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As a high school football player, weighing 240 pounds helped José Rodriquez on the field. While he was always heavier than his friends, he thought he’d grow out of it. After graduating high school, though, he was in a motorcycle accident, and that experience led him to gain weight.
“I fell into a depression. I was eating and eating and I was 505 pounds. In my head, I was 230, 240 pounds,” Rodriquez, 25, of Atlanta, told TODAY. He is 5 feet 7 inch tall, and the weight kept piling on.
But a doctor’s appointment in 2014 quickly changed his views. The doctor warned Rodriquez that his weight was impacting his health.
“He basically told me if I continued down this path I wouldn’t make it to 21 or 22,” said Rodriquez, who was 20 years old at the time. “That was eye opening for me.”
So Rodriquez started small: He simply walked more. At first, he walked around his couch.
“At 505 pounds, I got so winded from doing simple things,” he said.
But he continued walking around his house. Just from one month of extra movement he shed 15 pounds. About four months after he started moving more, he made small tweaks to his diet, such as swapping regular soda for diet.
“I was drinking four or five sodas a day … but it was diet,” Rodriguez said. “Also, I switched from whole milk to two percent milk.”
These small changes helped boost his weight loss. His cousin suggested he join a gym and his brother and sister joined with him for additional support.
“They knew if I didn’t make a change I wouldn’t live long,” he said.
As he lost more weight, Rodriguez made more changes. Instead of buying bulk chips, cookies and honey buns (his weakness), he’d buy only one box of snacks.
“I slowly eliminated stuff as I was progressing,” he said.
In the first year, he shed 100 pounds. Since then he has slowly lost fat as he builds muscle. In 2017, he started power lifting and focused on becoming stronger.
“My weight loss, I would say, has been slow due to different goals that I set each year,” Rodriguez explained.
In total he has shed 200 pounds, and now weighs 300 pounds. He hopes to lose another 100 pounds this year. He has become more focused on his diet, eating lean protein, whole grains and vegetables while also completely cutting soda from his diet. He’s increasing his cardio exercise, too, by walking daily and visiting the gym five days a week.
“I re-analyzed everything I am doing,” he said. “When you have a goal like I do at the moment, any little change can make a difference.”
Rodriguez sets annual goals and works all year toward reaching them. But ultimately, he wants to be healthy and this experience has taught him about himself.
“I have grown a lot. Back then, my mental willpower was on the low side and now it is at a whole different level,” he said. “I am a lot tougher than I thought.”
Rodriquez shares advice for others hoping to lose weight and improve their health.
1. Record it.
When Rodriguez changes his goals or hits a plateau, he looks at what he is doing. It’s easy because he tracks everything he eats and his daily exercise in the app, My Fitness Pal. He might notice that he’s drinking too much juice or that he might need to add more cardio.
“I am a believer in keeping track," he said. "I believe in being very precise."
He takes loads of pictures and compares them to old ones. Maybe he hasn’t lost weight, but his body has still changed and the pictures reveal it. He shares his pictures on Instagram, too, as Monster_Elite.
2. ‘Slow progress is still progress.’
“I tell people, ‘You didn’t gain the weight overnight so you can’t drop it overnight.’ Slow progress is still progress. Take it step-by-step,” he said.
3. Look for support.
While Rodriguez started walking around his house and eating healthy foods on his own, he really started exercising more when his family joined the gym with him. That motivated him and helped him overcome some fears.
“It was very hard for me to get into the habit of actually going into the gym. I was embarrassed at the time and having someone at my side helped a lot,” he said.