By Sarah Klein
Name: Den-Ray Allen
Before Weight: Around 430 pounds, but that’s a rough estimate. I didn’t want to know how much I weighed once I neared the 400-pound mark.
How I Gained It: I struggled with my weight since I was about 10 years old, but I had sports like track and wrestling to turn to when my weight was out of control. I fluctuated between bingeing and starving myself when I was getting in shape for sports, usually eating one meal a day at home so my mom didn’t know I was starving myself. I stopped playing sports in high school and the weight began to pile on. I gained about three sizes throughout high school. When I entered college, it took a drastic turn for the worse because my mother wasn’t around to watch what I ate. I rapidly gained and didn’t stop until I hit my peak weight about 10 years later. I was going through a lot of personal anguish and ate for every reason imaginable, whether I was bored, happy, sad, frustrated, you name it.
To this day, I couldn’t say exactly how much I actually weighed because it took a special scale to weigh me, and I always instructed my doctor and anyone else who weighed me to just write it down and not tell me.
My family kept pressing me to lose weight, and at the time their concern seemed like admonishment. I didn’t want anyone to take a picture of me, and I avoided being filmed at all costs. I often told myself that the angle was wrong on the camera or that the camera added more weight to my frame. I stopped buying clothes because I couldn’t even fit the garments in the plus sized specialty stores at a women’s size 34.
Breaking Point: I began to think of people as cruel. Those who didn’t know me would make fun of me. This clouded my ability to see that I had a problem because I was stuck on the cruelty of others. I had trouble admitting I needed to change because I felt I shouldn’t be treated in the manner I was. Once I admitted that I wanted to lose weight, I started talking to people close to me about my desires to get ideas on how I could achieve my goal. In the beginning it wasn’t about health: I wanted to be able to wear “normal” clothes without feeling uncomfortable. I had gotten to the point that I was avoiding mirrors so I wouldn’t get depressed.
How I Lost It: My neighbor offered to walk with me, so I resolved to walk a mile at least three times a week, no matter how long it took me (originally that was a half hour at top speed). Pretty soon the weight was melting off, and I wanted to figure out how to continue to lose. I was concerned I had a thyroid problem or some other such issue keeping me heavy. I went to a doctor and found out this was not the case, which motivated me to try even harder. The same neighbor told me about calorie tracking and introduced me to MyFitnessPal. I lost a total of 141 pounds using the app.
When I plateaued, I went to a weight-loss center for assistance, where they gave me pills and injections. The pills made me sick and the injections made me irritabile and gave me insomnia. With a regimen of 1,200 to 1,500 calories a day and exercising three to four times a week, I lost another 22 pounds. I cut back on eating fast food, cut down on red meats, lowered my sodium intake and decreased the amount of processed foods I ate.
Even now it is a daily struggle to maintain my lifestyle. You can’t undo a lifetime of poor habits in a few years. But I feel much better eating differently and can feel when I have not been eating as I should. Eating poorly feels great at first because I love to eat, but after two days of improper eating I begin to feel sluggish and tired. Healthy eating restores everything from energy to ambition. I can think more clearly when I am eating as I should, and my attitude is much better.
I’ve plateaued right now, but I’m confident with hard work I can lose the rest of this weight. I have 30 more pounds to reach the weight loss goal my doctor and I set. I am focusing on weight training to get rid of that “I just lost a bunch of weight” look.
My life has completely turned around as a result of the weight loss. I am a million times more confident. I look people in the eye when I speak to them and when they speak to me. I am the first person to jump in a picture and look for opportunities to be active like dancing, hiking and kickboxing. Instead of being ashamed to talk about health topics people come to me for advice. I have a Facebook group that is 180 members strong. My life is like a dream, and I feel that I have managed to live twice in one lifetime.
Current Weight: 220 pounds
The Huffington Post publishes photographs as they are submitted to us by our readers. As told to Sarah Klein.
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