There were other signs, including knee pain and sleep apnea. I was going to go in for sleep studies because I snored so heavy, Id stop breathing and suddenly catch my breath, he says. The problem, he realized, was his diet. In his line of work, eating out was common, but hed also eat out of boredom while he drove. That meant fast food two or three times a day, plus chips and salsa at night. Sugary foods, take out, late night eatingHwalek was doing it all. I had no cut off switch, he says. I was always hungry.

When he saw that mortifying picture of himself, he weighed 276 pounds. Thats the worst I had ever been, he says.

Hed tried to lose weight before, but expecting instant results left him frustrated. This time he tried WW (formerly Weight Watchers) to curb his diet. He cut beer and sugary drinks, making them an occasional treat instead of a daily routine. He started eating leaner foods like eggs and chicken; he upped his vegetable intake and focused on protein from turkey, along with black beans. I definitely wasnt starving myself, he says, but he was losing about two pounds a week.

Hwalek also started going to the gym, learning the exercises online. He overcame his initial awkwardness, learning as he went. Some days hed pull into the gym parking lot and just sit, until he could push himself to enter. False motivation is better than no motivation, he says. Within months, he found himself wanting to hit the gym. He was shedding pounds and beginning to feel better.

How This Guy Overcame His Fear of the Gym
How This Guy Overcame His Fear of the Gym
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In about nine months he lost 80 pounds. His knee pain eased and his snoring disappeared. I feel like I was given a second life, he says. His target goal had been 230 poundsset when his size kept him from trying a simulated skydiving ride on a cruise shipbut he sailed past it. I wanted to keep going, he says. I wasnt turning back.

It feels my mind has yet to catch up to my body, he says. Im still not quite used to myself. I see my reflection in a window and get taken aback. Hes now planning to get even leaner: Ive never had a stomach worth showing off, he says. It feels like Ive come too far to let up.

Hes in it for the long haul, and he reminds anyone trying to follow in his footsteps that it takes time to remake yourself. Keep in mind its a marathon, not a sprint, he says. Thats how I messed up trying to lose weight before. I wanted instant results. It just doesnt work that way.