Ed Taylor's life took an unexpected turn during the 2003 holiday season.

Ed Taylor's life took an unexpected turn during the 2003 holiday season. A friend who was slated to play Santa Claus at a two-day Ashland Springs Hotel event got sick and asked Taylor whether he would consider filling in.

"That was so much fun!" he told his wife, Lori.

He hasn't been the same since.

The next year, Taylor played Santa in Christmas parades in Ashland and Jacksonville. At more than 300 pounds, he fit the picture, he said. He was fun-loving, a man who had found a satisfying business helping people, and determined to eat as he pleased.

For years Taylor was of two minds about his excess weight. He had recognized the need to lose weight "dozens of times over decades," but had tried many well-known diets and failed.

The weight caused him problems, he said, including sleep apnea that eventually required him to perch fitfully in a chair all night for almost three years.

On one of his numerous websites (askedtaylor.com), Taylor describes how worried his wife and family had become about his nodding off while driving. Lori also thought his weight was making him mentally slow, and that his business — speaker promotion and Internet marketing — had started to suffer.

Despite all this, Taylor said, he was not motivated to change his ways. He was "fat and happy," he said.

Being a fat guy with a white beard wasn't a problem for Santa, after all. His wife often joined him as Mrs. Claus.

By 2007 Taylor had reached an apex of 324 pounds, and he still wasn't dieting or exercising. But he had been doing some serious soul searching.

In what he refers to as his "awakening" of the next several years, he revolutionized his outlook, lost a whopping 110 pounds, and wrote an e-book about it all called "It Was All In My Head," later changed to "The HALO Method" (see thehalomethod.com).

He began to identify "limiting beliefs," ideas that were holding him back, and started working to change them. In the process, he discovered a previously untapped spirituality that became the center of his renewed life.

Where health problems had not been motivation enough, Taylor finally found potent reasons to change his game plan: responsibility to set a better example for other family members, who were also gaining more weight; and a responsibility to himself to keep the "human body in good condition so we can get the most spiritually out of our human experience."

The story of his personal transformation emphasizes examining core beliefs and understanding the power of thought, all of which he said led him to a deeper, more satisfying life. Weight loss, or anything else desired that is congruent with "living true," Taylor said, will follow once the inner work has been done.

Dieting fails most of the time, he believes, because one's powerful underlying beliefs and thoughts have not been addressed, and as needed, changed.

Taylor realized that setting goals and the use of willpower are foreign to this method.

"You know what to do, you know what not to do," he said. "Do more of what you should, and less of what you shouldn't.

"Live true to what your beliefs are, live true to what your values are."

Although he now needs extra padding for his appearances in the red suit, Santa Ed Taylor has experienced a setback. After writing his book and maintaining his lowest weight for about 15 months, he gained back 40 pounds.

"I started going back to old habits," he admitted. "I started looking outside of myself for things."

So for the New Year, Santa Ed, like so many other Americans, plans to drop the extra weight.

It's all in his head.

David Chuse is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at dgchuse@email.com.