The life change that helped this 25-year-old lose 104 pounds and move out of his parents' house

Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.

Brad Thornhill before and after. (Photo: Courtesy of Brad Thornhill)

Brad Thornhill is 25 and 5-foot-9, and he currently weighs 151 pounds. In 2016, after struggling with his weight for a long time, he had a realization that in order to be happy, he had to undergo a lifestyle revamp. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.

The turning point

There’s no definitive point when I thought, Wow, this is getting to be a problem. It was the accumulation of little things. When I would bend down to tie my shoes I would get seriously out of breath. I would avoid mirrors and having my picture taken, and clothes just didn’t fit properly. In all honesty, seeing myself upset me. I knew I could do and be better. I suppose my weight became an issue when it started negatively affecting my happiness.

I had a few guilty-pleasure shows I would watch in bed. One of them was The Flash. It’s by no means the best show, and I’m in no way a huge Flash fan, but it kept me entertained. One night I was lying in bed watching it with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream in one hand, a spoon in the other, and the mentality that I was going to demolish that whole pint. In the episode, Barry Allen gets a loft apartment with his girlfriend, and I just thought, Wow, he is so happy. I wish one day I could be that happy. Then my mind drifted to, Man, he is really thin too. If only I didn’t have these fat genes.

That night was when I decided to try to get out of that mentality. I told myself I would go out and take the first step of buying a scale. I did just that, and that’s when my life started changing.

The changes

It’s going to sound like an exaggeration, but buying that scale was a scary step for me. I was standing in the aisle for a solid 10 minutes thinking negative thoughts like, “What am I doing? I probably can’t keep up with this, this is a waste,” and so on. Tie in the fact that I felt like a fish out of water — a severely obese guy looking at scales. I felt like everyone’s eyes were on me, and it just made for a very stressful time. But I made it through and then went to pick up my first bottle of men’s multivitamins. The rest is history.

I should say right off the bat that I am completely lazy! I knew that if I tried to go to the gym to lose weight, I would fail. My plan was to lose weight entirely exercise-free. So I started off doing some research on my own. The website that helped me throughout my weight loss is mytdee.com. You fill out the required information, including how quickly you want to lose weight and your goal weight, and it tells you the amount of calories you burn in a 24-hour period, how many you need to eat to achieve a sufficient caloric deficit, and when you can expect to hit your goal. This was a big lifesaver for me.

For my meals, I did some research and came to the conclusion that I should eat mostly protein. The good thing about that is there is a ton of food high in protein, and who doesn’t love to eat meat? Protein boosts your metabolism and feels more filling than other foods. It also tends to be low in calories, so you can eat a chicken breast and only be taking in 200 or 250 calories. I seriously enjoy onions and mushrooms so I cook them up alongside my chicken. I counted calories and tried to make sure I was eating lots of protein while cutting out most junk food. A good rule of thumb for me was that if I didn’t make it myself, I didn’t eat it.

At first I was really self-conscious about my journey. It felt like everyone knew what I was trying to do and judging me for it. It didn’t take long to get out of that frame of mind, though, and that’s when I started to feel really good about myself. For once, I felt like I was in control. I had discipline that I never had before, and I was only getting stronger. I didn’t see physical changes right off the bat, but the mental changes were close to immediate.

Finding motivation is tough. It’s extremely basic, but I just wanted to be proud of myself. I didn’t want to have to hide behind things in pictures or put on fake smiles. I wanted to be able to dress well and have nice, well-fitted clothing.

There were a few times that I wanted to quit because I didn’t see any changes. At the time, I worked in a mall that had a Target attached to it. I would go there on my breaks to pick up food and whatever else I needed, so I was a daily customer. One day an employee named Gina came up to me and said, “I don’t want this to sound weird, but I can tell you’ve been losing weight and I just wanted to say you look great.” That was the first time in a long time that I’d received a compliment like that. I was completely speechless. Later on I actually found out she thought I was completely weirded out because of my lack of response! Moments like that kept me from giving up. I may not have been noticing the changes, but they were surely happening.

Brad after his weight loss. (Photo: Courtesy of Brad Thornhill)

The after

I am a frequent selfie taker now! I hated having my picture taken before, but now I probably enjoy it too much. I honestly feel great about myself. I’m more self-disciplined and have a lot more drive. Since I lost weight, I’ve gained a lot of self-respect and flipped my life around entirely.

Back then, I wasn’t happy, but I was comfortable. I had a comfortable job and had a comfortable living situation with my parents. Now I got out of the sinkhole that is retail and took a job in a warehouse, which is a lot more physically demanding but it fits in with my new lifestyle. After making that change, I pushed myself and gave myself a certain date by when I wanted to be out of my parents’ house. I did just that. I’m now out on my own and fully supporting myself and feel the best I’ve ever felt. I can finally say I’m proud of who I am. I can look in the mirror and smile instead of shying away.

I was worried that eating properly, counting calories, portioning, etc. would always be at the forefront of my mind, but that’s not the case at all. After the first six months it just became habit and routine. I have learned how many calories to expect various foods to have and I don’t really have to think about it anymore. People still ask, “How’s your diet going?” After six months, it wasn’t a diet — it was my lifestyle.

Before and after. (Photo: Courtesy of Brad Thornhill)

The maintenance

My eating and exercise is very much the same. Lots of protein and things low in calories. I give myself the weekends to have soda, energy drinks, and junk food. I have expanded the food I will eat, though. At first, I limited myself because I was afraid of food and what it had done to me, but over time I got over that and began letting myself have some candy here and there or some breads and pasta outside of my cheat days. It’s about portion size — you can’t live life afraid of food.

As for exercise, I just signed up for a gym membership and am meeting with a personal trainer soon. I did this all exercise-free because I was worried I would fall off the horse, but I think I have enough discipline to not let that happen now. My job pretty much covers all the cardio I will need, but I could use some strength training. The way I see it, I’ve got a blank canvas to work with.

For the most part, my life is a series of habits. I’m very routine-oriented, which helped me through all of this. If anything, I think it’s my weekend cheat days that help me keep my lifestyle. Knowing that if I keep it up through the week that I can indulge over the weekend.

Never wanting to go back to what I was keeps me motivated. I like myself. I like who I am, and I don’t ever want to put myself in that position where I can’t even look in the mirror. I won’t let that happen again.

The struggles

Thankfully, I don’t have any really serious things with which I struggle. At this point, my lifestyle is ingrained in me. But sometimes it is a bit difficult, especially when it comes to eating with friends and family. When I go out to eat with friends at restaurants or fast food places, I count calories and try to limit portions. But let’s face it: Fast food is delicious, so sometimes it can be hard to stick to the correct portions.

I come from a family that likes to cook big and cheesy. I’m used to cooking for myself and knowing what’s in my food, so when I go to visit family members, there is no knowing how many thousands of calories are in that one piece of overflowing lasagna. So I’m either turning down food any time it’s offered to me or having a very small amount of it. Fortunately, though, they don’t take it personally.

Advice

The most important thing I learned is that cheat days are necessary for me. When I say “cheat day,” I don’t mean Thanksgiving-sized portions of food. I mean indulging your cravings but in moderation and within (or maybe a bit over) what your caloric intake goals are. You’re not going to lose your progress and gain several pounds overnight. There’s a big fear that if you have a cheat day you’re going to fall off the horse and never get back on. That’s not true at all. If anything, it gives you something to look forward to. A nice reward to end the week after putting in that hard work and staying on track. If you don’t give yourself a cheat day or two, you’re going to burn yourself out and never want to get on that horse again. You need that reinforcement. You need those wins.

Need more inspiration? Read about our other weight-loss winners!

Weight-Loss Win is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative, 135-pound weight loss of her own.

Have a weight-loss win or beauty story to share? We want to hear it! Tell us at YStyleBeauty@yahoo.com.

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