How This Guy Got Motivated to Hit the Gym and Lost 300 Pounds
Gary Hall had wanted to get healthy for a long time, but whenever he would try, his mind would get in the way, and he'd lose his motivation. It's a sentiment that's probably familiar to most people who've struggled at some point with mental illness. "The depression would always take over, and I'd think, 'Who cares? I'm fine just the way I am," he says. "I was a 520-pound man who never wanted to leave the house."
Hall, now 38, recalls the moment that changed his mindset. While training for a security job at a Wal-Mart near his hometown in Minnesota, Hall overheard another employee comment that he was too fat to be a guard, and that he wasn't going to make it. "At this point, I felt like I'd let my wife and kids down, and the people who'd been pushing me to get back into the field. That's what flicked the light for me." Here's how Hall, who has now lost more than 300 pounds to date, got healthy.
At your heaviest, you said you weighed more than 500 pounds. What was the biggest contributor to your weight gain?
I would say a combination of depression and bullying. As I got older, kids started to make fun of me for my size, which previously I'd never thought of and I began not wanting to go outside as much. I started to quit playing sports and that’s where the depression began to settle in. As the depression, manifested I started to give up. By the time I got into high school, I had a chip on my shoulder and this caused me to be withdrawn from other students.
When did you reach your peak? Can you describe how you felt at the time?
At around age 30, I was weighing in at 520 pounds. At this point, I'd already had a heart attack. I would get winded from doing the simplest things—showering, washing dishes. As my weight went up, so did my depression and anxiety, along with issues like diabetes, agoraphobia, disassociation disorder, and oppositional defiant disorder, to name a few.
How did you get started losing the weight? What was your regimen like?
I was all over the place. I didn’t know what to do or where to start, so I failed with the fad diets and with going cold turkey. Eventually I wound up talking to a guy at my local Planet Fitness and he explained the nutrition side of things in a way I could understand. I began to use protein with casein to cut the cravings. After my appetite was under control, I went whey protein and began to introduce vitamins into my daily routine. Then I replaced the massive amounts of soda I was drinking with BCAA’s. I also began to focus on lower carb meals and mixed cardio in with weight training.
Did you work with a trainer? How'd you stay consistent?
When I started, I was just working out with friends here and there, and eventually I met up with a trainer from another gym who designed a workout schedule for me and that made things a lot easier. I began to lose weight, and the more weight I lost the more motivation I had. I was able to do things I couldn’t do before and that kept pushing me
How long did that process take?
The whole process took me a couple years, and in total I've lost 300 pounds. I feel amazing. I love being outside. I’m no longer diabetic. My cholesterol is normal, and so is my blood pressure. I'm much happier going out in public. I'm able to go on rides with my kids, and I have so much more energy. I no longer take any medications, and when the depression or anxiety do come on, they're a lot easier to control. People really began to notice after I lost the first 50 pounds. Everyone was pretty shocked, and they still are.
What’s the next goal you have in mind for yourself?
After several life changes—work hours changing, family medical issues, money—I struggled to stay on the path of health and fell off for a month, but this journey has taught me I can do it. I just need to plan and execute. So, I’ve gotten back on track and set up some new goals, like taking my kids hiking, losing the extra weight I gained (about 20 pounds) and eventually participating in larger charity bike/walk events.
Any advice for people just getting started?
I’ve learned several valuable lessons: First, drink plenty water—I can be terrible at this, but apps like MyFitnessPal make logging food and water very easy, and they will give you lots of helpful advice. Second, stay off the scale. It'll go up and down and can discourage you for no reason. Instead, look at how your clothes fit, your increased energy, or how much more comfortable you are in warmer weather. Basically, use your improved quality of life as a sign that you're doing great, and also be prepared to fail. It happens. I recently fell off for a month due to life—and it was almost like starting over, but you have to remember what life was like before and why you decided to get in the gym in the first place.