‘I didn’t want to die early’: How one man lost 191 pounds so he wouldn’t leave his wife a widow

Wellness Wins is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.

Angel Diaz is 5’10” tall, and currently weighs 214 pounds. After a friend suggested bariatric surgery, he decided to give natural weight loss one last try. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.

The Turning Point

I remember my weight being a concern as early as elementary school. I was always self-conscious about my weight as a young child and honestly for pretty much my entire life. When I was 18, I had reached 325 pounds and started my first weight loss journey. I lost 125 pounds in six months via diet and exercise. Unfortunately, that weight loss didn’t last as I ended up gaining all the weight back, plus even more.

My turning point came when a friend asked me if I was considering bariatric surgery. The fact that he was worried about my weight and health was an eye-opener that my situation was probably worse than I thought. Clearly, at 405 pounds, I knew I had to lose weight and I was extremely unhealthy. But it just seemed so impossible to overcome food addiction and the toll it takes on your health and body. Ultimately though, I knew I didn’t want to die early and miss out on the lives of my two kids and leave my wife to raise them alone.

I told my friend that at this point I didn’t want to have surgery. I told him I was going to give it one last try to lose weight naturally before looking into bariatric surgery. So, we made a deal. If I couldn’t lose 100 pounds naturally in a year, I would start to seriously consider surgery.

Angel Diaz before and after losing weight. (Photo courtesy of Angel Diaz)
Angel Diaz before and after losing weight. (Photo courtesy of Angel Diaz)

The Changes

My approach to losing weight started with overhauling my diet. I knew for me to be successful I would have to eliminate all unhealthy food. Basically, I couldn’t eat all the food I liked anymore. In terms of my diet, I focused on three key things:

Calories: I tracked all my calories on MyFitnessPal to make sure I stayed at my goal of 1,500 calories per day.

Eliminating all added sugar and artificial sweeteners: I tried doing this as best as I could as there is basically sugar in everything. I decided to only drink water, eliminating everything else, including milk. As far as the artificial sweeteners, although they didn’t have any calories, I felt that they wouldn’t help me tackle my addiction to sugar if I was just replacing sugar with something else that was sweet.

Macros: I focused on increasing my protein intake and decreasing my carb intake. I didn’t eliminate carbs; I simply reduced them where I could. My ultimate goal was to eat, on average, 40 percent protein, 30 percent fats, and 30 percent carbs.

Outside of these three key things, I focused on eating wholesome clean foods, eliminating as many processed foods as I could. I ate grilled chicken breast, broccoli, rice, nonfat Greek yogurt, Kind bars, eggs, bananas, grapes, almonds, natural low sugar peanut butter, cheese sticks, and protein shakes.

I didn’t start exercising until I was about two months into my journey. I started to simply jog outside. The first night I jogged 0.19 miles and thought I was going to die. The next night, however, I went back out there and ran a little farther. The following night I did the same — until eventually I ran 1 mile without stopping.

I signed up for a gym membership despite the anxiety of being more than 300 pounds and being around all these really healthy people. I had lost 88 pounds already via diet and a little bit of running. As soon as I started in the gym I began looking forward to going every day and really enjoyed strength training. I’ve been going to the gym, consistently strength training and running, five to six days a week since June 2018.

It didn’t take long for my body to start feeling better. Within just a couple of weeks, I already noticed I had a lot more energy to get through my day. After the first month, I realized that I actually was going to lose the weight this time. It was just a matter of waiting for time to pass.

My level of motivation has literally grown more every single day. I’ve never had a day where I was just going through the motions. I fill my mind with positive encouragement. I have utilized YouTube videos from weight loss influencers, motivational speakers, music, and anything else that helped keep my motivation going. I have realized that if you train your mind, your body will follow. Meaning that weight loss is more mental than it is physical. You lose weight with your motivation and your mindset.

Diaz, pictured before and after losing weight, tracked his calories, ate healthy foods, and reduced his sugar intake. (Photo courtesy of Angel Diaz)
Diaz, pictured before and after losing weight, tracked his calories, ate healthy foods, and reduced his sugar intake. (Photo courtesy of Angel Diaz)

The After

Since losing all the weight, I feel physically amazing. My sleep apnea and high blood pressure have been cured. I can run 1 mile in 6 minutes 37 seconds. I typically run a 5K to end every workout at a pace of under 8 minutes per mile. I am able to lift weights heavier than I ever thought I’d be able to lift. I have all the energy in the world on a daily basis. With all that being said, the mental and emotional changes are the most significant.

At 405 pounds, I was a very negative person. I felt as though I was stuck, helpless, and hopeless. I was really jealous of those living a normal life. It wasn’t fun feeling like I was living life on the sidelines and missing out. Since losing the weight, my mentality has completely changed. I feel as though I have a new lease on life. I am a more positive person: I wake up happy, I go to sleep happy, I’m a better father, a better husband, and just overall a better person.

The Maintenance

My journey is not complete. I am more motivated this year than even last year to really see what I am capable of doing. My plan moving forward is to eat the same wholesome foods I have been eating but instead of eating 1,500 calories, I’m eating closer to 2,700 calories in order to help fuel my workouts and build muscle. Ultimately, I want to go another year of really clean eating so that I can build lean muscle mass and really blow everyone away with my transformation.

The daily habits that help maintain my healthy lifestyle are eating the same foods over and over. I prepare my food in advance and keep it mostly the same. This makes it really easy to stay on track. I also have a workout routine that I stick to and I have yet to dread a workout.

I decided to start sharing my weight loss journey with others. I created a Twitter account, Instagram account, and even a YouTube channel. I wanted to let people know that if they felt helpless and hopeless like I did just a year ago that they weren’t alone. I have been overwhelmed by the response I have received from sharing my story. So many people reach out to me and talk about what an inspiration I am. It really blows me away, and I can’t believe it. If I can help encourage just one person, then it makes sharing everything completely worth it!

Diaz before and after losing 191 pounds. (Photo courtesy of Angel Diaz)
Diaz before and after losing 191 pounds. (Photo courtesy of Angel Diaz)

The Struggles

The biggest struggle I have is trying to balance a full-time job, full-time grad school, being a father and husband, and working out five to six days a week. It can be really challenging to get everything accomplished day in and day out. I try my best to manage it and focus on the priorities, but there are times where I can do a better job of balancing things out. That is definitely something I am actively working on.

Advice

The best advice I can give others is to focus on your diet. You can not outwork a bad diet. Find foods you like that are healthy, and create a menu that you can eat consistently. I highly recommend tracking your calories as well. I noticed if I ever stopped tracking calories I always started eating more than I thought. It is a great way to help keep you accountable to your goals.

Also, you must get your mindset right. I keep telling people to train their mind and your body will follow. Fuel your mind with positivity and stay motivated and your body and the physical aspects of weight loss will become much easier and fall in line.

Finally, focus on short term goals. You don’t lose 191 pounds or any large amount of weight. You lose weight one pound at a time over and over and over again.

Diaz, pictured after losing 191 pounds, sticks to a routine, including eating the same healthy foods. (Photo courtesy of Angel Diaz)
Diaz, pictured after losing 191 pounds, sticks to a routine, including eating the same healthy foods. (Photo courtesy of Angel Diaz)

Need more inspiration? Read about our other wellness winners!

Wellness Wins is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative, 135-pound weight loss of her own.

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