It seemed like the world was working against Brandon Larson from the start. As a kid, Larson had more important things to worry about than his BMI. His father was a drug addict and an alcoholic, and his family had to scrape by for the basics. His weight was never really a top priority, which is why by the time he hit his 20s, he reached 360 pounds.
But when his own child entered the world, Larson knew he had to make a change. And change he did, achieving a 180-pound weight loss.
“I was always a ‘husky’ kid, as my mom would say growing up,” Larson told Men's Health. “I remember playing outside and participating in cub scouts and boy scouts. I was not morbidly obese, but I was definitely overweight.”
Throughout elementary school, Larson hid his weight behind a mask of humor, constantly trying to be the class clown to blanket his pain.
“I always felt like I had to give something or prove something to be liked,” he said.
Eventually, Larson had to transfer to a new middle school where he knew no one, and continued to gain weight out of his loneliness. At the same time, his father turned to “hardcore drugs,” as Larson put it, and alcohol. Larson, his mother, and brother simply focused on surviving.
“I went from someone who would go out of my way to get attention, bring humor, and make light of scenarios, to someone who was passive, timid, shy, and had no self-confidence,” he said.
Things went further downhill in high school, when Larson’s weight ballooned past 300 pounds. By the ninth grade, he was wearing size 42 jeans. By college, he was a size 48 and 360-plus pounds, though he doesn’t know for sure, as he stopped counting.
Soon enough, it all changed. In his early 20s, Larson met the girl of his dreams and asked her to marry him on a trip to Hawaii. Not only did she say yes, but the couple had some more big news in store for them.
“The ring wasn’t the only surprise we brought back from Hawaii. My wife actually got pregnant while we were there,” Larson said. “When my wife was pregnant, that pushed me to really think about what I was doing to myself and what I wanted. And I chose to not put myself in an early grave.”
To start, a then-23-year-old Larson began by walking on a treadmill in the back corner of his local gym so no one would see him. Though he felt embarrassed to be there, he knew each step was a step toward his new self. (Want to try walking for weight loss? Here’s everything you need to know.)
Next, he dug into nutritional science to learn what foods he should be putting in his body, including lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and unprocessed foods. After mastering both his nutrition and his treadmill routine, Larson started implementing a full-body weight routine, as well.
The first results for Larson were that he could walk further. Then he could walk without getting winded. Then he could run.
That moment when he could finally finish a walk without taking a break was "heart-wrenching," Larson said. “It really sinks in how bad of a position you are in, but it also shows that you are making amazing progress and are really changing and saving your life.”
Admittedly, his one struggle remains with food. After a lifetime of eating poorly, Larson had to rewire his brain and his stomach on what healthy food should taste like.
“I still have my moments with food as it is still a work in progress,” he said. “I was able to get over this by doing lots and lots of research. I learned everything I could and I implemented all of this knowledge in order to make progress.”
With all of these lifestyle changes, Larson was able to drop half his body weight, getting down to 180 pounds. Now, at the age of 26, he weighs 210. (He gained some weight when he put on more muscle mass.)
“When I reached my goal weight, I was so excited. Honestly, it did bring a couple of tears to my eyes when I weighed in and saw the weight,” Larson said. “It is like fighting a war for three years where you are making progress, but then you are pushed way back and having to fight your way forward again.”
After so many battles, it looks like Larson has won. As for how others can replicate his success, Larson says, “Just start. You will have time to figure everything out, but starting needs to happen right away.”
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