At his worst, Brian Flemming weighed 625 pounds, consumed 7,000 calories a day to satisfy alcohol and food addictions, and lived a very isolated existence. “I dropped out of college and played video games all day,” said the 33-year-old.
In 2012, the Michigan man decided to quit drinking and eating fast food, and within three months lost 100 pounds. Too embarrassed to be seen exercising outside, he initially walked around his living room. As he shed more weight, he built the confidence to venture out and begin run-walking. On Thanksgiving Day 2013, he finished his first 5K. By the end of 2014, he was tackling half marathons.
He still faced an obstacle, though: contending with excess loose skin left over from his downsizing. At press time, he was recovering from four skin-removal surgeries. “It’s been difficult, but I’m finally able to ease back into running,” he said.
Ultimately, Flemming hopes to help others. He formed a group called Team 383—named for the number of pounds he’d dropped by then. It counts more than 12,000 members, and through meet-ups and online forums it provides a safe space for people to discuss weight loss, addiction, and depression. “I’m trying to reach out and say, ‘Don’t give up.’”
Back then: Flemming dropped out of a music education program in college and bounced from one “dead-end job” to another.
Today: He teaches high school music. His long-term goal: get a personal training certification and a nutrition degree.
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Back then: A bacon cheeseburger with fries and chicken nuggets, plus vodka with soda.
Today: Stir-fry with chicken, rice, and vegetables.
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Back then: “I would be out of breath walking from my front door to my car.”
Today: He runs 20 to 30 miles a week, strength-trains four times a week, and drives for half of his commute and rides his bike the rest of the way—about 22 miles.
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Back then: “I was always down.”
Today: “The best thing about being happy and healthy is the sense of possibility. When I wake up, it’s like, What am I going to do today? The sky is the limit.”