‘I’m FINE.’ At 545 lbs, I was 25 years old and ‘invincible.’: Man embarks on 300-pound weight-loss journey, ‘I have my life back’

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“‘It looks like you’re pre-diabetic, so I’m going to put you on medicine and some pills to help you lose weight.’ This is how I expected my 2015 to end. It’s been over three years since this doctor’s visit, but I still remember those words as if I had just heard them yesterday. I remember feeling upset. Upset at the doctor for feeling like he had given up on me. Angry at myself for letting it get to this point. Angry at the universe for ‘letting’ this happen to a 25-year-old. I was 25, I was supposed to be invincible, not suffering from heart palpitations because of my poor health.

Leaving that doctor’s office was the defining moment of my weight-loss journey. I left the office knowing I had to make a change. I didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew I didn’t want to be a 25-year-old reliant on pills for the rest of my life. At this point, I made up my mind I wasn’t going to fill those prescriptions and I was going to get healthy somehow on my own. All my life I had been overweight. Until then, I had not really thought anything about it. I always thought, ‘These doctors don’t know anything, I’m fine,’ or, ‘I’m really tall, it’s fine, I balance out.’ Looking back, I never realized how hard I tried to rationalize it.

Courtesy of Mike Castaneda

Growing up, I liked the feeling of feeling full—it made me happy. I’ve always liked food, both cooking it and eating it, and I would go overboard with both. If I cooked, I would usually make way too much and then I’d feel like I had to finish it and not let it go to waste. Wasting was considered wrong. At times, I wouldn’t really know when to stop and I wouldn’t actually stop until I felt sick. It’s like I didn’t have that ‘full’ button in my brain. It turned into a vicious cycle I felt stuck in, until it came time to make a change.

My family would comment about my weight, but it was never from a negative place. It was always them worrying about my health and wanting me to take steps in order to get healthier. But at the time, I thought I was invincible and nothing bad would ever happen to me because I was young. Later, I would see how wrong I was. I was the fat kid in elementary school, and with this came comments. I think people thought I was tougher than I actually was. I was dubbed with the nickname ‘Big Mike,’ which was pretty accurate.

Courtesy of Mike Castaneda

Coincidently, a few weeks prior to the doctor appointment, I had watched a documentary about a gentleman who was in poor health and turned to juicing to get his health in order. Not really knowing too much at the time, I figured if it worked for him it would work for me. So I bought the books, bought the juicer, bought the fruits and veggies, and I was ready to go. I had to special order a scale that would be able to weigh me. The number looking back at me was 545 pounds. To see this number was extremely soul crushing.

I knew I didn’t want to be defined or held back by this number, so I started my first day of juicing and made a juice for breakfast—it was terrible! I had another for lunch, and it was equally as terrible. I left work that day starving and messaging a friend that I was going to the store to buy real food, and I was giving up on this. At this point, they told me about Keto/low-carb. After doing some research, I realized the concept was appealing for my likes and dislikes and my typical way of life. A few days later, I jumped in feet first.

Courtesy of Mike Castaneda

When I started, I really didn’t have a goal as to what weight I wanted to be. I just wanted to be healthy. After the first week, I had lost 3 pounds. I began to track my weekly progress. I had some 25-pound milestones, starting from 545 pounds and counting down to 245 pounds (never did I think I would ever get close to or even exceed that goal). The next week, I lost 13 pounds and so on and so forth. After the first month, I had lost about 22 pounds. I knew what I was doing was working. This became even more apparent when I reached six months in and stepped on the scale and the number looking back at me was 444 pounds.

I had lost 100 pounds in six months! I was able to hit several milestones over the course of three years to finally get down to my current weight of 214 pounds. I would like to lose about 4-14 more pounds, and then I think I’ll finally be complete. Doing Atkins/ low carb for a year and a half and then switching over to Keto was truly a saving grace for me. This offered me the freedom and flexibility I needed in order to help me stick with it all of this time. It’s what works for me.

My family has been extremely supportive, especially my parents, and I’m so lucky to have them. Throughout this journey, they have always encouraged me to continue until I reach my goals, whatever it was at the time (weight loss, personal, academically, career, etc.). When it came to weight loss, they were very understanding. Whenever we would eat as a family, they would prepare food separately with some ingredients that were complimentary to my diet because they wanted to see me continue. Or, if we went out to a restaurant, they made sure it was a place I would be able to have something to eat.

Courtesy of Mike Castaneda

As far as my friends go, they were definitely there to be the moral support during the days I didn’t think I had it in me. During the days where I would see an unexpected weight gain or it was a long and stressful day and I wanted to just have a cheat day, they were there to remind me of my goals, how far I had come, and to remind me not to put so much emphasis on the number on the scale. I don’t think I could have gotten through some of the rough times without the love and support of my friends and family.

I really didn’t look at online support groups until the previous year. I found a group on Reddit and it was great because I got to see some people going through the same struggles. I’ve also followed a few weight-loss influencers on YouTube and Instagram. It was nice to run across people who are or have gone through the same issues or struggles I have and see them reach their goals. It made any goal I had for myself even more tangible.

Courtesy of Mike Castaneda

I can’t think of a time where I truly wanted to quit. There have been times when I’ve been frustrated and I have wanted to cheat, whether it be being at a birthday and not being able to have cake or going out to a restaurant and not being able to have some of the appetizers—little things like this have made the process difficult. Luckily, after realizing these small sacrifices would all be worth it one day (and they have been so far), or after talking to friends and family and them giving me a bit of encouragement, I would always snap out of it and want to continue. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it.

As far as my social life goes, I think losing weight has helped me feel more confident in myself. As a result, I am now more willing to go out and be more social than I was three years ago. Before, I felt like I was the center of attention anywhere I went, and not in the best way. Now, I’m just an ordinary guy and I simply blend in, and there’s something very peaceful about this. I truly feel like there isn’t anything I can’t accomplish. I want to do things (like skydiving) I may not have been able to three years ago. I also want to hopefully encourage people who are in a similar boat. Being able to give someone advice or encourage someone to start their own journey has been great.

Courtesy of Mike Castaneda

My advice to anyone who wants to lose weight is to just start somewhere. Find a diet that works for you and your lifestyle. Or start small and go for walks. Anything. Also, don’t become so reliant on the number on the scale. It’s a decent indicator, but don’t let it define your progress. There are so many non-scale victories you can find if you pay attention. I remember one of the trips I took for work, I was able to sit in the seat comfortably without spilling over into the next seat, or into the isle, and the seatbelt fit! Or being able to walk into a department store and picking clothing off the rack. There were times when I was in the dressing room, trying on clothing that was a size or two smaller, and actually beginning to tear up because it actually fit. It made me feel good, it made me feel normal.

One of the best moments was walking into one of the big and tall stores looking for a normal undershirt, and since they didn’t have anything that small I didn’t need to come back there anymore! I had never felt so good about leaving a store empty handed. There’s been times when I have fallen off the wagon or stalled or wanted to give up. The thing that kept me going, besides a little determination and stubbornness, was knowing I had come this far and I had it in me to keep going. I really feel like I have my life back and I am fully in control.”

Courtesy of Mike Castaneda

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Mike Castaneda of Tulsa, Oklahoma. You can follow his journey on Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.

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