‘I used to dream of looking like this’: Teen loses nearly 100 pounds, contacts Air Force to enlist

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“As a preteen, all I ever knew was the feeling of being alone. I kept to myself in school and hardly socialized with my classmates; I would yearn for the sound of the last bell, signaling my escape back home where I could hop on my PlayStation and escape in my collection of video games until the sun fell. I didn’t go outside and play, I stayed inside where I was comfortable.

Throughout my early teen years, I was overweight. Being larger than many other kids my age caused a lack of self-esteem which led to depression and body-image issues. I had social anxiety stemming from my body insecurities. It was difficult for me to socialize as a young teen when I wasn’t even comfortable in my body. I always wanted to be more social with my peers though, because the lack of socializing with them made me depressed and upset.

Teen sitting on bench beside woman with blurred out face before he lost weight
Banner Ratcliff
Close up of teen boy who felt overweight smiling
Banner Ratcliff

I have managed to lose 90 pounds total in the time span of three years, from age 15 to 18. There have been numerous times where I took a break from dieting, gained 15 pounds, and cut down again. Losing the excess weight gave me a great sense of pride and accomplishment, it was something that I never thought was achievable.

I had always flirted with the idea of losing weight; sadly, when it came to dieting, I would last two days before deciding to return to my old habits. One day back in July 2015 I was sitting on my bed, browsing my phone and suddenly had a moment of clarity. I decided that at that moment I would change my diet and focus on my physical health for the rest of my life. Without determination, motivation will get you nowhere.

Teen who lost weight takes mirror selfie in bathroom
Banner Ratcliff

After six months of controlling my portions and counting calories, others witnessed a noticeable difference in how I looked and felt. My energy had risen, and my confidence was beginning to skyrocket; socializing became easier, leading me to make friends.

Teen who lost weight smiling with his arm around another teen whose face is blurred out
Banner Ratcliff

My parents have been great in supporting my goals, and losing weight was no exception. Once my junior year of high school rolled around I had lost over 50 pounds. Classmates I never talked to would walk up to me and compliment me and asked how I lost the weight. After years of being depressed and uncomfortable, I no longer felt like a burden to others. I was genuinely happy.

Giving helpful information on weight loss to my friends, family, and strangers has been an amazing ongoing experience. There is not a better feeling than knowing that my actions can positively affect someone’s life.

Side profile of teen driving in car who lost weight and wants to help others do the same
Banner Ratcliff

After reaching my goal weight, I contacted my local U.S. Air Force recruiter and told him I was extremely interested in joining the military. My success in becoming healthier led me to believe that I could achieve anything with patience and determination. Joining the armed forces was an opportunity that could not be ignored.

I plan on carrying over the life skills learned throughout my journey and applying them in the U.S. Air Force while I serve my country. This experience has truly changed my life for the better.

Teen who lost weight and applied to air force smilies in mirror selfie
Banner Ratcliff

After losing 90 pounds I haven’t just lost weight, I’ve become more confident and happy than I could ever imagine. When I look in the mirror I see a happier, more determined person, and it’s almost as if I’m looking at a completely different guy. Sometimes I sit down and realize the reality of what I’ve accomplished.

When I was younger I used to dream of looking like this, and the fact that I’ve actually gotten here is amazing to me still.”

Teen in gray hoodie who lost weight and applied to air force takes mirror selfie with hood up and hood down
Banner Ratcliff

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Banner Ratcliff, 18, of Circleville, Ohio. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best love stories here.

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