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Brian: Losing 365 Pounds & Getting My Life Back

My Story

As of August 2012, I was at the heaviest I’d ever been—625lbs. I was an alcoholic (drank around a fifth of vodka mixed with a liter of pop every night) and was addicted to fast food. I am 6’2″ and was still able to walk around (with a good deal of difficulty). My parents had no idea how bad it had gotten because I kept it a secret. I was dealing with depression as well and ended up dropping out of college. I have had a recurring cellulitis infection in my legs and was also borderline diabetic. I also had very high blood pressure that was not being controlled at all.

My typical fast food meal was a double cheese burger with a large pop and large fries. That usually wasn’t enough, so I would have chicken nuggets with it as well. I also ate Arby’s frequently. Large roast beef sandwich, large curly fries and drink, and a side of mozzarella sticks. I ate fast food every day. I look back now and estimate that I was consuming around 4000 to 5000 calories per day.

My 365 Pound Weight Loss Story

I also sat around all day playing video games. I typically played for four to five hours per day along with watching TV. It seemed to be a good distraction to pass the time between meals and drinking binges. Sometime around August of that year, I began playing Draw Something on my tablet. I picked a random match with a woman named Jackie who lived in London, England. We got along quite well despite my depression and frequent mood changes due to alcoholism. I was immediately attracted to her. In October 2012, my mother had to have her left leg partially amputated below the knee. It turns out that she had infections in her legs that weren’t healing properly due to poor blood flow and she was not taking care of them. She had let it go to the point where it was inoperable and had to be amputated. I, of course, used this as an excuse to drink more and sink deeper into my depression. I knew that I was going down the same road as my mother.

My 365lb Weight Loss Story

By this point, Jackie and I had grown to be very good friends. I was expecting sympathy from her, but what I got surprised me. She was angry with me. She told me that I was wasting my life and that I should be ashamed that I was throwing it away when there are so many people out there who are fighting to stay alive. Jackie has myotonic muscular dystrophy and has to stay very healthy in order to keep her symptoms in check. She seemed to be losing patience with me, and I was afraid I was going to lose her. Soon after that, I decided to quit drinking. I quit cold-turkey. It was quite difficult for me, and I did suffer withdrawals for the first few days. I ran through the full gamut of emotions during this period. I felt self pity mostly, some desperation, and also anger. I was angry at the world. I was angry at the way my life turned out. I was angry that I never did anything about it. I was also angry that I was 30 years old and had basically wasted a decade of my life.

Starting to Lose Weight

After a few weeks, I started feeling better. After a month or so, I began to feel changes in my body, it seemed like I was beginning to lose weight. I had no idea how much weight I was losing as there were no scales that could weigh me. The only time I had weighed myself at my heaviest was when I was in the hospital with a cellulitis infection. They had to bring a special scale in for me. In December of that year, I decided to buy a scale (one of the only ones that I could find that measured above 500lbs). I was 525lbs when I weighed myself. 100lbs had somehow evaporated off of me. This was enough to get me hooked.

 I was 525lbs when I weighed myself. 100lbs had somehow evaporated off of me. This was enough to get me hooked.

I started a daily exercise routine in which I woke up five minutes early every day and ran in place at home. I did this every morning without exception. I found that I was becoming addicted to exercise. I gradually added minutes to my routine until soon I was running in place for an entire hour. I also incorporated “half-jumping jacks,” in which I would lunge to one side and raise my arms, then lunge to the other side and repeat. These exercises were good for me because I had a lot of anxiety about going out in public. Jackie had once told me that I would take to exercise ‘like a fish to water.’ She was absolutely right.

The endorphins I got from exercising were addictive. They made me feel alive for the first time in years! [tweet this]

I eventually worked up the nerve to start walking outside. This was a huge step for me. I had to get over the anxiety of worrying about what people thought of me as they saw me walk by. I started walking around my subdivision, only to the end of the street at first. I found that walking on pavement was a bit harder on my knees than jogging on carpet at home. It was a bit painful at first, but I just took it easy at first.

A week later, I completed my first mile. The snowball was now rolling downhill and couldn’t be stopped. I was making progress and feeling results. Other parts of my life were progressing as well—I landed a full-time job.

I soon found myself waking up at 5AM to go for walks before work. I started using Runkeeper to track my progress.  The walks got longer and longer until I was walking five to seven miles every morning and was waking up as early as 3AM. It had turned into a bit of an obsession, but I could think of worse things to be obsessed with. At this point I had become comfortable with pushing myself. I was also walking laps around my office before work every day. At first, my coworkers somewhat ridiculed me, but I just kept at it. I started setting goals, eventually working up to walking seven, eight, then 10 miles.

My 365lb Weight Loss Story

On July 28, 2013, I walked my first half-marathon. It was a Saturday morning and I woke up at 5AM (sleeping in for me!). It took me just over four hours to complete, but I did it without stopping. I mapped out my route and made sure that my furthest point was about five miles from the start, so I knew that when I hit that halfway point, I would have to walk back! I was in a good deal of pain, but it didn’t matter to me. It was a milestone, and I was determined to hit it. I had Jackie on my phone through Skype to help push me through some of the difficult parts. She was always a huge support to me. Shortly after that, I decided to dust off my father’s old mountain bike and go for a ride. I was around 400lbs at this point. Again, I had to deal with the anxiety of riding in public. I was afraid that everyone would be staring at me. I dealt with this by cycling early in the morning until I was comfortable enough to do it during the day. It seemed that I had developed a new addiction—cycling!

The best part about cycling was that I was able to incorporate it into my daily commute to work. It is a 22 mile commute, so what I did was drive half way, then cycle in 11 miles each way. I did this every day with the exception of rainy days (though sometimes I got caught in the rain anyways!). Eventually, I got to the point where every Friday, I cycled the entire distance—44 miles round trip.

Ready to Try Running

By the time I got down to around 300lbs, I felt that I was ready to try running. I knew that eventually I wanted to run a 5k, and that I had to do some kind of training program to get to that goal. I decided to try an interval training app on my phone. It seemed to work very well for me. It was a nine-week program that I had to condense down to six weeks (I had signed up for a 5k—the Detroit Turkey Trot). In the middle of this, I had a bit of a setback—I came down with a cellulitis infection and was hospitalized for three days on I.V. antibiotics. I struggled a bit with this more mentally than physically. I felt the self-pitying side coming back.

After all of this progress, I let a cellulitis infection make me feel defeated. Once I got out of the hospital, I realized that I had to make up for the lost time, so I was even more driven to reach my goal in time. By the time the 5k happened, I was down to 280lbs and was running at 14 minutes per mile (not very fast, but at least I could run the entire 5k without stopping). Now I am at 11 minutes per mile and am striving to get under 10! I have in recent months had to purchase a gym membership because the weather has been especially bad this year. I generally despise treadmills, they give me motion sickness, so my running has been put on hold until it gets a bit warmer out! I like using the elliptical machines and static bikes for cardio.

2013-12-28 17.19.12

In December, I finally ended up going to London to meet Jackie. I spent two weeks over there with a trip to Paris as well. I loved every minute of it. Jackie is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I feel that she saved my life, even though she would never take credit!  We even climbed the Eiffel Tower.  I can check that off of my bucket list!

Today, I am down to 260lbs. I went to see a plastic surgeon this past Monday. It turns out that I have a hernia near my belly button. They say that insurance will cover skin removal just on the front of my stomach as well as fix the hernia. They will remove around 30lbs of skin. I haven’t scheduled the operation yet, but I’m sure it will be sometime this year. I’m also planning a return trip to London sometime this year!

I also need to cover some of my diet during these past 15 months. In addition to cutting out alcohol, I cut out all processed sugar. I then cut out red meat as well. The first six months or so, I did use the MyFitnessPal app to count calories. I limited myself to 1400 calories per day for a long time. It was difficult at first, but it taught me to choose foods that were low in calories, but filled me up. I ate chicken breasts and rice quite frequently. I also had a few choice restaurants that I ate at when I was busy and on the go. For breakfast, I typically had sodium free turkey breast meat (yes processed, but cheap and convenient), a cup of special K (dry), a bowl of non-fat greek yoghurt (with splenda to sweeten it), and a glass of low sodium V-8. I ate this for breakfast daily for a long time. I also started taking a multi-vitamin and fish oil daily.

My 365lb Weight Loss Story

The Best Year of My Life

My depression has pretty much subsided. I did end up seeing a therapist once a week, and that was a big help. I still see him to this day. I am actually planning to go back to school for psychology. I would like to be a therapist myself—specializing in weight loss, depression and anxiety.

As far as eating habits go now, I don’t count calories anymore. I tend to know now what I can eat daily within reason. I owe a big part of this to Jackie. I’ve adopted her mentality for eating—it’s all about portion control. Our portions in America are quite larger than what people eat in European countries. We tend to overeat frequently, and that is what is contributing to our problems with obesity.

I now eat sugar occasionally, and always in moderation (though sometimes I cut loose and overdo it—a good topic to discuss with my therapist!). My current goal is to run a full marathon. I plan to run in the Ann Arbor Marathon in May (albeit a 5k, but will eventually work up to a full marathon). I also plan to return to Cedar Point this year. I haven’t been able to fit on the rides in 14 years!

My 365lb Weight Loss Story

This has been the best year of my life. For once, things are looking up. I used to tell Jackie about how all of this feels like a dream and that it never actually happened. She just says that this is me living my life now and that I need to get used to it!

I sometimes look in the mirror and don’t recognize the guy I see. It has all been a bit overwhelming (in a good way!).

Life is good, and I look forward to living it for much longer now. I wish you all the best of luck with your health and hope you find the strength to make it happen!

My 365lb Weight Loss Story

Brian Flemming

About the author:
Brian Flemming

Brian now lives a healthy life and continues to help others achieve the same through coaching and managing the support group, Team 383. He plans to complete his first marathon this October in Detroit, and eventually an Iron Man. You can find him on Instagram @brian_flemming, Twitter @team_383, or via his support groups page www.Team383.com.

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