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    Posted December 31, 2013 by
    Lewisville, Texas
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
    Your 'Aha' weight-loss moments

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    What a difference a year makes: As he heads into 2014, Virginia man is 110 pounds lighter

    Over the years, John Penrod had gotten used to being “the largest person in the room,” as he puts it.
    “You’re very aware of your size and you’re sure everyone else is, too,” says John, 37, an engineer who lives in Virginia. “With my job I was traveling all the time, and I always felt very uncomfortable. I always felt out of place – like I just stood out.”
    At his heaviest weight of 375 pounds, John says he tried to live life to the fullest, “but my weight always factored into it. Someone might talk about going bungee jumping. Well, that sounds fun, but what’s the maximum weight they allow? I often exceeded the maximum. And at theme parks, if I went on the water rides, the boat was always leaning to one side when I got on.”
    One day as John got dressed, he looked in the mirror and experienced a turning point: “I was wearing a 4XL shirt, and I could see it was actually tight on me. I thought, ‘I cannot keep doing this. This is ridiculous.’”
    John and his wife Heather decided to join Slimming World, which is based in the U.K. but is now available online across America. They heard about the weight-loss program during a Christmas visit to Europe to visit Heather’s family. When the couple arrived home, in January of this year, John signed up as an online member. He weighed 314 pounds at that time. After 11 months, he’s 110 pounds lighter.
    “This has been much easier than counting calories,” John says of his success. “With Slimming World, it really has become second nature: ‘If I’m hungry I’m going to have this, and I can have as much of it as I want.’ I eat what I need to not be hungry anymore.”
    Among the list of foods he still enjoys: pasta, potatoes and rice.
    “That’s been a huge thing for us,” John says of himself and his wife, who has lost 45 pounds. “We love pasta and potatoes, so that’s kind of a standby; we know we can always fill up on that when we need to. I don’t feel like I’m missing out on anything.”
    When he’s questioned about whether it’s possible to eat carbohydrates and lose weight, John says he has the perfect reply: “It’s obviously working.” And others are taking notice. At his office, “people have been kind of joking that I’m just gonna disappear,” he says. “One lady came up to me and poked her head in the office really quick and said, ‘I don’t know how to say this without sounding rude or offensive, but I can tell you’ve been losing weight and you look great.’ Before I could even respond, she took off. That was one of the funny moments.”
    As the year comes to a close, John looks back at his weight-loss journey with both pride and relief.
    “For as long as I can remember, the only place I could buy clothes was the big-and-tall shop – and they’re expensive because they know they have a captive audience,” he says. “Now, it’s kind of mind-altering to me to be able to go into a normal store and pick something off the rack.
    “There are so many things that have changed,” he adds. “If I go in for insurance or to the doctor, I’m in the safe target range. Or just seeing how much better I fit in a car, or seeing photos and going, ‘Wow, I’m a normal size!’ I’m not the big guy in the room anymore.”

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