(NEW YORK) — In 2010, Neil Burns weighed a whopping 680 pounds. Too tired to go about his daily life because of his size and with his eating habits spiraling out of control, the 44-year-old father from Richmond, Ky., said he felt as if he were in prison.
“I couldn’t walk or move,” Burns said. “It was just miserable.”
Starring down at the scales, he said he knew something had to change.
“It was like a ton of bricks hit me,” he wrote on his website about the pivotal moment. “I started and haven’t looked back.”
Since then, the 6-foot-4 Burns has shed 370 pounds — almost half his body weight — and completely changed his life the old-fashioned way, through diet and exercise.
Burns’ first step was to get on a healthy eating plan. A former fast-food fanatic, he used to eat about 10,000 calories a day, subsising on value meals at places like McDonald’s and Dairy Queen. Plus, he said he’d drink a staggering 24 sodas each day. He traded all of that in for an 1,800 calorie a day diet of healthy staples, including turkey sandwiches, spinach salads with chicken and protein shakes.
Next, he slowly introduced exercise into his life. Burns worked his way up to an intense exercise regimen — an hour and a half of weight-lifting in the morning and then cardio at the gym at night. His two-a-day workouts burn an average of 1,000 calories a day.
For cardio, Burns took up zumba, a Latin-inspired dance workout class, which he now swears by. He loved the workout so much — and saw real results — that he kept it up, even becoming a certified instructor.
The last component is what Burns calls his “Jedi mind tricks” — what he does to keep himself mentally in the game.
First, he, says, commit to a workout buddy.
“I have a friend, Tanya, and if I don’t show up at the gym, she is going to call me!” Burns said.
Second, his most important policy: Admit when you cheat.
“I yell at myself and say out loud, ‘I just ate an 18-inch pizza and a two liter of Mountain Dew.’ [I] yell … and get all of my anger out,” he said. “Getting it out in the open. It’s just the only way to go.”
And to give himself even more incentive, Burns created his “Skinny List,” a list of 37 things he can do now that he has lost weight.
The motivational list ranges from simple tasks like vacuuming, which required too much movement for Burns before his weight loss, to brushing his teeth without losing his breath, being able to sit in a chair with arms, and buying clothes off the rack like everyone else. It also has activities that he has dreamed of doing for years but couldn’t, like hiking, going horseback riding and fitting into a sports car.
Burns is now a motivational speaker and has set up a website, Burnsweightloss.com, to share his story and help others lose weight. Today, he weighs 310 pounds and he says he has approximately 40 more pounds until he reaches his goal weight of 270 lbs.
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Jacqueline Howard, CNN
Assil Frayha, CNN
Tal Kopan and Jeremy Diamond, CNN