Have you ever just felt like you are stuck in your own body and you just give up hope? You give up trying and you feel defeated? That was me. I basically came to accept that I was going to be extremely large my entire life and die from a heart attack. It sounds horrible, but that’s how I honestly felt. I lived each day fearing it would be my last. I can remember being 20 years old at work and I thought I was having a heart attack. I was rushed to the hospital, had an EKG and stress test done, but everything came back okay. I recall thinking, “I’m too young for this.” I knew that I was playing with fire and that my time would come.
With my wife being an ER nurse, she knew I couldn’t continue to live this way. We had a sit-down conversation and she begged me to make a change because I wouldn’t be around to see my grandchildren. Although I could see the fear in her eyes and the tears rolling down her face, I still didn’t change my ways. I didn’t know how to start. I felt that I didn’t have a support group; I didn’t have the information on how to change my lifestyle, and I didn’t know the correct way to eat or workout. I just kept living the only way I knew how – which I now understand was killing me.
My whole life in relation to my weight has been nothing short of a roller coaster. From my sophomore year in high school until June 2019, I was always known as the “big guy,” “tiny” or numerous other names that you can probably think of. Eating and hanging out at buffets were places my friends and I would go for fun. I can remember weighing around 170 pounds my freshman year in high school. From there it got out of control and I developed a bad relationship with food. My sophomore year I started varsity football and grew to 300 pounds. By this time, I had already had one knee surgery and went on to have another my senior year.
Post-graduation, I stopped playing football, but I never changed my eating habits. I went from 315-ish up to 355 pounds in a year. It all didn’t happen at once but every time I looked at the scale, it was always increasing by 3-5 pounds. This basically continued after many failed attempts to keep the weight off. At this point in my life I had tried weight loss pills, fad diets and various routines, but none of them were sustainable. Each resulted in gaining all the weight I had lost back and then some. I guess I needed a wakeup call, which ultimately came in 2018.
The second-best day of my life was when my son was born, which was in January 2018. Holding him in my arms for the first time changed my world. From that moment, I knew I had to make a lifestyle change to ensure that I would be around for him as long as possible. I literally became desperate to become healthy. Around the beginning of June 2018, I weighed 403 pounds, which was the largest I have ever been. June 18, 2018, was the day I decided to take control of my life for good. I began reading articles, watching documentaries, listening to podcasts and reducing my caloric intake. I didn’t know what to do, but I figured if I just ate less, then I would lose some weight. Little did I know that just two weeks in the future (July 2018), my life would change more than I ever expected.
I work for an amazing company, LWCC, that decided to renovate our gym at work and bring in a fantastic company to run it for us, Cooper Wellness Strategies. At first, I was extremely shy. I didn’t want to join any of the group classes that were offered because I was embarrassed of what I had become physically. I went to the gym for about a week or two by myself and really struggled, but it was my starting point and I cherished every minute of it. I then joined our 1 p.m. class and I attended it Monday through Friday until December 2018. I lost roughly 40 pounds during that time. I started feeling better, I made friends with co-workers that I didn’t know before and I started to see results which only motivated me more.
During this time I overcame a huge obstacle that I didn’t want to accept. One thing people don’t really discuss is what we go through mentally. Not only was I scared for my life, but I was no longer able to be around friends and people who were physically active because I couldn’t keep up with them anymore. I was depressed. I basically became a recluse. Since then, I have continued to work the hardest I have ever worked at anything in my life and I have found the love again to be surrounded by people.
I have spent hundreds and hundreds of hours in the gym working out with my two trainers Landon Chastant and Jeff Barbera, whom both work for Cooper Wellness Strategies. They have taught me how to look at food in a different way. I have learned to view food as a fuel source, and not just as something to eat. I have learned to read nutrition labels, understand what ingredients I am putting in my body and the significance of serving sizes. In a years’ time, June 2018 – June 2019, I have lost 101 pounds. My entire life has changed. I have fallen in love with being healthy and living a healthy lifestyle. I am no longer taking blood pressure medicine, I am no longer pre-diabetic and I feel amazing. I’m stronger than I have ever been in my life, even more so than when I was playing football. I’ve lost 13-14 inches off of my waist, 3-4 inches off my neck and just about two shirt sizes (4x to 2x). I am now able to play full court basketball again and I’ve even starting power lifting.
Being active, eating healthy and living a healthy life style, has given me another chance at life. I can play with my son, chase him around the yard and actually wear him out instead of myself. I can now hold a conversation without being short of breath. I have been informed that I am an inspiration to numerous people. I’ve had countless people, both friends and strangers, ask me for nutrition advice (something I’m not used to). I no longer live with the daily fear of having a heart attack. I understand this is something that I have to continue, as going back to my old ways is not an option.
Without LWCC taking time to truly care about all of their employees and without Cooper Wellness Strategies coming in to work with us on a daily basis, I can without a doubt say I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for both companies. They have saved my life and I am truly grateful. I look forward to continuing to work on and travel down my weight loss journey. I still have 50 or so pounds to lose, but I’m no longer focusing on the scale. I look forward to continuing to make new friends and developing the friendships/relationships that have been made. One thing I would like to focus on is helping others. I would like to be the motivating factor, support group or personal coach to help others, just the same way I was helped. It not only feels great to help others, but it also motivates me to continue to strive to my goal.
We all need help in some way. It may not be now, it might be later, but we all have our strengths and weaknesses. I know that if I can make the change and lose this weight, that anyone can do it. I am continuing to make slight changes to my diet to see what works best for me personally. My long-term goal is to reach 250 pounds. I know it will take some time but I am motivated now more than ever to continue to work. One thing that has been told to me on numerous occasions is to “REMEMBER WHY YOU STARTED.” My son being born is my reason, and it continues to drive me to become a better version of myself each day. I am very blessed and thankful that LWCC and Cooper Wellness Strategies made this possible and gave me a second chance at life. I will be forever grateful.
Buck Johnson, LWCC
Cooper Wellness Strategies client