Before: 406 pounds
After: 222 pounds
For Paul McDaniel, 42, his weight gain can be explained in two words: fast food. He would hit the drive-thru every day—sometimes twice a day. “I was addicted to fast food," he says. "My job in high school was at McDonald’s—it’s always been a part of my life."
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It didn’t help that his parents never stressed the importance of eating fresh fruits and vegetables, or that he grew up on a Southern diet of carbs and fried foods. (Search: Are carbs acutally bad for you?). "I would soon realize that fast food coupled with the lack of knowledge of healthy eating was a recipe for an early death.”
The Turning Point
In February 2009, Paul was going through a rough time emotionally. He had just gotten a divorce and his mother died.
"That's when the eating really escalated and I started having health issues," he says. "I was having a breakdown—I was sleeping maybe 1 hour a night. I didn’t leave my apartment for 3 weeks, and I was having panic attacks and chest pains," he says.
At that point, Paul was on five different medications for high cholesterol and high blood pressure. His doctor told him that he needed to lose weight or risk full-fledged diabetes. (Reverse early diabetes in just 1 week!)
Convinced that something needed to change, Paul went home that day and told his new wife that they were going to join Weight Watchers. She reluctantly agreed.
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Paul and his wife dedicated themselves to the program, loading up their shopping carts with fresh fruits and vegetables—an acquired taste for Paul—as well as lean meats and reduced-fat dairy. "I started eating vegetables that I never liked, such as broccoli, asparagus, and carrots. I had to teach myself how to eat right," he says. (Video: Prepare quick healthy meals)
Knowing that greasy food was a trigger to overindulging, Paul cut out all fast food the first year. "I learned I had to stay away from McDonald’s like an alcoholic has to stay away from the bars," he says.
Although the word "exercise" is like a four-letter word to Paul, he and his wife learned to think outside the box when it comes to burning calories. They go on walks in the evenings and hike on the weekends, and lead more active lives in general. (Burn off 100 calories right now!)
"When we go shopping, we try to park as far from the mall as possible, and in my job as a courier I try to take the stairs whenever I can," he says.
While Paul originally started losing weight for health reasons, he began enjoying its other benefits, such as fitting in theater seats and not having to worry about finding a booth at a restaurant. "I've never been this thin as an adult in my life, and that's my motivation today," he says.
Paul and his wife encourage each other to stick to their new lifestyle. “If she’s having a difficult time, I help her out and visa versa,” he says. “I really owe a lot of my weight loss to her for keeping me going.”
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Now 184 pounds lighter, Paul enjoys having more confidence that's come along with his new body. "At 405 pounds I was hindered physically and mentally. Now I'm taking an improv class and regaining my social skills," he says.
His sleep apnea is gone now, and he's down to 1 1/2 pills a day for his high blood pressure, which runs in his family. Plus, his wife dropped 125 pounds.
"All these benefits outweigh the taste of junk food for me," he says.
Know you’ll have obstacles. “A lot of people get depressed because they’re not losing weight as fast as they want to. They hit that wall and they stop. You have to keep chipping away at that wall and eventually you’ll be on the other side.”
Don’t leave a back door. “Don’t sabotage yourself by hanging on to that extra bag of chips. Let it go and set yourself up to succeed.”
Next up: The Most Inspiring Weight Loss Stories of 2011
Healthy Weight Loss Success Story: Paul McDaniel
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Image: Courtesy of Paul McDaniel
Before: 406 pounds