A life can be changed, even saved, just a few steps at a time.

That is the story of 19-year-old Justin Willoughby's life.

The Bradford, Pennsylvania teen weighed 800 pounds when he was 16 years old.

"I felt like I was trapped inside a prison I couldn't get out of," Justin said.


Justin said he was always a heavy boy, but his weight really ballooned when he was in junior high school. He said he has an anxiety disorder, and he turned to food for comfort.

"In the mornings I'd have maybe three sandwiches for breakfast, or sometimes eggs and sausage. I don't remember how many," Justin said. The rest of the day would be full of snacks like more sandwiches and large bowls of sweet cereal, candy, cookies, and whole milk."

On top of that, he never exercised.

By the time Justin was in the tenth grade, he was being home schooled and weighed 800 pounds. He was so heavy, his foot once broke through the floor of his home.

"I couldn't even go to the bathroom by myself," he recalls. "I couldn't bathe myself."

Justin admits his parents implored him to lose weight, but he ignored their pleas.

"We tried to tell him, you're gaining, you're gaining. You've got to stop," said Justin's mother, Diane. "He said no, I don't have to."

The tide changed when Justin had to visit his doctor to retain him. It had been well over a year since his last visit, and his weight had greatly increased.

"I couldn't even get down my steps, I was so big," Justin said.

Somehow, he made it to his doctor's office, where the reaction was one of shock, and Justin was sent to Presbyterian Hospital of Pittsburgh.

There, doctors gave him a stern warning.

"Sitting on that bed, the doctors said, Justin, you're going to die if you don't do something about it," said Justin recalling the visit.

That's when his three and a half year weight loss work began. Without surgery or drugs, but with the help of a physical therapist and nutritionist, Justin cut way back on how much he was eating, cut out candy and high fat foods, and substituted whole wheat bread and pasta for plain white carbs.

He also started moving again, one step at a time.

"Taking ten steps and sitting down, getting back up, taking ten steps, and sitting back down," he said. Now he walks a mile or more.

Justin also has had two surgeries to remove excess skin from his body. One procedure removed 20 pounds from his chest and abdomen. Another surgery removed more than 10 pounds of skin from his arms and legs, and he faces two more procedures.

Justin said he is now down to about 310 pounds, and his dream is to weigh around 200.

"You've got to want it yourself," he said. "It's either you live the rest of your life overweight, or you do something about it."
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