A 590lb video games fan lost an incredible 65% of his body weight without surgery after being warned by a doctor he could die before his 30th birthday. Mike Stern, 32, lost 370lb in just five years through dieting and running alone.
Mike, from Syracuse, New York, now sports a slim 220lb figure and runs 50 miles a week after ditching a lifestyle of sitting at home playing video games and eating fast food. At the age of just 26, Mike’s weight hit an estimated 590lb. He said the figure was only an educated guess, because Mike was so heavy his weight went over the maximum on each set of scales he tried to use.
Mike decided to change his ways – and take up running to help him lose weight – when he was warned by a doctor that if he didn’t slim down he could be dead within three years. This harsh truth was drilled home when his brother, Jonathan, 35, told Mike he was going to be an uncle and said he may not get to see his nephew grow up because he was eating himself into an early grave.
Care worker, Mike, said: ‘All I ate was takeout food and I never really went outside other than to get more food or for a doctors appointment or something.
‘On a typical day I’d eat a big pizza for lunch and order a Chinese takeout for dinner, my portions were huge and I overate massively. I’d drink at least two liters of soda every day, too.
‘I had a really bad lifestyle and gained a tonne of weight by just sitting inside playing video games and eating a lot.
‘It was my doctor who said I was not far off 600lbs, but nowhere locally had scales that went up that high so I never had a true number.
‘He said that if I didn’t change and continue the way I was then I probably wouldn’t make 30-years-old.
‘That really upset me and I probably should have done something sooner. It was really scary to be told that.
‘It really hit home when my brother told me his wife was pregnant and if I didn’t change I wouldn’t be a part of my nephew’s life. I realized then how serious things had got.’
Mike grew up enjoying sugar snacks, and weighed 350lbs by the time he finished school.
But he really started to pile on the pounds after a 2010 cornea transplant forced him to spend months indoors recovering, with nothing but eating and video games to help him pass the time.
Mike said: ‘I barely did anything all day. I’d just order food online and sit and eat at home. It was a pretty dull lifestyle.
‘I just got bigger and bigger and I did used to think that something could happen to me because of how big I was.
‘As I got heavier even just walking up the street got pretty tough. I would walk from my bedroom to the bathroom and I’d be out of breath.
‘Whenever I was out with friends I’d always be on the look out for the nearest bench so I could sit down. I felt like I was a burden on my friend.
‘There were times where I was too big to fit in restaurant seats and that was pretty embarrassing.’
It took until 2015, when Mike was 27, for Mike to tackle his obesity once and for all, following a routine trip to the doctors and a family catch-up with his older Brother, Jonathan led him to fear for his life.
‘I actually went to my doctor and asked for surgery but he set me a challenge to see how much I could lose on my own first. He told me to start making small changes.
‘The first step was quitting drinking soda. I used to drink at least two liters of full fat soda a day.
‘I did this for four months and I lost 50lb straight away. That’s when I knew I could do this.’
By April 2015 Mike’s weight was down to under 550lbs, helped by a move to clean up his diet and cut back on fast food.
He made the drastic decision to cut out many carbohydrates, including bread, pasta and bagels. His new diet consists mainly of lean, white meat, fish and vegetables.
Mike completely turned his back on fast food and incredibly, has said he hasn’t eaten a single fast food meal in five years. These changes helped Mike shed almost 100lb in eight months and by summer 2015, he weighed under 500lb.
Weighing less made moving around easier for Mike and he decided to join the local gym, which he said he used to walk five miles to and from every day.
Mike said: ‘I’d walk there and then use the treadmill, because that’s the only thing I could use at first.
‘I went every day and was eating so much better so the weight dropped off. I was about 490lb by the start of 2016.
‘I started doing gym classes and joined the running club at the gym. I started off doing little bits here and there.
‘I did my first ever 5k race in September 2016 when I weighed 440lb. I had a love for running already by this point. It took me 58 minutes and I was super excited about it.’
After catching the running bug during this first race Mike made a pledge to sign up to one race a month, which required him to train four to five times a week and caused his weight to plummet.
By the following year, in November 2017 at another 5k race, Mike’s weighed 340lb, a huge 250lb less than his starting weight, with the weight dropping off as he continued to exercise.
Ever since first lacing up Mike’s passion for running has never wavered. To date he has ran several 5k and 10k races as well as four half marathons.
He was even just a few weeks away from taking part in his first marathon, the Buffalo Marathon, New York, next month, which has been postponed until May 2021 because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Now weighing 220lb Mike runs 50 miles a week in training and has set his sights on slimming down to under 200lb.
Mike said: ‘I would say running saved my life. I struggled to find anything that gave me focus and I never really had any motivation in life.
‘Now when I get up in a morning I want to go running. Some days I care more about running than anything else, that’s what it can do you for you.
‘It has done me wonders mentally and I feel like I’m in such a good place now. I do feel proud about how far I have come.
‘I was never sad or miserable as such when I was at my heaviest, but I never realized how much happier I could have been.’
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