One of our own here at News 4 has just completed an incredible journey.
Joseph Lopez, the 10pm newscast producer, has lost 200 pounds in only a year - going from 430 pounds to 230 pounds!
"I was the fat kid, and I always was," Joseph said. "I was the biggest person in the room."
By the 4th grade, Joseph, or J-Lo as everybody calls him, already was 170 pounds thanks in part to his grandma's home-cooked breakfasts.
"I'd wake up and the first thing I'd have is lard-filled tacos - bacon, eggs, sausage, cheese, chorizo."
But it was when J-Lo hit his peak of 430 pounds at the age of 22, sporting a XXXXXL (5X) shirt size and 56 pant size, that something changed.
"I was on a plane, and the seat belt wouldn't click. It was too small," J-Lo recalled. "Well, the seat belt wasn't too small, it's that I was too big."
"I just said, 'Enough is enough and it's time for a change.'"
So he came back and turned his life around.
J-Lo didn't really set out to lose 200 pounds, but rather just make a change. And it took time.
"I pulled out a pair of shorts and tennis shoes and started going to Brackenridge Park, 3-4 days a week," he said. "But I wouldn't go during the day. I had to do it at 4 or 5am, when nobody was out there. I was too embarrassed, at the size I was, to exercise in front of people. But, I started something that I do to this day called walk-jogs. I'll walk, then jog, walk, then jog. When I started in March of 2012, I couldn't jog for more than 20-30 seconds at a time, but I knew that I could build up, and every day I added on slowly. The 30 seconds turned into 3 minutes. The 3-minute long jog sessions turned into 10-minute long sprints. It was all endurance and training. Now, I can run a mile in 10 minutes."
But being young and getting bored easily with the same routine, he started running in different places, at different times. From Brackenridge, he jogged along Avenue B and Broadway, and from there his journey took him along the River Walk and the Monte Vista neighborhood, which he loves specifically for their big, broad streets.
But exercise was - and is - just the half of it.
"I cut out fast food completely. I went to the groceries for the first time in... forever. I cooked a lot of my meals. A lot more fruits and vegetables. And when I did go out, I would make the right choices. Everything I was supposed to be eating, I started eating."
When time became too much of an issue, J-Lo started eating out at restaurants for all of his meals - something he says actually helped him more in his weight-loss journey.
"To this day, one of my biggest vices is: If the food is there in front of me, there is a good chance that I'll eat it. So, for the latter part of my year-long journey, I have been eating breakfast, lunch and dinner at restaurants. Save for fruits, vegetables, water and beer, I haven't had any food at home."
What do you buy at restaurants? What does J-Lo order? Salads. Wraps. Vegetables (fresh, roasted, steamed). Grilled fish tacos.
In this process, J-Lo has almost fully converted to being a pescetarian. Rare occasion aside, he doesn't consume any meat, poultry or dairy products. Gone are the meat burgers and in its place, veggie patties. Gone is whole milk and in its place, almond milk.
While it may seem a bit radical to some, he says giving up certain foods can help in the fat quite literally melting away.
"I gave up fast food at first. Then I gave up a good chunk of processed foods. Then I gave up meat, chicken and cheese. Just the cheese alone, I think, was huge in my success," he said.
And desserts? A kid his age - you'd think he'd be eating chocolate, ice cream and sopapillas left and right! Not so, says J-Lo.
"It's weird. I don't think about desserts much. I guess I do sometimes, but I see them as processed desserts. Processed foods. The bad kind of sugar. If I have a dessert, I want it to be a real food. Something where fruit - real fruit - is involved."
In January, when J-Lo weighed 260 pounds and had 30 to go for his ultimate goal, J-Lo joined a gym and started doubling-up on his workouts -- training on running on a treadmill and also fitting in sessions with the elliptical and stair-climber.
For much of that three month period, from January-March, he averaged losing about 5 pounds per week.
Two months later, having lost a total of 200, he says the journey - and where he is now - is still surreal.
"It sounds weird, but shopping at the mall - shopping for clothes at the mall is still, just, like, 'Whoa!" to me. It's like, I can buy that off the rack, because it fits," he said. "For years I couldn't do that!"
Now, the same guy who was too embarrassed to even go for a "walk-jog" in public is thinking about the next step.
"I wanted to share this story because I know and I see that there are a lot of people out there in that same situation. I've been humbled to know and see that I've inspired people around me - co-workers, my dad - and if I can inspire and change more lives, it's all worth it."Joseph has set up a blog where you can read more about his journey.
You also can get help from Joseph himself, if you're in a similar situation and want to change your life.
He says he is looking to consult and work directly with people who are in similar situations and help them achieve life-changing results.
You also can contact Joseph at firstname.lastname@example.org