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Name: Justin Willoughby
Before Weight: 799 pounds
How I Gained It: I consumed an abundance of anything and everything. I loved hot dogs and soups. I also ate a bunch of bread and pretzels. I didn't eat much junk, just an abundance of food. I would eat bowl upon bowl of pasta.
I was addicted to food. I liked how it made me feel when I ate it. I got lost in it. It then became a habit. I longed for it, and sometimes that is all I could think about. It helped me manage all of my emotions. It also helped me cope with anxiety and panic attacks.
Breaking Point: In August 2003, I was lying in a hospital bed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The doctors pretty much told me I needed to lose weight, or I might die. I was only 16! I felt overwhelmed, but I decided to take one day at a time. I didn't know if I would live or die. I just knew that I had to focus on the day I was living. I had a “lose weight or die trying” mentality.
How I Lost It: My exercise started with just standing up and sitting back down at first. I remember my legs were sore from standing. I couldn't wait to sit back down. I also felt like I accomplished something every time I completed a few minutes of standing. I then began taking more steps each day. After about a month, I started my journey to walk one mile. It took me 33 days to be able to complete a one-mile walk. I began going to a rehabilitation exercise therapy program at my local hospital. They would have me do 15 to 20 minutes on a treadmill and moderate strength training as well. I dropped some weight in that program and decided to branch off on my own. I joined my local YMCA and started walking for 45 to 60 minutes, five to six days per week. I then incorporated weight training on my own as well. I worked my way up to doing other cardiovascular machines. I began trying the elliptical, stair-climber and others. I eventually got to the point where I ran my first 5K.
I read about portion control on the Internet. It was difficult for me to get, as I enjoyed food way too much. I went from eating white breads, processed meats, and other high-fat, high-sugar foods to more natural foods, like egg whites, whole-grain breads, whole-grain cereals, milk, cheese, fruits and vegetables. I am on a one-year journey to not eat any sweets, and I am doing great! I started January 1, and I have not consumed any sweet junk food since.
Now, I spend about an hour and a half at the gym doing one hour of cardio and 30 minutes of strength training. There are some days where I do an hour and a half of straight cardiovascular activity. I still consume food, but it doesn't consume me. It's been 11 years, and I am thriving in life. I am on a mission to make a difference in the lives of others who struggle with addiction, too, through public speaking and my website.
After Weight: At my lowest, I was 207 pounds. Now, I weigh 235 after lifting weights more.
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As told to Sarah Klein