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Austin Shifflett, now 22 years old from Virginia, would rather forget the painful memories of high school. Bullied by other students because of his weight, he turned that stumbling block into a stepping stone for a healthier and more enjoyable life.
"I remember getting picked on a lot," Austin told TODAY.com. "If I was in the lunch line, they would make comments about what was on my tray."
To cope with the pain and embarrassment from cruel remarks, Austin turned to fast food, sugary drinks and heavy meals.
Breakfast: Two- to three-egg omelet, hash browns and pancakes.
Lunch: Whopper and large fries.
Dinner: Double quarter pound burger with cheese, large fries, large sweet tea and a large milkshake.
"It made me happy temporarily, but then it got out of hand," he recalled.
Austin despised going to school because of how hurtful the other students were toward him. He purposely acted out so much, the school administration had no choice but to suspend him.
"(They would) give me a referral for in-school suspension," he said. "I would rip up the referral and throw it in the trash."
This would force the administration to give him an out-of-school suspension. It's exactly what he wanted.
Austin wasn't always overweight, even though obesity is common in his family. Once he turned 13, Austin started to get heavier and heavier. He traded his active childhood lifestyle for video games and junk food.
The turning point came when he got on a scale at a friend's house. His weight was 324 pounds.
"I was like 'Oh my!'" he recalled. "I walked out and left his house immediately. I felt like I was going to break down."
Austin decided to try the Atkins diet, which limits carbohydrates to promote weight loss. The first week he lost nine pounds.
"Just seeing that nine pounds [fall off'] got me hooked!" he said.
Each week he dropped more and more weight. Once he lost 80 pounds, Austin starting exercising. He'd hit the gym at 1 a.m. because he was too embarrassed to go during the day.
The combination of diet and exercise helped him lose 166 pounds in just one year!
"I was shocked I was able to lose that much weight in a little amount of time," he said.
His current workout routine includes running six to nine miles per day, and he mixes in basketball, hiking and other outdoor sports. Austin admits sometimes he has to motivate himself to continue exercising.
"When you feel like you can't do it anymore, you need to find that strength to just do it," he said. "I see people 40 years and older (working out at the gym). I have no excuse!"
Now Austin is going to college in Virginia pursuing a degree in personal training.
"If I can just help one person get to where I have gotten, that'll be successful for me," said an energetic Austin.
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