When Romar Lyle started graduate school studying criminal justice and investigative forensics, he worried that this his weight would stop him from achieving his dream to become a police officer. At more than 400 pounds, the 5 foot 8 inch student resigned himself to a career in a forensics lab.
He was working as a graduate assistant, but feeling uncomfortable and shy about making friends. Then, his supervisor invited Lyle to join in exercise at his CrossFit gym. He agreed to go, but was feeling uncertain.
“I was just waiting for everyone to laugh at me," Lyle, 26, of Richmond, Virginia, told TODAY. "The workout was to run 400 meters and they told me to run 100 meters, just go down to the sign and come back. I remember running and a few steps in, I was out of breath. And I was like, ‘Here comes everyone laughing.' I was so embarrassed.”
But no one laughed.
“All they were saying was ‘Keep going! I know it’s hard, keep going, you’re doing great!’” Lyle recalled.
The coaches started jogging with him, even though he ran slowly and struggled to breathe. He couldn’t believe how supportive everyone was. He decided to keep going to the gym.
“It wasn’t about the weight loss," Lyle said. "It was about having a good time and doing something new and seeing what I could do every single day, whether it was to lift a little heavier or run a little bit further."
He noticed his body was changing and it felt natural.
“I lost all this weight and it didn’t feel as hard as I thought it would be,” he said. “I genuinely enjoyed what I did.”
Sometimes, he’d gain weight back because of poor eating habits, so the coaches helped him modify his diet, too. Lyle, who loves sweets, learned how to make healthier versions of ice cream and desserts, for example.
“My coach kind of said, ‘Hey you don’t need to stop eating everything you enjoy,'” he explained. “So, I thought, ‘How can I make the dishes that I am used to in a healthier way?’”
Soon, he learned to like his new eating habits. After about six months without junk food, he ate a fast food chicken sandwich and realized that more had changed than just his size.
“I just got so sick,” Lyle said. “My body wasn’t used to it anymore. It made it so much easier to say, ‘I’m not that person anymore. I am focusing on a healthier me.’”
Lyle's new diet includes fresh vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, fruits, some low-fat dairy, lean protein, including chicken, and whole grains, such as quinoa. He exercises every day, even if it's just taking a walk. Most days, he spends about an hour and a half at the gym doing cardio and weight training.
“I just have to get up and do something,” he said. “I look at it as every day is an opportunity to be working toward my goal.”
Since late 2015, Lyle has lost 184 pounds, including 30 pounds he shed during the seven months he attended the police academy. He now weighs 222 pounds and has gone from a size 54 to a size 36.
“There’s no better feeling walking into those stores," Lyle said, "and not having to worry about your size or your weight.”
He graduated and achieved his goal: Lyle is now a police officer in the Richmond Police Department in Virginia.
“Having the physical ability to do those things pushed me further to say, ‘Yes I want to lose the weight. Yes this is where I want to be,’” he said. “I have learned to re-embrace a challenge and not to quit.”
He's proud of his accomplishments and wants to share some tips that helped him lose the weight.
1. Throw out your ‘fat clothes’
While some people save their larger size clothes to show how far they’ve come, Lyle took a different approach.
“Go through all your clothes and start throwing them out so you don’t have anything to go back to,” Lyle explained. “Those little mental notes and reminders will push you toward your goals.”
2. Look for support
The coaches, friends and family who encouraged Lyle made it easier for him to lose weight and stick to his healthy habits.
“Surround yourself with the people who support you,” he said. “Forget about the people who laugh at you.”
3. Make reasonable goals
As Lyle’s coaches reminded him, baby steps are all he needed to take. Trying to lose five pounds at a time was a more attainable goal than losing almost 200, but it all added up.
“I want to focus more on that and what I can do toward those steps,” he said. “Enjoy things and take it a step at a time and set reasonable goals.”