my eating habits and started to exercise. I completely cut myself off from sugar and immediately lost 20 pounds. I joined a gym and started doing cardio and strength training for the next year and a half. I also grew out my beard which was liberating! Having a beard has been a great participant in my reinvention and new lifestyle which I have always wanted. I started feeling like a man again.”

To date, Jonathan has lost nearly 100 pounds and is in the best shape of his life. Although the road to this point was filled with peaks and valleys, he often thinks back on that moment sitting in his truck when he made the most important decision of his life.  

He embodied the Live Bearded creed to do better every day, to learn from our mistakes, grow through our failures, and strive to be the best we can be.

And he’s never been happier.

“I’m 51-years-old, healthy, and have a great relationship with my daughter,” he said proudly. “I met my new queen, Melanie, who has shown me an incredible amount of love and care. It takes a remarkable amount of courage to make that leap to make your life the way it should be.

“But trust me; it’s worth it.”

At Live Bearded we believe Brotherhood goes beyond the beard. We believe it is our responsibility, as men, to do better every day, to learn from our mistakes, grow through our failures, and strive to be the best we can be.

Through sharing stories of the men in the Live Bearded Brotherhood, we're continually learning and growing from each other. If you are interested in being considered for a Beards Behind the Brand story, send us an email!