A glance at Ben Haskins today reveals little more than your average healthy 20-something.
But for Haskins, that fat kid is never far from his thoughts.
“At my heaviest, I weighed 270 pounds,” Haskins, 23, said Thursday. “Today, I weigh around 170.”
He said the epiphany came like a lightning bolt in 2010, when he finally had had enough.
“I’d always been big,” he said. “Through elementary, middle and high school, and halfway through my years at Surry Community College I was fat.”
Which led to poor self-image and physical problems, Haskins said.
“I was uncomfortable about my body and how I looked, of course, but I was also more tired than everyone else all the time,” he said. “There were days I wasn’t bothered that much by it, but I always wished in the back of my mind that I wasn’t so big.”
And sports presented a particular challenge.
“If I was doing something that required a lot of physical activity, I would really tire out easily, so I didn’t really participate that much,” Haskins said.
The straw that broke the camel’s back?
“It was around May 2010,” he said. “I was sitting in my room drinking my last three-liter orange soda and just looked around and started thinking I didn’t want to be fat anymore.”
Which began as a journey that started at 270 pounds ended at 170 pounds.
“After finishing that soda, I immediately started what I decided to call the ‘water diet’,” Haskins said with a smile. “I ate all the same foods I’d eaten before, but instead of drinking soda I’d drink nothing but water. It wasn’t bad once I got used to it, but I went to the bathroom an awful lot there for the first two weeks.”
That initial small step yielded a 10 pound weight loss in a few weeks.
“It was effective,” Haskins said. “And after that, seeing the weight start falling off, I became more encouraged and more determined, so I started adding in a little physical activity. I’d play basketball even though I wasn’t that good at it. The next thing you know I’d lost 20 pounds.”
For Haskins, small steps are key.
“I made a goal that instead of thinking of some magical number I wanted to reach, I’d focus on those next five pounds,” he said. “And it just kept coming off.”
After a few more weeks the big step came.
“A couple of weeks after starting the water diet, I forced myself to join Reeves Community Center,” he said with an easy laugh. “As far as walking in there the first time, I wasn’t that uncomfortable, but I spent 20 minutes trying to find a good parking place so I wouldn’t have to walk that far.”
After that first visit, and with encouragement from the mirror and his earlier success, Haskins was on a roll.
“I started going five to six days a week,” he said. “I walked on the treadmill and ran five to six miles a day, then I started lifting weights.
“I cut down on the junk food and switched to healthier options,” Haskins added. “For example, when I went to McDonalds, I’d usually have gotten four McDoubles and a large sweet tea. I switched first to three chicken sandwiches and water, then to grilled chicken wraps and salads.
“Eventually, I wasn’t going there as much, choosing to buy fruits and vegetables at the grocery store instead,” he said. “If I ate out, I went to Subway because it’s healthier.”
Eventually Haskins was at 170 pounds, a weight he maintains today.
“It can be a chore, and that fat kid is still in the back of my mind, but I eat normally now, choosing healthy foods most of the time but treating myself occasionally,” he said. “Oh yeah. I pig out once in a while.”
As for his “fat clothes,” they are no more.
“I donated them to Goodwill,” he said with a smile. “I didn’t want to be reminded of that fat kid, and it encourages me to not gain weight because I’d have nothing to wear.”
Haskins received a little positive affirmation for his changes at an unusual place — while stopped at a police traffic checkpoint.
“They asked me for my driver’s license and I showed it to them,” he said. “As I was leaving, the officer told me I needed to get another one because the photo looked nothing like me.
“That made me feel pretty good. I’d never come away from a traffic check smiling before.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.