Two years ago, James Schultz weighed about 500 pounds. He wore size 72 pants and 5XL shirts -- basically, the largest sizes he could find in the big and tall sections.
It's hard to believe that only 18 months later, Schultz weighs what he called a "nice, svelte," 230 pounds and achieved this extreme weight loss without surgery or special diet pills.
What did it take? Commitment and a 180-degree flip in food choice preferences.
James Schultz weighing close to 500 pounds just 18 months ago (left) compared to what he looks like now (right). (Photo credit: Schultz family)
An 'endless cycle'
Schultz had been overweight for as long as he could remember.
"I even have toddler pictures where I was a fat, little roly poly. I was always getting husky pants," Schultz told TheBlaze.
Being fat became norm for the man from Houston, Texas, "because I lived through it." Like many who struggle with their weight, eating was associated with comfort.
But the more he ate, the more uncomfortable Schultz became -- in many areas of his life.
Working in the pool cleaning industry, Schultz said it's no easy job, especially when you're hundreds of pounds overweight. For years, before he owned his own business, Schultz would experience seasonal layoffs which would pile stress on his shoulders and -- turning to food for comfort -- more pounds on his body.
"Stress was eating me up. The more stressed I'd get, the more I’d eat. Then the heavier I got, the more stressed I became. It was an endless cycle," Schultz said.
Due to his weight, Schultz had sleep apnea, an enlarged heart and high blood pressure. Even on medication, Schultz said he would set off alarms when he had his blood pressure tested.
It was clear if he continued this lifestyle, there was "no chance in this world that I was going to make it much longer."
Making the decision to change
Less than two years ago, Schultz was officially ready for a change -- at least mentally.
"Two years ago I turned 40. I've got a little girl, and I wanted to make sure I could walk her down the aisle, of course."
He considered surgical weight loss options but learned he was not a candidate."Doctors said I was too unhealthy to even survive the operation," he said.
So, Schultz had to do it the old fashioned way by learning to eat right.
Taking the $1,000 his parents offered him to get healthy, Schultz said he "went to a national weight loss diet plan and took it to the extreme." When asked which weight loss plan he chose, he said it was the same on as Rush Limbaugh, which is Quick Weight Loss Centers.
In short, Schultz said he cut out salt and now eats only fresh or frozen foods -- nothing canned.
Instead of looking forward to eating almost a whole Sicilian, deep-dish pizza by himself, Schutlz said he actually craves vegetables.
Schutlz said he hasn't had pizza or any pork products, including bacon, since starting his new diet.
"Meats are lean and organic. There are whole grains and stuff like that," he said.
It wasn't easy at first though. Although he started seeing results right away -- he lost 20 pounds within his first week -- he said it took about two months to train is brain not to crave what he used to.
But now, "I no longer live to eat," Schultz said. "I don’t crave or think about what I’m going to eat later today."
Many would argue such a switch to choosing healthier foods would cost more. Schultz countered that although he might spend more money choosing a quart of almond milk compared to vitamin D cow's milk, the money he's saving on blood pressure medication and the like is costing him less in the long run.
What the change really came down to was Schultz's commitment.
"It's all a matter of whether or not your mind is ready to do it. If you’re not going to give the diet a 100 million percent, it’s not going to work for you," Schultz said.
300 pounds later
Losing close to 300 pounds, Schultz said his enlarged heart has returned to normal size, his blood pressure is down to "teenage levels" and at 42-years-old he has "energy levels of an 18 year old."
Schultz lifestyle change has also impacted his family and work life. Schultz wife lost 100 pounds following the plan and their daughter, who has asthma, has benefited from healthier food choices.
Schultz and his wife have both lost weight by choosing healthier food. (Photo credit: Schultz family)
Schultz now owns a small, pool cleaning business, which he calls "his own little pride and joy." When he has to climb on a ladder for jobs around the house, he said he's no longer afraid of heights as he was before.
"My favorite part is fact that I will live long enough to walk my daughter down aisle and will get the chance to grow old with my wife," Schultz said.
What's Schultz's biggest piece of advice for those starting New Year's health or weight loss resolutions this Jan. 1?
"You have to be mentally prepared to give it everything you’ve got. You can’t sit there and eat healthy today and say 'wow I lost five pounds, I can have a donut now,'" he said. "Don’t promise yourself bad food as a reward for good behavior."