The ‘rock bottom moment’ that motivated one man to lose 331 pounds

After a health scare at 25 years old, Mike Castaneda decided he needed to lose weight. (Photo: Yahoo Lifestyle/Courtesy of Mike Castaneda)

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

Mike Castaneda is 6’3” tall, and currently weighs 214 pounds. In 2016, after suffering heart palpitations and being diagnosed as pre-diabetic at 25, he was motivated to take control of his health. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.

The Turning Point

From as early as I can remember, my weight was an issue. I was always overweight and throughout the years, it just became a part of who I was and I had come to accept that. Whether it was issues finding clothing or shoes that would fit, feeling tired, or suffering from sleep apneia, I always just thought that was the way that my life was going to be.

When I was 25, I went to the doctor’s office because I was suffering from heart palpitations. The moment came when the doctor told me, “It looks like you’re pre-diabetic so I’m going to put you on medicine that we give diabetics and some pills to help you lose weight.”

I remember being extremely upset, feeling like the doctor had given up on me. And madder at myself for letting myself get to this point. It was the rock bottom moment that I needed in order to force myself to change for the better. At that point in time, I didn’t have a plan as to how I was going to do it, or even a goal weight that I wanted to reach. All I knew was that I wanted to lose weight in order to feel better about myself, both physically and mentally.

Mike Castaneda, pictured during his weight loss journey, says feeling like his doctor was giving up on him was his “rock bottom moment.” (Photo: Courtesy of Mike Castaneda)

The Changes

I didn’t have a real strategy. I just knew I had to make a change. I remembered that I had watch a documentary about a gentleman that had lost weight by juicing. He made it seem so easy that I thought I could do it. One of the first things I did was clean out my cabinets and fridge of all the cookies and pop. For me, soda was the biggest thing that I had issues with. Next, I went online, bought a juicer, juicing books and a scale so I could track my progress. After I got everything, I bought a bunch of fruits and veggies so I could get started. That lasted all of one day. By the end of the first day, I was tired, cranky and hungry. I called a friend on the way to the store after work to “buy real food” and told them I couldn’t do it anymore. They suggested I try low-carb.

At that point, it seemed so simple especially after doing a little more research. Out of all the diets out there, this seemed the most sustainable. So the following week, I started and have had success with Atkins/ Keto for over three years. I kept it very simple and still try to. Most of my meals are protein and a low carb veggie. I think that’s why it’s continued to work for me all these years, if I apply a little common sense, it’s simple. I liked that I could just cook and not worry about tracking and that ease made me want to continue, especially as I continued to see results. I’m lucky to say that the 99% of the progress I’ve made has been from a change in eating habits.

This year, I’m trying to make it a point to start going to the gym more regularly. As I near my weight loss goal, I think exercise is going to be an important part of maintaining my weight.

Little by little, week by week, the weight kept coming off and I felt better. Eventually the heart palpitations stopped and at that point, I knew that I didn’t want to give up what I was doing. One of the things that kept me going and has kept me going throughout is simply keeping the promise that I made to myself. I wanted to be healthy. I wanted to be able to walk around and do normal everyday things without feeling tired.

Castaneda followed a low-card, high protein diet to lose weight. (Photo: Courtesy of Mike Castaneda)

The After

Currently, I feel great. I feel better about myself both physically and mentally. My ability to get around and just do day-to-day things has been incredible. It’s nice to be able to tie my shoes or get ready without it feeling like a chore all on its own. As far as the mental part, that has been a great experience. One thing that I would tell people is that losing weight isn’t a fix-all in the sense that just because you lose weight, it won’t immediately fix everything negative in your life, but it helps. My confidence has gone through the roof. I’ve become more outgoing and interested in trying new things — things that I would have never dreamt of trying or even wanted to attempt to try. For my upcoming birthday, I actually want to go skydiving just because it seems like an exhilarating experience and now I am able to physically do so.

The Maintenance

I still eat within the keto diet guidelines for the time being. Once I reach my ultimate goal, I’m not quite sure what I’ll transition to. I know that I want to continue the healthy habits I’ve learned on keto, but I wouldn’t mind enjoying a burger with an actual bun on it instead of lettuce wrapped from time to time. As far as exercise goes, I want to make it a point this year to consistently go back, to work on my cardiovascular health and to build some body strength. I think that, combined with good eating habits, is a good recipe for continued, long-term success.

One thing that I do daily is weigh myself. It can be a double-edged sword. Occasionally, I do fall into the trap of obsessing with the number on the scale and thinking that’s all that matters. But for the most part, it helps me mentally stay on track and focus on whatever goal I have.

I want to make up for what I feel like was lost time. Before I would have never thought of actually being able to go skydiving or traveling or experiencing anything that would require that type of physical effort. I may have wanted to, but I knew at the time, it wasn’t a possibility. Now I’m able to do those things, and I want to make up for lost time. I want to be able to look back one day and say that I overcame my weight and that I was able to live an exciting life and do the things that I wanted to without being held back.

Castaneda progress during his weight loss journey. (Photo: Courtesy of Mike Castaneda)

The Struggles

One thing that I struggle with is not always seeing the progress I’ve made. Sometimes I’ll look in the mirror and even though I’ve lost 330 pounds, I don’t always see that looking back. I’m not sure why that is, but I always try to remind myself that I have in fact lost what I lost and that I have changed both physically and mentally.

Part of me also worries about going back to the way that I was. I think anyone that has lost a substantial amount of weight has that secret fear in the back of their mind, that any slip-up in their diet and they’ll go back to their old ways. That’s the irrational part of me thinking this. The rational part knows that if I slip up or if I decide to cheat, that it’s not the end of the world.. A cheat day is not the end of the world as long as you promise yourself that you won’t let it become a permanent thing. It’s all about balance.

Advice

My advice to anyone that wants to lose weight is to just start somewhere. Find a diet that works for you and your lifestyle. For me, I had tried other diets in the past and they would work for a little bit, but then I would go back to eating the way that I used to. Keto worked because it was easier to follow for me. It’s all about finding something that is going to be sustainable. I think that determination is the key to reaching your goal.

Remember to appreciate the little moments that make all the hard work and sacrifice worth it. Also, take lots of pictures. It’s one thing I wish I had done more of early on. Looking back is a great way to see how far you’ve come.

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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