Tim Welch was never the kind of guy who worried about his weight.
Tim Welch topped 260 pounds at his heaviest weight, before his cousin convinced him to join Weight Watchers.
In fact, the 37-year-old accounts manager from Seattle, Washington, ate a fairly balanced diet and loved participating in sports while growing up.
"I was thin and fit my whole life," Welch remembers. "I was always active in sports such as running cross-country in high school and swimming on the swim team in college."
Things started to change in 1995 after he graduated from college. Welch got a job, moved out of his parents' house and began indulging in late-night meals with his friends.
"I remember specifically in 1995, my waist size went from a 34 [inches] to a 38 in a matter of months," Welch said. "I got a size 36 pants to accommodate my waist size and I had to ask for a bigger size for Christmas because they were too tight."
Welch was in total disbelief when he stepped on the scale and realized he was carrying 200 pounds on his 5-foot-10-inch frame.
Despite the initial shock, he continued to gain weight.
Even though he fit the medical definition of obese, Welch stayed physically active. He joined a master's swim team, hiked and walked regularly. Because he was physically active, Welch thought he could keep eating whatever he wanted.
As his weight crept up, his desire to exercise waned.
By the winter of 2005, the extra calories and his now-sedentary lifestyle caught up with him. During a doctor's visit, Welch discovered that his weight had skyrocketed.
"That was pretty depressing to see that 262 [pounds] on the physical. Just knowing that I had become that heavy," said Welch.
About the same time, Welch started walking with a cousin who had lost 70 to 80 pounds on Weight Watchers. During their walks, she would gently encourage him to give the program a try, he says. She also tried to calm his fears that he'd have to stop eating all of the foods he loved in order to lose weight.
"I kept expressing a really persistent fear I had of restricting my comfort foods. I felt to truly lose weight, I couldn't ever eat the things I loved -- hamburgers, ice cream, chocolate, bacon, cheese [and] cookies," said Welch. "I felt like in order to lose weight I would have to give up those things."
Welch started to become depressed and ashamed of his increasing waist size. Embarrassing moments such as asking for a bigger pants size and having a homeless man yell, "Hey, big guy!" on the street -- began to take a toll on him.
As a new year approached, Welch reached his breaking point.
In January 2006, as part of his New Year's resolution, Welch reluctantly attended his first Weight Watchers meeting, but not before making one last stop for what Welch called his "last meal."
"I had a double-cheeseburger, onion rings and milkshake at Johnny Rockets right before the meeting," said Welch. "I weighed 252.6 at my first meeting."
During the first week on Weight Watchers, he dropped 7 pounds. Welch also learned how to enjoy his favorite foods through portion control, eating in moderation and choosing healthier foods first.
Welch, who was already walking 3.5 miles a day roundtrip to work, started taking water aerobics three times a week and swimming again competitively. The weight continued to come off, about 2-3 pounds a week. CNN iReporters before-and-after weight loss photos »
"When I got to 200 pounds, I decided, well, 'Why don't I go for a weight that's a healthy weight range for my height,'" said Welch. "So I did, and by that point the weight had slowed down. It doesn't come off as quickly as you get closer to your goal weight. But it was still coming off."
Eight months later, Welch had lost 87 pounds and reached his goal weight of 174 pounds, which is the maximum weight for someone who is 5 feet 10 inches tall, according to the national guidelines.
People were stunned by his dramatic weight loss.
"I literally had people that knew me that didn't recognize me," said Welch.
So, what's the best advice Welch has for others who want to lose weight?
"Be the best friend you can to yourself while you're going through this weight loss journey. I've always been someone who was very hard on themselves and suffered from low self-esteem."
Welch said he tried to be very forgiving of himself during the whole process and he still is. He said you should congratulate yourself and focus on any accomplishment you make each day or each week, rather than focus on areas were you have failed.
For example, Welch says if you have an extra helping of mashed potatoes, don't beat yourself up. Stop yourself and focus on the fact that you chose salmon and peas for dinner and ate two helpings of mashed potatoes -- compared with the cheeseburger and French fries you would have eaten two years ago.
Welch also says people shouldn't deny themselves completely. Allow yourself to indulge in some chocolate when you want it. But instead of eating the entire candy bar, break off a few squares, count the calories, and enjoy it.
Also, learn to recognize the fats that are better for you. Don't cut out all of the fat. Instead, choose a healthier fat. For example, Welch often allows himself to eat peanut butter or guacamole, which are higher in fat but are a healthier fat than eating something fried.
How has the weight loss changed Welch's life?
Welch can bend over and tie his shoes without discomfort. He feels much lighter going up a flight of stairs and he can hike much faster. More importantly, he's become more optimistic.
"It made me realize I can, in fact, do anything I set my mind to," said Welch. "It gave me a confidence I desperately needed that I try to apply to other areas of my life."
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