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Weight loss success stories

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There are as many ways to lose weight as there are people who need to do so.

In the past two years, two Kenosha residents lost significant poundage in significantly different ways, both driven by the desire to be better and healthier parents to their children.

Middle school teacher Justin Weber lost 180 pounds with the aid of an online weight tracking app called Lose It!.

Businesswoman and mom Drew Rad lost more than 240 pounds through a combination of stomach surgery, diet and exercise. Here are their stories.

Justin Weber motivated by son’s birth

Justin Weber has a big story to tell. A very big story.

Weber’s tale is the journey of going from 375-plus pounds down to 195 pounds in two years.

It is also the story of motivation. Weber’s motivation was the birth of his son, Jonah.

Weber, 35, did not start out life as an overeater. A Kenosha native, he was considered “husky” in high school, but his weight “crept up” and by the time he was 23 he had hit the 300-pound mark.

“I was a secret eater. I would eat too much during regular meals, but I would also secretly overeat on a daily basis,” he said.

Repasts of whole pizzas, several side dishes and multiple sodas were not uncommon. He estimates that at peak, he consumed some 6,000 calories per day.

But Weber was not oblivious to his situation and he says his weight became a source of shame at restaurants and at Washington Middle School, where he teaches English.

His turnaround was the birth of his son, Jonah, on Oct. 17, 2014.

“The first time I was holding and looking at him, I realized I couldn’t physically be the father I wanted to for him; even getting off the couch was a struggle,” Weber said. The question he says he asked himself then was, “How do you make a a change?”

Weber says he knew from the get-go he didn’t want to go to the gym and didn’t want to diet. And surgery and pills were “too expensive and too scary.”

Just when he began to waiver on his pledge to slim down, he heard about a phone app called Lose It!. He liked the simplicity of tracking calories and making his own diet choices. “It felt like a game. Right away I wanted to see how I could get under my daily (calorie) budget.”

Weber’s 5,000 calories-per-day intake fell to 3,000 and the weight fell with it. Today he consumes an average of 1,700 to 2,000 calories a day.

Exercise was not part of his original weight loss plan, says Weber. “It was hard to exercise while overweight — most exercise machines have a 300-pound limit.”

As he shed pounds, however, he sought out exercise. “One of my (weight loss) goals was to be able to ride a bike, “ he said. Now he typically rides 20 to 30 miles in a day and at the end of June participated in the Menomonee River Century Ride.

Weber says his overall health has improved dramatically. “When I was overweight I had back pain and foot problems; now these problems are completely gone.”

The best part, he says, has been becoming an active dad for his now 2½-year-old son.

On July 17, Weber told his story to Joy Bauer, Kathie Lee and Hoda Kotb on the “Kathie Lee and Hoda” segment of the “Today Show.” Show producers got wind of Weber’s weight loss story after he began promoting the Lose It! app on Instagram and Facebook.

Bauer introduced Weber as a new member of her Joy Fit Club.

“Joy Bauer was really awesome, supportive and uplifting,” said Weber.

Weber has also shared his story on Today.com, LittleThings.com and other media outlets. To inspire others, he has also authored an online blog, “Getting Healthy on Good Food — How I Cooked Myself Thin.”.

Life or death decision for Drew Rad

For Drew Rad, losing weight wasn’t an option: it was pretty much life or death. Waking with chest pains in the middle of the night at the end of June, 2015, Rad discovered that her weight was literally killing her.

But it wasn’t a heart attack. In the emergency room Rad found out she was pregnant and was having a miscarriage.

“My weight was so out of control I didn’t realize I was pregnant,” said Rad in a recent telephone interview.

Rad, 31, says she had had a weight problem for as long as she could remember, but always justified it away. “If I was 200 pounds, I’d say, ‘At least I’m not 300 pounds.’” But eventually she hit those 300 pounds and more.

“I used to lie to myself and tell myself, ‘You’re meant to be fat, you’re just a bigger woman.’”

In the emergency room she discovered she had an ectopic pregnancy — a pregnancy forming outside of her uterus — and was miscarrying. That was when she also discovered she had now surpassed the 400-pound mark.

“It was completely horrifying and beyond my wildest nightmares that I was 400 pounds,” she said.

“I looked at that moment as that I was losing a baby, but that baby was saving my life because it made me need to change,” Rad said.

At this time, Rad was also diagnosed with severe sleep apnea, which was causing her to stop breathing 134 times a night. She realized the situation was dire. “I thought, I will actually die and leave my two girls without a mom.”

To get her weight under control, Rad chose stomach surgery, but in the six months before the surgery, she made changes on her own. After watching her calories and going to the gym, Rad lost 90 pounds.

“I started living that day as if I had already had the surgery,” she said.

Rad had a vertical sleeve gastrectomy, a procedure that removes a portion of the stomach, restricting the volume of food that can be consumed. It also eliminates the hormones associated with food cravings, Rad said.

Today Rad’s 5-foot-6-inch frame carries 172 pounds, a loss of 243 pounds.

She recalls that when told that she was medically no longer considered obese, she wept with happiness.

This summer, her story was picked up by the Daily Mail and she has joyously shared her achievements on social media.

“Most people have told me that by now I would have plateaued and stop losing weight, but I go to the gym and eat right,” she said.

Rad has also learned how to eat differently: more slowly and in smaller portions. Also, because her stomach tube is much smaller now, she must take in solid and liquid foods separately.

“Also, no carbonated beverages after this surgery — they make your stomach bloat; you eat more food because (the stomach) gets inflated.”

The upside to these inconveniences is her new life, says Rad. She says she loves the way she looks and feels and the chance to be the mom she wants to be.

For the first time in her adult life, Rad is able to ride roller coasters and play on playground equipment with her daughters, Ellovee, 3, and Avalina, 6.

Rad says her daughter Avalina has said, “I like it that you’re smaller because I can put my arms around you better.”

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