VERO BEACH, Fla. - Mike Jackson has spent half his life in a state of morbid obesity.
"20 or 21, that's when I started gaining the weight,” Jackson recalled.
The pounds continued to creep on over the years, until he weighed 525 pounds.
"At 500 and change, that's a lot of weight to carry around," he said. "I'd order a pizza from Little Ceasar's for five dollars, and eat half of it in one sitting."
In 2010, when he turned forty-years-old, Jackson went to the hospital for colitis.
"They had to bring a bed in from Orlando, and a wheelchair, because they didn't have any big enough for me to be in,” he explained.
The doctors told him that he wouldn't live to see age fifty, so he knew he had to leave behind his size sixty pants.
“Now I weigh 210 pounds,” Jackson says, with obvious pride.
Jackson's 300-pound weight loss journey took almost two years.
"One day at a time,” he said. “They say Rome wasn't built in a day. ”
He logged countless exercise hours at the Planet Fitness gym in his Vero Beach hometown.
His transformation shocked family and friends, including Heather Walsh, a personal trainer who moved from Vero Beach when he was at his heaviest, and was amazed at what she saw when she returned home.
"He one day called me when I was in Colorado, saying I'm going to start working out, and he never stopped,” Walsh said. “A year and a half later, I get back from Colorado, and he's 300 pounds less."
Jackson says the lifestyle change is more than just exercise. He overhauled his eating habits, and now he follows a strict diet of 1600 calories a day.
His willpower is tested at his workplace, Applebee’s Restaurant, where he's around food all day.
"Even if you go out to Applebee's or another restaurant, you can still eat healthy,” Jackson said.
Medical doctor Melissa Dean of the Dean Wellness Institute specializes in nutrition. She said losing that much weight will extend his life.
"I rarely can see a morbidly obese patient who doesn't have a list of medications that go along with it," Dr. Dean said.
Jackson said he’s grateful that he no longer worries about those risks.
"It's just totally different,” he said. “You just feel so much better. It's a total life change."
He has a new lease on life, and he wants others to learn from his example.
"I just want to help out people who are big like I was, because I can relate, I was there,” Jackson said. “I know how bad it feels, and how hard it was."
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