A 21-year-old who was bullied for his weight growing up lost 189 pounds in under two years and is now inspiring others to lead more active, healthy lifestyles.
Ethan Taylor, of Rockford, Ill., says that for him, body shaming began at a particularly early age.
"People started bullying me over my weight when I was really young," he told In The Know. "It started in elementary school, went all the way through middle school, high school, into college."
While Ethan says he always tried to act as though the taunting "didn't bother" him, since it seemed like the easiest way to deal with bullies, he acknowledged it deeply affected him.
Ethan says he realized he hit rock bottom at the age of 19, when he reached his peak weight of 378 pounds.
Knowing he had to make a change, he began dieting and exercising and was able to lose 30 pounds on his own before joining Anytime Fitness, a 24-hour gym.
"I walked in day one, they believed in me. They thought I could do it," he said, describing the gym community and himself as a "match made in heaven."
"They have been so instrumental in my success because everyone who worked there welcomed me in," he continued. "They treated me like family, they accepted me, they let me do what I needed to do to be successful."
In just 18 months, Ethan shed about half of his body weight. He now leads a local walking group twice a week to help inspire and support others who may be struggling with their fitness goals.
"Something I want people to know is that you have to stay persistent in weight loss," he said. "It's not an overnight thing, it's going to take time."
Ethan is also set to run the Chicago Marathon on Oct. 13 and is currently raising money to donate to Action for Healthy Kids, a national nonprofit organization that "brings together dedicated volunteers and partners to make schools healthier places where kids thrive."
To donate toward Ethan's marathon fundraiser, click here.