Wellness Wins is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Mark Mayer is 6 feet tall and currently weighs 220 pounds. In 2018, after suffering the loss of his mother and realizing his weight was getting out of control, he made big changes to his lifestyle and then had weight-loss surgery in order to live a healthier life. This is his story, as told to Yahoo Lifestyle.
The Turning Point
I had always been a heavy person. I remember my mother telling me stories about how my pediatrician would tell her even at six months old, I was a very fat baby.
The only time that this wasn’t true was during high school. I was abroad my junior year in Germany, and during that time I stayed away from fast food, walked everywhere, and just in general lived a healthier lifestyle. So when I came back, not even my best friends recognized me.
This was also around the advent of the internet, and I was one of those who got sucked in. And with that sedentary lifestyle came other bad habits, like junk food. Then there was a bout of depression brought on when my father was diagnosed with brain cancer. So my freshman 15 became the freshman 30. And then there was the sophomore 30, and then the junior 45. Before I knew it, I was a 300-plus pounds as a senior.
I put on more weight when my father died just before my wedding. After my divorce, I put on even more weight.
In the spring of 2017, my mom died of a heart attack. I knew that I would have to do something or I would end up the same way. My intent was to use the life insurance policy she had for us to pay for weight-loss surgery. However, my job as a security officer was in flux at the time, and I couldn’t make any plans until I had some kind of stability. In the meantime, I was using the chaotic work schedule as an excuse to rely on fast food, since I had little time to cook for myself.
The tipping point came in February 2018. There was an industrial scale at one of my security guard jobs. I weighed myself on it, and it came in at 470 pounds. My heart sank. I assumed I was north of 400. I didn’t know for sure since most scales don’t go that high, but I didn’t think that I was that heavy.
The next day, I started a keto/South Beach-type diet. I cut out all potatoes, bread, rice and sugar. I focused on meat, dairy and leafy greens. It sucked at first. When you're as heavy as I was, one of the only joys you can still experience is food, and here I was taking that away from myself. It took a lot of white-knuckling willpower for the first few months. Knowing that weight-loss surgery was on the horizon helped. I also walked more, and was able to lose about 90 pounds from February to July.
There were also little things that kept me motivated along the way, including my uniform belt, which is an adjustable scout belt. When I started my weight-loss journey, it was “brass on brass” — meaning, it was at its maxed out length. After a week or so, I noticed some extra room on my belt. Over time, I’d get more and more slack. I still use that belt to this day, even though I’m down six sizes in my uniform and have lost 22 inches around my waist.
I eventually had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy. After which, along with dieting and exercising, I lost 160 pounds.
The physical changes are more noticeable than the emotional ones, but I truly feel better all around.
I no longer hurt from just existing. I had never really noticed it before losing weight, but looking back now, everything just ached. Not enough to make any real complaints about, but I always felt suffocated.
I’m thankful that I was never really harassed for my weight, but I did feel invisible. Even today there are times when I still feel invisible. But, eventually, I gained the confidence to start dating, and in fact, I’m recently engaged.
After weight-loss surgery, I went out and got those small cups designed for toddlers. It turns out the measure exactly one cup. If I ever try to eat more than what I put into that cup, I start feeling uncomfortable. Of course, in that cup I have to put in the right kind of food: proteins and smart carbs. My go-to is chicken, cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, and some kind of green vegetable.
I exercise five times a week. Along with regular walks throughout the day, I also walk/run a 5k on a treadmill at my local gym or on a route I mapped out around my neighborhood three days a week. I lift weights two day a week.
The body dysmorphia is real, and it can swing both ways: Sometimes, in the same day, I will look in the mirror and get shocked that I might be too skinny. And then later that day, I will look and worry that I am gaining weight again.
There is also the matter of loose skin. I lucked out in that it’s not quite as severe as others who have lost weight, but I still feel self-conscious about people seeing my extra skin. My fiancée helps keep me grounded, though — she's been my rock this past year.
My advice would be to really examine your life and look at your bad habits. Are you really doing those bad habits because they bring you joy, or is it because it’s just part of your routine? Breaking the routine is the first step.
Need more inspiration? Read about our other wellness winners!
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