The Best Years of My Life
I am sure I am not the only person who dreamed about their future. I can remember thinking about marriage, kids, starting a family. I saw all of these in my future, I saw these by the time I was 25 years old. Well there I was graduating high school, getting ready for college. I was in decent shape, excited to start a new chapter in my life. These were going to be some of the best years of my life. I was moving out of my parents house, going out on my own. I was free, free to make my own choices, live the life I had dreamed about.
Well, I might have gotten a little caught up in that “college life”. I was that broke college kid who spent all of his extra money on partying and junk food. Yes, I would go work out some, but I was only worried about one thing: having fun while meeting new people. Next thing I know, I am 25 years old, supposed to be happily married, starting a family, and enjoying life. But there I was in a job I didn’t like, close to 600 lbs, single, living at my parent’s house and unhappy. This was the total opposite of where I wanted to be. It was like one day I just woke up and was over 300 lbs heavier than when I graduated high school. I was oblivious to what I was doing to myself.
I would spend my days sleeping and working. I would wake up in the morning and dread getting out of bed. It was a daily struggle getting ready for work. Showering, getting dressed, just those daily activities were hard; I would be worn out, out of breath, etc. I would go to work, and be lucky if I didn’t fall asleep at my desk, leave for lunch and have to set an alarm because I would sleep on my lunch, then get home at 5:00 and sit on my chair dozing off until it was time for bed, then I would head to bed. This is what my life was, this is who I was now. I gave up hope of that happy future, that wife, kids, and just thought my life was going to be cut short because of what I did to myself. One thing that I was about to find out was that I was oh so wrong.
I started trying out for The Biggest Loser. I thought the only way I was going to regain my life was if I was chosen to be on a weight loss show. I tried out for seasons 9, 10, 11, and 12. It was the same each year: I just wasn’t what they were looking for. I was, however, chosen as a finalist for season 3 of Extreme Weight Loss, but in the end wasn’t chosen. It made me realize that this was MY life. No person or show is going to change it for me. A show can’t just transform someone’s life without the person wanting to change. I was finally ready for that change, I knew it was going to take a lot, but I was going to do it. I had to dig deep; I had to realize that I was so much stronger than I EVER gave me credit for.
I woke up at 4:45 am to be at the gym by 5 am, then I would work a ten hour day, then be back at the gym that night, Monday through Friday. Then on Saturdays I would wake up early, workout, and then go into work for at least 6 hours. All I was doing was working, working out, and sleeping. That was my life and I was content with it. I knew I had to make sacrifices to regain my life. The weight was falling off, and I was losing 8, 10, 15 lbs a week. There was no stopping me! Oh but wait, here it comes, that dreaded wall people talk about. I met that wall and I hit it and it hit me back.
I stopped seeing the losses on the scale. I was working my butt off, eating great, but losing NOTHING! What was happening to me? Was this my breaking point? Did I do all of this for nothing? I was so close to my one year anniversary from leaving finals week in LA, but I was at a standstill. I had to just sit back and really refocus and make sure what I was doing was right, make sure I wasn’t lying to myself. Yes, I went a month and only lost 1 pound, yes it’s a loss, not a gain, but really? ONE POUND? I was so used to losing 5-10 lbs a week. I had to be real with myself, maybe I wasn’t working as hard as I could or maybe I wasn’t eating the best. So I buckled down and worked my butt off, and ate as clean as I knew how to. I stepped on the scale and BAM: 12 lbs lost! There we go. Now we are moving again.
There I was, one year from when I started and I am 233 lbs down! Yes, 233lbs down from hard work and dedication. No one dropped that weight for me, not a TV show, no one but ME! Yes, I had TONS of support; I even had a trainer take me on for free. She was incredible and pushed me so far out of my comfort zone I forgot what my comfort zone was! The thing is, if you asked her she would even tell you, all she does is give the support, tools, and motivation to succeed. It is up to the person to do the work. That is one of the most important things I leaned that first year was that NO ONE would do the work for me, NO ONE would eat healthy for me, I had to make the change!
When I first started my journey, I told myself I was going to take one year. Dedicate myself to working hard and focusing on ME. I then realized once that year was up, yes I made HUGE strides, but my journey was far from over. I had so much further to go and I knew I had to stay focused and stay dedicated. I was healthy at one point, and then I spiraled out of control, so I knew it can happen again. So, I kept it up, kept working out 2 times a day, 6 days a week. Now anyone who has lost a large amount of weight can relate when I say excess skin sucks! It was holding me back from going to that next level. Jumping hurt, running hurt, it was so uncomfortable, so I knew I had to do something about it. I send an email to Aspire Plastic Surgery in Fort Wayne, IN and told them my story and asked to set up a consultation. I heard back and they offered to wave the consultation fee. After meeting with the Doctor, I knew I wanted this done, but how in the world would I come up with $8,000.00? I was a broke car salesman who barely could make ends meet.
So I made my story public with social networks like Facebook (The Steele Project), Instagram (thesteeleproject22), etc. I also contacted our local newspaper, so people around my hometown knew what I was doing and knew I was looking into skin removal. I was contacted by a friend who wanted to throw a golf outing to help raise money for me, and also start a GoFundMe page. Well needless to say I was BLOWN away by the support I received. I raised 100% of the surgery costs. It was happening: a life changing surgery. In November of 2013, I went under the knife. The Doctor removed 11 lbs of skin. Going into surgery I was down to 330 lbs, a total of 250 lbs from when I started. The surgery went amazing, and I was back up and slowly working out within 6 weeks. Even though I had this surgery, I knew I still had some more to go. My ultimate goal was to be 260 lbs. You might think, “wow that is still heavy,” and it would be, but I am also 6’9”, so I feel that would be a comfortable weight for me.
In February of 2014, I was invited to The Steve Harvey Show for a Thank You part of an episode. I wanted to surprise Jakae (my trainer) and thank her for everything she did for me. The surprise went amazing. I walked out with my mom, and I was rockin’ this nice suit. This was the first time I wore dress clothes and actually felt comfortable. After the filming for the show I was on a high, but still knew the journey wasn’t over. I was beginning to realize, the journey will actually never really be over. I would have to continue on for the rest of my life.
One way I knew that I could keep myself accountable, other than making my story so public, was to become a personal trainer. This is something I wanted to do from the moment I met Chris Powell: just seeing his passion and care for other people was amazing. Then meeting Jakae and learning what she did just really confirmed in my mind that I wanted to use what I have been through to help others. This, in turn, would help keep me accountable. In April of 2014, I passed my ACSM Certified Personal Trainer exam. The best thing was that I was able to join my trainer at her gym.
I knew I had to keep setting little goals for myself, though. In the past, I had these things to work towards: filming of the Extreme Weight Loss finale, skin surgery, The Steve Harvey Show. All of these things kept me going, but here was one of the biggest goals I had. To weigh in at 279 lbs or less and be 300lbs lighter from when I first started. I really wanted to hit this by my two year anniversary. This was hard with so much going on and, well, the lighter I was getting , the harder it was to lose. I stepped on the scale in September of 2014 and broke down into tears. I weighed 276.8 lbs: I did it! Over 300 lbs lost in 2 ½ years! No surgery, no TV show, nothing but hard work, healthy lifestyle, and support from family and friends!
This brings me to now. I am happier and healthier than I have been in so long. Has it been an easy road? Not one bit; I have had many ups and downs. I have fell on numerous occasions, I’ve wanted to give up, but I have never let one of those things ever hold me down! I got back up and continued to fight. I finally realize that my life is worth so much more than I ever gave myself credit for. I realized that I had gotten myself to 579lbs, so I had no one to blame but myself. It was up to me to make that change, and that is exactly what I did. It is coming up on 3 years since I started my journey, and I have a whole new outlook on life. We are only given one life to live, and a lot of us take that for granted and sometimes sit back and let it pass us by.
Well, I have some news for you. I was that person, but now I seize every opportunity that I have and I make the most of every situation. You never know when you’ll take your last breath! I don’t want to look back and regret not taking chances, and regret holding back. I don’t want to do any of that. I am living proof that if you set your mind to something, YOU can accomplish it. YOU can, no one else will do it for you! Yes you can have help, support, or whatever else, but in the end it is YOUR life, and YOU have to change. Get up and get moving! It was the most incredible decision I have ever made. Am I where I want to be? Not totally, but I am a heck of a lot closer than I was before!
I have many goals and dreams still. I made my story public on social media, and I’ve been featured on the new, magazines, online, and even on national TV. I didn’t do any of these to get praise or a pat on the back. I did it for one reason: to show people that happiness is possible. I wanted to show people that if they really believe in themselves they can do some INCREDIBLE things! Yes, I have gotten “hate” mail, people thinking I am trying to brag about myself. I post pictures of myself, of course, but that is because I am proud of what I have done. There is no shame in being proud of yourself. More people should be proud of what they have accomplished. There are so many people stuck and that are looking for that spark: you just may be that spark! Let your success shine!
My future is bright now. I can’t wait for more opportunities, opportunities I am working my butt off to get! I am so close to my goal right now, and then I will be looking to get my final round of skin surgery. This time, I am trying to save up the money by myself. I have had people offer to help out, but it’s just something I am really trying to do on my own. Call it a pride thing or whatever. My doctor is incredible and is giving me a very hefty discount, but it is still over $8,000.00. I hope to get this procedure by the end of the year. Also, on top of working full time and training part time, I am on the beginning stages of writing a book. I want to go into detail about when I gained weight, my casting process, and deeper into my struggles while losing over 300lbs in less than 3 years!
All I can do is encourage you to get up and move, not just in weight loss, but life. Make goals, keep dreaming, and don’t stop believing in yourself and what you can accomplish. There are so many opportunities and possibilities out there. You have to go after them, and no one can or will make opportunities for you! Never stop believing in yourself and never give up. I will promise you that times will get tough, you will feel like giving up, but that moment you break through and prove to yourself that you are strong is the most incredible feeling. All of the pain, sweat, tears, etc. will all be so totally worth it!