Three years ago, at age 26, Illinois man Justin Wiseman weighed 600 pounds.
Today, Wiseman weighs 180 pounds, and his dramatic weight loss in such a short time has become nothing short of an inspiration.
“I’ve seen him lose weight, and I’m so proud of what he has done,” said Chandra Stanley, who has known Wiseman for years.
Now she’s planning on following Wiseman’s path to health, pledging, “I can do this too and do it quickly, and not only benefit myself, but benefit my life for my kids.”
At 600 pounds, Wiseman tried living a normal life, even tried going to college to become a teacher. But after the first day, he had to quit.
“I was just pouring sweat, I could hardly walk, and the campus is so big, I just went to my car and bawled, that’s what I did. I went to my car bawled and left and never went back,” Wiseman told KFVS-TV of Cape Girardeau, Mo.
But then Wiseman saw a weight-loss show on TV and was shocked to discover the overweight woman on the show died during taping. The woman’s family had to buy a special casket and use a crane to lower her into the ground.
Justin told WSIL-TV of Carterville, Ill., he knew his life would end similarly if he didn’t make major changes.
“That’s not you yet, that doesn’t have to be you, that doesn’t have to be your story,” Wiseman remembers telling himself. “You’re the only one that can change it.”
But Wiseman was shocked again when he was told he couldn’t undergo gastric sleeve weight-loss surgery … because he was too big. He had to lose 100 pounds on his own before he could receive the procedure.
“My mom looked me in the eye and she said, ‘Can’t you at least try? Just try. If you can’t do it, you can’t.’ And I said, ‘OK, for you I will try,'” Wiseman recalls.
He then went on to lose 130 pounds before having the surgery in 2011.
Today, he’s 420 pounds lighter.
"Life is brand new," Wiseman told KFVS. "I am experiencing stuff now that I've never been able to experience in my life."
One of those things he had never done: climb aboard a teeter totter.
Now at age 29, and teeter tottering for the first time, Wiseman is working to inspire others.
"No matter what your situation is, you can do it, you can do anything you put your mind to," he told the KFVS. "You just have to never give up on yourself. Know that you are worth the fight."
Through word of mouth and an active Facebook page, Wiseman has been encouraging others to shed the pounds.
"He approached me from very early on in the program," remembers Heather Fear, bariatric program coordinator at the New Life Weight Loss Center in Herrin, Ill. "'I [Justin] want to inspire people, when I get through this, when I've accomplished what I need to accomplish, I want to help the program.'"
And help he did. Now others who were seemingly hopelessly overweight are drawing strength from Wiseman's example. Like Chandra Stanley, Kathy Williams says following Wiseman's journey has encouraged her to change her life too.
"Every day when I'm feeling low or down I can read something he's written or encouraged somebody else and I feel like I'm on top of the world again and I can do it," she told WSIL.
Wiseman told the station whether it's weight loss or a different personal struggle, his advice is the same: "Don't give up on yourself. Remember that your life is worth fighting for."