Weight Before: 270
Weight After: 220
Vitals: Matthew Letten, 22, Deerfield, Illinois
Time Required to Reach Goal: 11 months
The Setback As a kid, I kept my weight in check by playing sports. I was never good at them, though, so I dropped out as other guys became more competitive. Bad move: By the time I graduated from high school, I was really round. And that haunted me—because as it turned out, intramural sports were a big social hub in college. I made up excuses so I wouldn't have to play. (And when I did play, I was slow and easily winded.) I felt equally awkward going out to parties and didn't talk to many people. I was missing out on so much.
The Wake-Up Call I spent my junior year in England, at the University of Oxford. I backpacked all over Europe, which was great—I just wished my legs didn't hurt, the hostel beds didn't sag, and the British women would notice me. I started dieting right then and there.
The Food Like many college students, I subsisted on pizza and beer. So I made a full change: I'd eat three healthy meals a day. If I snacked, it would be on a handful of raw almonds. Turns out you can make great food in a tiny kitchen—oatmeal for breakfast, chicken breast with a side salad for lunch, and chicken, beef, or fish with vegetables for dinner. Simple. When I started to lose weight, I stopped missing my old foods.
The Fitness There was no gym in my dorm overseas, but I discovered that I didn't need one: I began every morning with 30 minutes of body-weight exercises, and walked two nights a week in a huge public park. I often got lost, which turned out to be a great way to extend the walks. Finding my way back was fun, and I burned more calories. Shortly after I came back to the United States, I dislocated my kneecap in a fall at a bar. I was in rehab for 3 months, but I stuck to my diet and dropped another 20 pounds. Now I'm at the gym at least 5 days a week, doing intervals on a stationary bike and lifting weights.
The Reward At a party this year, I spotted a pretty girl across the room. Before I lost weight, I would have been too nervous to approach her—I always just hung back, embarrassed. But no longer. I walked up and started a conversation, and we've been dating for 6 months. Now I know: The more effort I put in, the more everything pays off.