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At 430 pounds, he was too big to go on the ride.
“There’s nothing worse — it’s called the ‘walk of shame,’” said Ream, 35, who works for a digital advertising company in Dayton, Ohio.
“It’s a terrible feeling when that little green light doesn’t come on to show that you’re buckled in,” he said. “Everyone is looking at you as you have to climb out of the car and walk away. To know that you’ve become so overweight that you can’t ride a roller coaster is painful and humiliating.”
Ream, a card-carrying member of American Coaster Enthusiasts who until then had ridden nearly 300 roller coasters around the country, was so embarrassed by the experience that he gave up his passion, he said.
Then last August, he learned that his favorite coaster manufacturer, Bolliger & Mabillard, was building a “giga coaster” — one of only a handful of full-circuit coasters between 300 and 399 feet tall around the world.
Named the Orion, the coaster would be located at Kings Island amusement park in Mason, Ohio, just 30 miles from Ream’s home in Dayton.
At that moment, said Ream, he made a decision: He was going to lose enough weight to safely buckle up and ride the Orion when it opened.
In less than 11 months, Ream lost 195 pounds by limiting himself to 2,000 calories a day, eating more fruit and vegetables and jogging in place in his garage while watching television.
He wrote an essay in the Dayton Daily News about the inspiration for his weight loss.
The essay began, “When people ask me how I did it, they usually think I’ll respond with Keto, Atkins, Paleo or even surgery. They’re wrong. My answer: Orion.”
Kings Island invited him to ride the Orion as many times as he liked on the park’s media day, one day before it opened to the public.
On July 1, weighing 240 pounds, he sat down in the car of the Orion and buckled in, overjoyed that he fit in the safety restraint. He finally took the 300-foot drop on his dream roller coaster.
“When I pulled down the lap restraint and heard it click, I couldn’t stop smiling,” he said. “And I even had room to spare. It was an incredible feeling — all of that hard work had paid off.”
Chad Showalter, director of communications for Kings Island, called Jared’s weight loss journey “nothing short of amazing.”
“Orion’s first 300-foot drop makes it only the seventh giga coaster on the planet,” he said, “which is a pretty incredible way to celebrate such an accomplishment.”
At 6 feet 9 inches, Ream has always been a large man, he said, but it wasn’t until he took a desk job in digital advertising in 2015 that he started gaining a lot of weight.
“It was a lack of caring, a lack of exercise,” he said. “I’d come home, watch TV and eat whatever I wanted instead of doing something healthy.”
As the months passed, his eating became more problematic.
“When I could no longer ride roller coasters — something I’m passionate about — that made it worse,” he said. “I’d feel sad about it and eat a piece of cake.”
Ream’s love of roller coasters goes back to the day he learned he met the height requirement as a boy on a trip to Kings Island with his parents and three older brothers.
“I love everything about them — the speed, the height, the thrill, the views,” he said. “I’ve never been a screamer, though. More than anything, I find roller coasters relaxing. I just sit back and let them take me where they want to go.”
For years, he had gone out of his way to ride the fastest, smoothest and steepest coasters in the country, timing summer business trips to hit a park or two before coming home.
When that came to an end because of his weight gain, Ream said he felt defeated.
“I figured that I’d never get back that passion again,” he said. “I had no motivation.”
But last summer when he heard about the new Orion coaster, everything changed.
“To be honest, I don’t know if I’d have been able to do this if they hadn’t announced that roller coaster,” he said.
He gave himself less than a year to lose the weight.
Besides exercising and cutting calories, Ream said he limited his eating to two meals and one snack a day between the hours of 11 a.m. and 6 p.m.
“I also got more sleep,” he said. “The more sleeping I did, the less time I had to eat.”
The weight quickly began to drop off, and Ream was soon losing about 22 pounds a month, he said.
In less than a year, he went down 18 sizes and now wears pants in a size 36, down from 54.
Still, on the day when it mattered, he felt a little nervous about passing the “green light” test to ride the Orion. When he did, it made all his hard work worth it.
“That first 300-foot drop was really something,” he said.
Ream rode the 91-mile-per-hour Orion four times that day and plans to return for another spin around the track every chance he gets.
“It’s my happy place,” he said. “You can’t see me smiling because of my face mask, but believe me, I am. And if I can now help inspire somebody else to lose weight and also be able to see that green light, then I know it’s all been worthwhile.”