Francis Kwarteng hadn’t always been a big guy. The weight started to creep up slowly during his sophomore year of college, continuing until he was a senior. “It really picked up during the summer before my senior year,” he says. Kwarteng, now 25, who works as a lab tech in Buffalo, New York, says the main culprits were diet, stress, and lack of physical activity, problems familiar to many people who spend late nights cramming to get through college exams.

At his heaviest, Kwarteng weighed around 330 pounds. “I was 23, and I felt like shit. I didn’t feel like myself,” he says. “Very unmotivated and pessimistic.” His turning point arrived during graduation—he saw the photos of himself and couldn’t believe his eyes. The next day, he hit the gym. He also started taking a closer look at his diet.

First things first, he cut out junk food such as soda, juice, chips, and dialed back his trips to McDonald’s. While the process was easy in the beginning, there were admittedly times he fell back on his old habits. “But I got right back on track,” he says. In the gym, he started to work out more regularly, too, focusing on compound movements like deadlifts and squats.

At first, finding the motivation to hit the gym every morning was the biggest challenge he overcame. Now, he says, he’s learned to enjoy the process of working out. “I stay motivated by remembering how I felt before I lost the weight, and the fear of going back,” he says, adding that he’s considering hiring a trainer in the near future to help push him even harder.

In just over a year of working out, Kwarteng dropped 150 pounds, going from 330 to 180. “I feel great and like a totally new person,” he says, adding that he feels more confident and clearer mentally. “I feel like I can achieve anything,” he says. “My next goal is to gain admission into medical school.”

For those just getting started on their own weight loss path, Kwarteng says the most important thing is to understand that the process isn’t always linear. Be ready for setbacks, and put them in the context of the bigger picture. “You will fall off eventually, but the most important thing is to pick yourself up and start again,” he says. “It takes time, and you have to be very patient.”

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