Wellness Wins is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Hunter Croteau is 5’9” tall and currently weighs 190 pounds. In 2017, after trying and failing to lose weight, he opted for weight-loss surgery to save his health and fell in love with fitness. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
I have been overweight for as long as I remember. Different factors led me to get progressively bigger over time. I was always the slowest of my friends and the least athletic, but I wasn’t ever really bullied, luckily. I was always well liked, but picked on for sure.
After I graduated high school, I gave myself one year to lose the weight myself. I tried and failed many times that year. The following summer, I made one final attempt. My parents and uncle joined me on a low-calorie diet and my mom prepared the meals. I did well for about two weeks, and then one night we didn’t have any prepped meals for dinner so I got it in my head that I was ordering Domino’s and I couldn’t be convinced otherwise. My mom begged me not to, but I had made up my mind. That night in bed I felt full and defeated. I felt like a loser and knew I wasn’t going to go back on the diet the next morning — I was already thinking of all the foods I was going to buy and eat the next day.
I felt like I couldn’t do it on my own. So in bed that night I texted my mom, asking her to schedule an appointment at New York Bariatric Group for a consultation on weight-loss surgeries.
I had sleeve gastrectomy. I had the surgery in December 2017 to cap off two weeks of an all liquid diet. This two week liquid diet came after five months of visits with my surgeon, therapist, and dietitian training my mind for this change. So when my liquid diet began, I knew this was my last hope and I refused to fail. The surgery went well and I was lucky enough to recover quickly.
It took about a month before I could begin eating a somewhat normal-looking food regimen. I soon discovered the magic of the CICO diet — calories in vs. calories out. I began tracking my calories and focusing on high protein, low sugar meals. I ate lots of things like eggs, chicken, and turkey, and drank a lot of coffee. As I recovered, my options expanded, but I made sure that I was counting calories.
All this time I was going to the gym with my best friend Jack. He’s very skinny and wanted to gain muscle so we learned together. I watched countless hours of Youtube videos to learn about fitness and what it takes to live a healthy lifestyle. I got into “bodybuilding,” which at its most basic means training and growing all muscles evenly. This was the key to my success.
I quickly fell in love with the gym. It has become my sanctuary. I do not feel right at all if I don’t go for more than a few days. I believe to truly be successful one cannot rely on motivation. Motivation fades no matter what you're doing. It is important to find a plan you are truly happy with — something you can stick to and be content.
I’ve been a fairly normal weight for almost a year now and I can honestly say it has been the best and most fulfilling time of my life. The thing that haunted me my whole life has finally been put to rest. My life is better than I could have ever imagined it could be and I am just now getting started. If I die tomorrow, I will be a happy man because I got to know what a healthy body feels like. I have amazing friends and an amazing girlfriend, who makes this healthy life even better.
I eat the same breakfast every day that I can. I crack one or two whole eggs in a measuring cup and fill it to ¾-1 cup with egg whites and scramble it with some vegan sausage. I eat a lot of protein and health bars and easy quick things for lunch when at work. Frozen meals have also been a huge part of my success. I don't ever feel like eating junk. I almost always crave something nutritious. My exercise is weight lifting with a push, pull, and legs split. But now, I also powerlift. I fell in love with fitness and that's what saved me.
I think motivation is a strange thing. I’m not motivated anymore. I do it because I want to and I think it’s fun. But I think surrounding myself with fitness-related things helps a ton. The Youtube fitness community has been a huge source of knowledge and entertainment. I love watching powerlifting and strongman competitions, as well as home grown fitness Youtubers.
My loose skin is a small struggle for me. I would like to maybe compete in a natural bodybuilding competition at some point in my life, but my skin could make that impossible unless I get the surgery to remove it. I also have been having a hard time committing to a weight cut again. With bodybuilding and powerlifting comes an appetite, and I am able to eat small but fairly normal portions now. I eat well for the most part, but I could be better.
My advice would be to look inside yourself. I would have never been successful on this journey if it wasn’t for my ability to take a step back and honestly tell myself what my problems were. You will make many mistakes on your path to a healthy lifestyle. It’s not about when you screw up — it’s about how you learn from your mistakes and adjust the course to stay on track. Find something you like to do, find foods you like, and find a workout plan you can tolerate. Progress is addictive. Stick with it and be consistent, and you will succeed.
Need more inspiration? Read about our other wellness winners!
Read more from Yahoo Lifestyle: