Dustin Hall weighed 11 pounds when he was born on Thanksgiving 37 years ago.
“The nurses called me a butterball like the turkey because of my size,” Dustin told TODAY Health. “I was a big baby.”
And a big adult. At his heaviest, Dustin, who is 6 feet 3 inches tall, weighed 534 pounds. Growing up, he was teased mercilessly.
“I remember walking home from school and people actually yelling out their car window, ‘Lose weight fat boy!’” Dustin recalled. One classmate declared that Dustin would never get a girlfriend because of how he looked.
But Dustin did get a girlfriend. In July, Dustin and his wife, Raquel Hall, will celebrate their nine-year wedding anniversary. But their biggest milestone to date is welcoming their daughter, Presley, after losing a combined 423 pounds with the help of weight-loss surgery.
“I’d been taking fertility medications and that didn’t work for me,” Raquel, 34, said. “My weight was preventing me from becoming pregnant.”
In Dec. 2018, at the suggestion of her doctor, Raquel elected to have gastric bypass, a procedure that shrinks the size of the stomach. At the time she weighed 298 pounds.
It was a major life decision, but Raquel wasn’t scared. Dustin underwent gastric bypass in 2016 and it worked better than he ever could have dreamed: he lost 317 pounds.
“I was excited to change my life, too,” Raquel explained.
With Dustin cheering her on, Raquel would go on to lose 115 pounds. In Dec. 2020, she gave birth to a healthy baby girl.
“I got pregnant so easily,” she said.
This is quite common, according to Dr. Caroline Apovian, co-director of the Center for Weight Management and Wellness at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.
"Weight loss of a significant amount can restore hormone levels to near normal, restore menstrual cycle and lead to conception very quickly after weight loss," Apovian told TODAY. "In fact, we counsel women to use birth control during the active weight-loss phase of bariatric surgery because of how quickly women who thought they were not fertile can get pregnant post-op."
Doing it together
When Dustin and Raquel began dating in 2011, they bonded over food. It wasn’t uncommon for Dustin to consume more than 2,500 calories before 9 a.m.
“We’d get home and throw on Netflix. I’d have a pizza to myself, breadsticks and a two liter of soda and she’d have the same,” Dustin revealed. “It was a joy to sit on the bed and watch TV and binge.”
Now the couple goes on adventures together instead.
“We’re swimming in caves in Mexico and jumping off cliffs and we’re both zip lining,” Raquel said. “We have fun and I think we never really knew what that was before. I remember driving to the beach but just looking out because we couldn’t walk in the sand.”
Dustin and Raquel exercise regularly and follow a high-protein diet. Dustin, who is a certified fitness specialist, regularly shares workouts with his nearly 68,000 Instagram followers.
“The first four or five months after surgery, I just walked. I started with two laps,” Dustin said.
Then he joined a gym and converted his garage into an exercise space.
“What works for me is keeping it fresh and different,” Dustin said, noting that he loves full-body HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workouts.
“I have something called ‘The Dusty 5’ and it’s five different workout stations,” he said. “I’ll grab anything from a kettlebell to a jump rope.”
Dustin encourages other people who are looking to lose weight to read food labels and keep trigger foods out of the house. He also recommends easing into a fitness routine.
"I appreciate that I didn't overwhelm myself. I just slowly started integrating more and more," he said. "In the past, when I'd decide to lose weight I'd go hard six days a week and then I'd burn out and quit."
At 220 pounds, Dustin is currently in maintenance mode. Raquel, who is breastfeeding Presley, weighs 209 pounds.
They often laugh at how far they’ve come.
“Now before we go on vacation, we look at pictures of the hotel gym. These are the same two people who used to just sit on the couch,” Dustin said. “It’s been the most incredible journey.”