“Like most people, my weight gain happened over time,” Ben Carstens says. When Ben graduated from college he weighed around 260 pounds, but in the following years his sedentary lifestyle and careless eating added up to more than 400 pounds. “I would eat whatever I wanted,” he says. “I would have meat and potatoes at every meal and eat fast food all the time.”
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The Turning Point
After having gone two years without weighing himself, Ben stepped on the scale at a rest stop during a road trip and saw the needle reach 415 pounds. “It blew my mind,” he says. “I never thought I was that big.” Shortly thereafter, he finally visited his doctor who diagnosed him with type 2 diabetes. “It opened my eyes,” he says. “Before I had convinced myself that I was okay.”
Young, Slim, and Diabetic
First, Ben adjusted his eating habits. He gave up soda—even diet soda—and drank water instead. He stopped eating as many starchy foods, like pasta and potatoes, and filled his plate with fruit, vegetables, and lean meats. Knowing that food was only half the battle, Ben invested in an elliptical machine for his living room. He logged an hour on it every morning, and up to two hours at night. “I thought, I’ll do this twice a day until I get to 200 pounds,” he says. He also did resistance band workouts. Today he’s back to his college weight at about 255 pounds and is off one of his diabetes medications.
When Ben started dieting, he made a list of 10 things he wanted out of his life, and 10 obstacles he thought might hold him back, and kept it in his pocket. The list helped him stay on track when he’d go out to dinner or drinks with friends. “I still carry that list in my pocket today,” he says. However, Ben’s biggest kick in the pants came from his diabetes diagnosis. “I can honestly say finding out I was diabetic saved my life,” he says.
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Ben has transitioned from 5XL shirts to XL shirts—shrinking from a size 50 to a size 36. “It’s nice not being the biggest guy in the room,” he says. “People defining me by my size always kind of hurt. My friends used to call me ‘Big Ben,’ now they say I’m just Ben.” Additionally, Ben inspired his father to drop 60 pounds in the last few months.
Write it down. “Putting down my goals on paper gave me a carrot to go after,” Ben says.
Don’t get discouraged. “It’s easy to get discouraged, especially at the beginning,” Ben says. “At first I couldn’t do the elliptical for five minutes, but I kept adding a minute a day. Keep plugging away.”