I am proof that you CAN reach your New Year’s weight loss resolution -- here’s how I did it

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“You should just kill yourself because you’re so fat.”

That was my life at 13 years old -- right before one of my classmates began punching me and hitting me with a chair because I didn’t meet society’s expectations of what my waist size should be.

Obesity is something I have struggled with my entire life. It has caused me more pain and heartache than I knew was possible.

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Growing up, I had very few friends and was constantly bullied because of my weight. And as I moved into adulthood my weight kept climbing upward, reaching 265 pounds -- and I am only 5-foot-6.

The statistics tell me I am not alone. Being overweight is a challenge that one in three Americans struggle with.

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That struggle for me was always toughest this time of year, with the headlines filled with tips on how to complete what always seems like an impossible task: a New Year’s resolution of trying to lose weight.

The good news is that you don’t need to let another year pass by, disappointed that you didn’t drop those extra pounds. There is a path forward to achieving not only a healthier relationship with food but also defeating obesity.

I am proof that you can do it: I was able to lose nearly 80 pounds in 2018, fulfilling my New Year’s pledge of trying to live a healthier lifestyle while conquering my obesity problem.

My journey began last spring --  quite unintentionally -- when I decided it was time to find a primary care physician. I was starting to suffer from the serious side effects of being overweight. My knees and joints were starting to hurt, I was suffering from sleep apnea and just simple tasks like walking were becoming difficult.

I also faced another obstacle unique to my occupation: a Washington culture of colleagues and associates who love to do business over lunch -- and I was never the guy to pick a salad.  

When I explained this during my first appointment with a D.C.-based physician, I hit the jackpot: one of his specializations was weight loss. He spent an hour quizzing me on what I ate daily, how I ate, when I ate and my overall relationship with food.

And then it hit me. Just as we reached the end, I realized something about myself that made me feel ashamed. Food had stopped being food for me. It had become some sort of emotional crutch.

I knew where the conversation was going, so I just figured I would save the doctor the time. “I have a problem,” I  said. “When I am stressed, tired, angry, upset or just generally need comfort, I want food.”

The doctor looked at me and smiled ever so slightly. “Yes, you have all of the classic signs of food addiction.”

Whether it was intentional or not, the physician’s question-and-answer session made me see the problem for myself, slowly revealing why I reached the weight I had.

The numbers the doctor revealed were shocking. For example: I was consuming 2,000 calories a day in coffee creamer alone! My average daily caloric intake topped out on average at over 6,000! And worst of all, most of my eating was tied to times of the day or week when I was stressed out, looking for some sort of comfort or escape.

I literally felt like I had been sucker punched. I put my head down for a moment, deeply disappointed in myself, feeling almost powerless. I wanted to cry. I wanted to scream. I wanted to run -- all at the same time.

But I also knew, deep down, that there was a way out, that saying this all out loud and admitting my problem was the first step. I knew finding a solution and sticking with it wouldn’t be easy, but I knew I had no choice but to try.

Here is where things got even harder, as I had a bigger motivation to lose weight. My wife suffers from kidney failure, and she will most likely need a transplant in the next few years. And while I am not a match to give her one of my kidneys directly, there are swap programs where I could donate my kidney to someone’s spouse or family member who would then give their matching kidney to my wife. But if I am overweight, I would not be eligible -- endangering her life.

That wasn’t going to happen. While I can’t guarantee how I tackled my weight will work for everyone -- and I am certainly not a licensed medical professional -- I can share my approach that helped me drop from a waist size of 42 down to a 33.

The foundation of my weight loss was accepting a basic concept: food is not for pleasure or to escape your problems -- it’s fuel. Nothing more.

That was hard for me to accept at first, especially as I started looking at the environment around me. I felt set up to fail right from the start, considering the countless fast-food restaurants, the easily accessible high-calorie drinks at Starbucks, or just the generally unhealthy but easily accessible food that surrounds us.

I also faced another obstacle unique to my occupation: a  Washington culture of colleagues and associates who love to do business over lunch -- and I was never the guy to pick a salad.

Thinking all of this through when I started this journey in early May, I knew the secret to my success would be making smart food choices consistently -- and this has been my secret weapon. To this day, when I sit down to eat a meal, I think clearly and carefully about the choices before me.

I can honestly say it is this simple task that has been the biggest reason for my success: consistently making a series of good choices all day that leads to days, weeks, months – and I hope years – of what will end up being a sustained healthy weight and lifestyle.

In making those smart food choices I had to say goodbye to many of those foods we all love. That meant no more ice cream, soda, candy, anything with high amounts of sugar, pizza, fast-food, heavy creamers in coffee. I scaled back the amount of bread I ate and limited myself to smaller portion sizes during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Just doing that in the first two weeks I lost almost 10 pounds!

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From there, I made sure I ate three balanced meals, usually at the same times every day, creating a consistent routine that I pledged to stick to.

For breakfast I have a coffee (fat-free creamer and no-calorie sweetener) with a breakfast bar. Lunch is usually a salad (low-calorie dressing and not in excess) or small sandwich with no mayo and I only eat about three-fourths of the bread (wheat bread, and making sure I avoid high-carb wraps). Dinner usually consists of 6-8 ounces of meat, mixed vegetables or greens, and either some rice or potato and sometimes a small side salad.

I don’t count calories, but I do look at the calorie counts on menus, helping me eat in a common-sense sort of way -- an awareness I never had before. When I begin to feel the smallest inkling of being full, I know it’s time to stop. A small dessert is OK, maybe a bite-size cookie or a cup of hot chocolate -- but never in excess and never more than a few bites and only occasionally.

Now, I want to be honest: have I slipped up? Maybe eaten in excess from time to time, or snuck a donut or Hershey bar? Sure. But I don’t beat myself up over it, I don’t consider myself a failure. I think about why I made that bad choice and do my best not to make it again. And, over time, because I did not obsess over those little hiccups, most days the choices I make are good ones -- and they have paid off.

I can’t say that the way I lost weight will work for everyone. But taking a long, hard look at what you eat and how you eat and focusing on making the best possible choices when you head to the grocery store or head out to a restaurant can make a big difference.

There are no secrets here. From that simple starting point, you can change your health for the better and lose those extra pounds. If it worked for me, it can work for anyone.