Wellness Wins is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.

Eric Hunnicutt is 6’4” tall and currently weighs 210 pounds. In 2016, he was inspired to change his lifestyle after a trip to the doctor left him frightened. This is the story of his weight-loss journey, as told to Yahoo Lifestyle.

The Turning Point

I don’t remember a time where weight wasn’t an issue for me. I remember in second grade someone made a comment about my weight that spurred me to go on a diet where I ate nothing but apples for several days.

I went to the doctor in Dec. 2015 with strep. They gave me a printout of my body stats, and after seeing the weight and BMI [body mass index] on that, I was scared. Like really, really frightened. I was classified as morbidly obese. The word ‘morbid’ shook me to the core.

In early 2016, a friend of mine was also looking to lose weight. We started with the Whole30 diet that January — you know, the typical New Year’s resolution sort of thing. I actually started to see results, and just kept at it.

The Changes

It started with Whole30. That diet is pretty restrictive and a lot of those restrictions seemed arbitrary and unnecessary (quinoa, sprouted grains, etc.). I stepped back and analyzed what Whole30 was really doing – essentially just reducing the number of calories I was consuming through eliminating specific categories of food. I work in IT – I’m a pretty number/data-driven guy – and after doing a lot of research, I decided all I really needed to do was burn more calories than what I was consuming. Doing that allowed me to continue to eat all categories of foods. I started tracking my food in MyFitnessPal and incorporated daily cardio into my routine.

As far as exercising, I honestly just started trying to move as much as possible, initially — parking farther away from the building, taking the stairs, walking around the block twice a day at work, etc.

I saw an advertisement for a Zumba class being held at work and decided I’d give it a try. It was really challenging at first. I was pretty nervous, initially — I was the only male in the class, and a 6’4’’, 300-pounds-plus person doesn’t exactly blend into the background. Everyone in that class was so kind and welcoming. Those Zumba sessions really got my heart rate up and they were fun.

At the same time, I joined a gym and started using their cardio equipment for half an hour a day — the Arc Trainer or elliptical at first, as my knees couldn’t take the high impact from running. I don’t remember exactly when, but I moved to the treadmill at some point and started using the Couch to 5K app to try running. After completing that program, I still run almost every day. I try to get the distance of a 5K in – a little over 3 miles. I prefer to run outdoors but sometimes Mother Nature just doesn’t cooperate and I will use the treadmill.

I felt phenomenal. I realized I had more energy, despite working out more. I was sleeping better. I started to notice not only the number on the scale going down but many non-scale victories (favorite clothes being too big, not needing a seatbelt extender on an airplane, going up a flight of stairs without being winded, etc.). Those little things I noticed, feedback from others, and being able to recognize that I felt better were what kept me going.

The After

I think anyone, no matter their shape or size, should be confident in themselves. That being said, that was not the case for me. I was (and still am) conscious of my body all the time. I’m conscious of how I fit into a given space (how I feel in an armchair, for instance), how my clothes are falling on my body. Those things can really have an affect on your confidence. I do feel more confident in myself now — particularly when around other people. People will judge you based on how you look. The phrase “don’t judge a book by it’s cover” is garbage. We innately judge someone on how they look — it’s a survival instinct. Whether you’re aware of it or not, you’re forming thoughts about a person based on the first type of data your brain receives about them.

The Maintenance

I will admit that my relationship with food is still a difficult one. I think about food often. I’m always wondering how any given food I want to consume will impact my body. Thinking things like, “How will this affect my metabolism?” “What will this do to my blood sugar?” “Where does this put me in terms of my caloric needs?”

I do still track foods I eat. I like the data aspect of it. Seeing that quantitative measure gives me peace of mind. That being said, I treat myself every now and then. I’d say I’m at a point where I track loosely and eat somewhat intuitively. I just try to remain conscious of what I’ve consumed.

Most of the foods I eat are not processed. Fruits, vegetables, and meat are what I mainly consume.

I’m at a point now where I feel physically and mentally great. Remembering how I felt before compared to how I feel know is all the motivation I need.

The Struggles

I struggle with guilt associated with either not working out or guilt from consuming something I know is “bad.” My relationship with food is a work in progress. I just try to be rational. I have an incredible support system of friends and family who are there to help me work through my struggles as well.

Advice

I put off changing my diet and exercise regimen for years because I thought I was at the point of no return. Change will be uncomfortable at first. Get your diet down and become familiar with that. After you’ve got diet down, incorporate some exercise into your routine. I’d estimate weight loss is 70 to 80 percent diet-based. The other 30 to 20 percent is done through exercise.

The gym can be intimidating. But nobody there cares about what you’re doing or what you look like. You just have to go in and get your workout in. Don’t worry about others judging you.

Need more inspiration? Read about our other wellness winners!

Wellness Wins is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative, 135-pound weight loss of her own.

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