How I Changed My Relationship With Food And Lost Nearly 300 Pounds

As told by Sean Baltz

As a kid, I played basketball and never thought twice about the foods I ate. I was active and rail-thin. That changed, though, after decades at a desk job, a marriage, and later, a divorce.

At 30 years old, I was incredibly depressed. I worked and ate—and not much else. After surpassing 350 pounds, I tried to lose the weight, but couldn’t clean up my diet and fell deeper and deeper into unhealthy patterns of emotional eating, so I ended up just gaining more and more. Eventually, at 50 years old, I found myself at 510 pounds.

I was poisoning myself with food instead of dealing with the sadness I felt. I drank two liters of soda a day, and finished off a quart of rocky road ice cream only to reach for another.

My feet became so swollen that I couldn’t get my shoes on. I couldn’t get into my car or even walk to the end of my driveway to get the mail. If I dropped something on the floor at home, I left it there because I couldn’t pick it up.

I was poisoning myself with food instead of dealing with the sadness I felt.

Everything changed on December 18, 2015. I’ll never forget that date. After having some bloodwork done, the doctor called to inform me that I had developed type 2 diabetes. I was filled with fear. My A1C, a measure of average blood sugar, came in at 9.1 percent that day. (Editor’s note: According to the National Institutes of Health, you’re considered diabetic at 6.5 percent.) Diabetes, in combination with my obesity, put me at risk for losing a limb—maybe even my life.

That fear rocketed me toward making a radical change. I knew I had to take control of my health, so I set the goal of losing 250 pounds by September 2017. I cold-turkey quit all of the soda, junk, and processed food that had filled my diet for so long, and stocked my fridge with produce. I started tracking my calories to make sure I didn’t eat more than 2,000 calories per day, and stopped snacking in the middle of the night. The more progress I made, the more the fear that initially propelled me transformed into self-respect.

I realized I had to look at my food as medicine, as something that served my body—not just as instant gratification for my taste buds. At breakfast, I loaded up on fresh fruit and a few tablespoons of nuts or seeds, plus an occasional protein shake. I ate a light midday snack of almonds and an apple, and went vegetable-crazy at dinner, filling my crock-pot with broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. I got my protein from beans or a small portion of lean meat. Throughout the day, I drank tons of water: ten 16-ounce bottles every day.

I knew I had to take control of my health, so I set the goal of losing 250 pounds by September 2017.

After months and months of eating only the freshest foods I could get my hands on, I’d dropped 200 pounds. I meant business! I wanted to exercise, but I could still only power-walk for about five minutes at a time. So I started there, power-walking for five minutes, and adding a minute every day until I could walk for a half-hour straight. Then I added two minutes a day until I could walk for an hour.

I reached my goal of losing 250 pounds in September 2016—a year early. By the end of the year I weighed 215 pounds and I’d lost almost 300 pounds. Now I’m incorporating strength training into my routine and I celebrate every bit of nourishing food I put into my mouth. My A1C level is under control at 4.9.

Related: 6 Ways Building Muscle Benefits Your Health And Wellness

I used to see myself as a loser, and I conquered that. My health transformation has been about so much more than the pounds lost and bloodwork numbers. As I told myself over and over that I deserved health and that my life was worth fixing my toxic relationship with food, the temptation of ice cream and my other old vices went out the window. I transformed my outlook on life, and that enabled me to be positive and make change happen. Now I plan to write a book about my experiences.

Advice For Others

You have to change the way you talk to yourself about food. Redefine what you call a ‘comfort food.’ Who says an apple can’t be as comforting as a candy bar? If having the junk food around blazes an inner battle in you, clear it out of the house. Create an environment at home that’s conducive to health.

Sean’s Go-To Picks From The Vitamin Shoppe

I’ve tried a lot of supplements on my path to health. CoQ10, apple cider vinegar tablets, and omega-3 fish oil have been a part of my regimen since the get-go.