Wellness Wins is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Zach Moore is 5’11” and currently weighs 146 pounds. In 2014, after reaching his heaviest weight of more than 500 pounds, he realized he needed to change his life in order to survive. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
Six months after my son was born, the 2008 recession happened and I lost my job. My wife, son and I all moved back to her home, with her family, to reorganize. Then we moved to Daytona, Fla., and I went back to college for nursing. I spent a lot of time sitting, eating, bingeing, and growing bigger and bigger to the point where I started to hurt all over. Breathing, sleeping, and walking were all difficult. I was having so much physical difficulty that I switched degrees to computer science.
Then on May 27, 2011, lighting struck our house, and we lost everything. I had a breakdown and ended up in the hospital, which was the worst moment of my life. I remember being in that hospital bed, staring up at the bright light, hoping, praying that something would happen and allow me to turn my life around. Otherwise, I was going to die, and my son was going to grow up visiting daddy at a tombstone.
I looked into gastric sleeve surgery back in 2011. I met with the doctor and started planning, and then changed my mind because I felt like I could diet naturally and lose the weight. Unfortunately, I wasn’t successful and continued to gain weight, ending up in the hospital for food poisoning in 2014. I feared each day was going to be my last as I struggled to breath, couldn’t walk, had sleep apnea...the medical conditions just started to add up. I knew I couldn’t go on the way I was living. I was over 500 pounds at my heaviest. January 2014 came and something clicked. I finally started to lose weight, got approved for gastric bypass surgery in May 2014, and said to myself that this was my last and final chance to lose weight or die trying.
Initially, I tried a variety of foods. I cut out all cow and pork, and stuck to only lean, white meat from birds and fish. I ate no sugar and lowered my carbs, not realizing then that I was in the early stage of keto, which worked absolutely amazingly for me. I had trouble exercising, couldn’t physically lift anything heavy, and my stomach was always pain. So I would walk. And as the weight came off, it got easier and I would walk past my goal each and every day.
I bought a scale once I got under 400 pounds (scales often didn’t read higher than that). I was very optimistic about how well I was doing, sticking to it and not cheating myself from an end goal that I wanted for me. During this time of my life I actually got highly involved in the sport of MMA, hosting events. That lifestyle rubbed off on me in many great ways. I met so many fighters who would share how they dieted in a healthy way. I used their strategy of setting goals 10 or 12 weeks out, like I was preparing for a fight. It was a great time frame to make my own goals to lose weight. Every show I would host I would aim for a weight, setting small, realistic goals that would help motivate me to get to the next step rather than failing and losing momentum. Hope kept me going — the hope that I was actually changing.
Losing weight happened so fast that I didn’t realize how much I had changed. In December of 2015, I posted a transformation photo to social media, which caught the attention of a writer, who did a story on me. And then I got a call asking me to appear on the TV show, “The Doctors.” The next week I was in California on TV sharing my story.
The show promised to remove all of my excess skin. We did the first stage in July 2016. It was hell. I underwent one of the most complicated skin surgeries, an FDL Tummy Tuck, which involved also a butt lift, muscle repairing, having my breasts reduced, my nipples removed, resized and reattached, then we found out why my stomach was always bleeding — they found a 6” umbilical hernia, which wasn’t part of the plan. Over nine hours and 2,400 stitches later, I was 10 pounds of skin lighter. The only thing I wish had happened was that they removed the skin below my waist that the world doesn’t see. When I walk, jog or run on a daily basis, I have to live in compression wear. There’s still 10 pounds of excess skin there.
I stick to the same beliefs that I have had the last few years: understanding food is fuel, so you are what you eat. I still eat lean — white meat, eggs, quinoa, carrots, broccoli, soups, lettuce wraps, and other things like that. I have chickens on my farm, so fresh meat and eggs are always available.
It’s been a rough time with exercising. I had a third hernia surgery in May 2018. For the longest time I was scared that if I tried to bulk up, my body would tear apart. I ran a 5K with my mom and we finished second to last in 61 minutes. I’d like to try to do a 5K in under 30 minutes.
One thing that I wanted, when I started long ago, was to be the kind of dad that my dad was. I wanted to play with my son, so when I was losing weight I was having some of the best times of my life. At the age of nine, my son was diagnosed as high-functioning autistic. Since that moment, our relationship has blossomed, as I now have the understanding to communicate. I have to advocate for him until he’s able to for himself and that drives me every day, knowing that I can teach him.
As I have grown through my journey, I have often turned to social media, which can be difficult to navigate and hard to balance. Obesity isn’t always easy to open up and talk about with someone, but I’ve bonded with others who have had similar journeys. My life has been reshaped so much and I’m not sure what direction to move in now. I want to help others but don’t know exactly how to do it. I’d love to help people lose weight, write a book, to travel and talk to people across the country, giving advice, but I don’t have the knowledge of how to do it.
Do what’s best for you! If you can’t help yourself, you can’t help anyone else. If I didn’t help myself initially, there’s no way I would be alive today. Practice self love to find yourself and just don’t stop.
Need more inspiration? Read about our other wellness winners!
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