At thirty-five years old, I am

At thirty-five years old, I am

At thirty-five years old, I am a relatively young guy. I have a wonderful wife, a beautiful three-year-old daughter, and a good job (well, actually two good jobs). My health is great, my energy level is high and I have never felt better, but it wasn''t always that way.

About ten years ago my weight troubles began. With my height (six feet, seven inches) I already have a large presence, but once I climbed to almost four hundred and twenty pounds, I was nothing short of huge. I actually scared children, appearing to them as some sort of monster, I guess. I certainly didn''t like that; nor did I like the way my body was beginning to feel carrying so much excess weight around. My back hurt. I experienced hip and knee pain and I was constantly out of breath. I have a lawn maintenance business as well as a job as a water plant operator and I was finding that my limited mobility was keeping me from being able to do certain tasks that I needed to do.

I knew it was time to change my ways, but it wasn''t until the birth of our daughter, Amber, that the thought really hit home. I realized that my obesity was limiting what I was able to do with her. Worse than that, though, was my fear that I might not live to watch her grow up...see her graduate from college...or be there to walk her down the aisle. The love a parent has for a child is very powerful and in my case it gave me the motivation I needed.

I first found out about gastric bypass from a woman in my town who had the surgery. I watched her literally melt away and it occurred to me that this procedure might work for me too. It wasn''t long before I was at U.S. Bariatric undergoing the surgery myself and I haven''t regretted my decision for one minute since. Sure, there were some tough days initially, dealing with Thrush and an infection, but even with those complications, I would do it all again.

Reaching my goal weight was no problem for me - in fact, I lost weight much quicker than I imagined possible. In the first month alone, I lost seventy pounds and by six months I had lost all I needed to lose. Now I weigh actually a bit less than my ideal weight, so the ''team'' is working with me to adjust my diet slightly to stabilize my weight. I would never have thought that I would be in the position where I needed to put on a couple of pounds, but it''s a nice change to all the years I spent wanting to take pounds off!

I attribute my success to many things. Of course the support of my family has had a great deal to do with it, but I also believe the fact that I have followed the program to the letter has really made the difference. I walk four miles per day, I keep an active lifestyle, I eat as instructed, and I take advantage of the resource meetings and other support activities whenever I can. I have invested too much not to take it seriously.

In April I will celebrate the one-year anniversary of my surgery. As a gift to myself I am going to fulfill a dream I have had for as long as I can remember. I am going to take lessons at the Richard Petty Driving School and run laps in a Winston Cup racecar at the speedway in Charlotte, NC. For years I have imagined myself behind the wheel of a racecar, but it was never more than a dream because of the three-hundred-pound weight restriction for student drivers.

Now that I am well under the limit, there is nothing holding me back. When I come out of turn 4 and approach the finish line for the first time, I know it will be a very emotional moment for me and for my wife who will be filming me from the stands. As I reflect on where I have been and how I have persevered, I will take great pride in knowing that I stayed in the race and took that checkered flag. Life-long health and happiness will forever be my trophy!