Three years ago Stephen Vysocky was in a “really bad point in life” after experiencing a breakup and hid out in his apartment. His roommate would often invite him to do things, but Vysocky always said no. He felt like his weight, about 480 pounds, stopped him from enjoying many activities. Then his roommate sat him down for a chat.
“We had a real heart-to-heart conversation where he was like, ‘Stephen, you’re pretty much going to die if you don’t make a change in your life … The only person that can make that change is you,’” Vysocky, 34, a data processing lead for a cold storage warehouse, in Riverside, California, told TODAY. “He’s like, ‘I got a gym membership and I want to take you.’”
At first, Vysocky balked. He worried people would judge him and he’d fail to lose the weight. In the past, he had tried to shed some pounds but it never worked. Still, his roommate persisted.
“Literally kicking and screaming for a week, he drug me to the gym. I couldn’t really do anything for a long period of time because of how big I was,” he said. “I was getting upset and he was really comforting me and he would tell me that he would move at my own pace.”
Still, it was tough.
“I couldn’t do five minutes on the elliptical,” he said. “My legs were shaking. My roommate actually had to help me to the car.”
After a week of having his roommate working slowly with him, Vysocky decided to go the gym alone after having a candid chat with himself.
“I’m a really caring guy and I tried to take care of all my friends and family,” he said. “I said (to myself), ‘If I can invest all this time and energy into other people, how come I can’t do that for me? How come I can’t invest that time into me?’ And that was that.”
He purchased a gym membership and started attending regularly. He dedicated himself to exercising regularly for a year. At first, he struggled with endurance and often felt sore. But he gave himself pep talks.
“I kept telling myself this is for the betterment of me,” he said. “(I was) pushing myself. I was like, ‘All right, cool, if I can do five minutes now, I’ll push myself to 10, 20.'”
He kept going to the gym no matter how achy his muscles felt or how tired he was.
“(In the past) I would tell myself ‘I can’t do it’ and then I would give up and I would be back in the same spot,” Vysocky said. “I just told myself I have to invest, in this year, in me and see where it goes. I couldn’t give up and stop mid-year.”
After losing about 30 pounds, Vysocky noticed his weight loss slowed a little. So he started looking at his eating habits. First, he cut soda.
“That’s a big crutch for me. I love soda,” he said. “I literally quit cold turkey for three months and I started noticing the weight start dropping like that.”
He also stopped eating too much fast food and another roommate taught him how to prepare healthier foods. When the pandemic started, he truly examined his diet.
“Because all of the gyms closed, I was like, ‘What am I going to do?’ And that’s when I changed a lot of my eating habits,” he explained.
He also started jogging and now can jog a 5K. On the elliptical he does more than 3 miles in about 35 minutes. While he followed a ketogenic diet for a year, he now follows a lower-carb diet that isn’t as strict. He added tons of vegetables to his meals and learned how to cook chicken and steak.
These small changed worked. Over three years, Vysocky lost 240 pounds to weigh 265 pounds. He learned a lot about himself through the process.
“It really taught me a lot of self-love and self-care for how I am and my body,” he said. “During this progress just seeing how my body has changed and seeing what I could do and learning what I can do it’s just given me the self-confidence.”
Vysocky provides tips to anyone hoping to make healthy lifestyle changes.
1. ‘Getting there is half the battle.’
Some days Vysocky felt so tired and didn’t want to go to the gym. But he found that if he skipped it, he often felt worse.
“Getting there is half the battle,” he said. “When you feel like you don’t want to go and you don’t go … is when you’re most disappointed in yourself because you’re like, ‘Oh I could have went and I didn’t want to go.’”
2. Find inspiration.
When sticking with new habits felt tough, Vysocky turned to inspiring speeches.
“I watched a lot of motivational videos, like Shaq and Kobe Bryant speeches, about greatness and how they had to work every day and not seeing the mountain as a whole, but only a day-by-day progress journey,” he explained. “That gave me the motivation to keep going.”
3. Get support.
“My roommates have been super supportive. My friends, too,” he said. “If I didn’t have a support system or someone to go with me (to the gym) on those days where I was not feeling it, I don’t think I could have achieved as much as I have.”