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Chinese weight-loss camp helps U.S. man

  • Story Highlights
  • Alonzo Bland from Green Bay, Wisconsin, arrived in Beijing weighing 640 pounds
  • He won all-expense-paid trip to a Chinese boot camp for obese
  • Bland said after losing his job, his weight ballooned
  • Bland has lost 240 pounds since May in China
  • Next Article in Health »
By John Vause
CNN International Correspondent
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BEIJING, China (CNN) -- At the Aimin Fat Reduction Hospital in the Chinese city of Tianjin, they have never seen anyone so big.

Bland said he misses his family and friends, but his goal is to lose the weight and be "healthier and happier."

"Yes this is our record," Dr. Su Zhixin proudly boasted.

He's talking about 33-year-old Alonzo Bland of Green Bay, Wisconsin. When Bland stepped off the plane at Beijing Airport in May of this year, he weighed 640 pounds. In fact, he struggled to take more than a few steps, and as he lay flat on his back, exhausted, airport staff called an ambulance.

After repeated warnings from his doctor, Bland decided to come to China as a last-ditch effort to shed the pounds.

"I needed to take it serious because we were talking about my life."

Bland's weight yo-yoed for years, ballooning after he lost his job 12 years ago.

"Nobody wanted to hire a guy who couldn't move, you know and so, [I] spent the next ...12 years on the couch and watched my weight constantly going up." Video Watch more on Alonzo Bland's transformative journey »

At one point he needed an emergency tracheotomy because fat around his neck was crushing his windpipe.

Earlier this year, while watching TV on the couch, he did an Internet search for weight-loss competitions. He entered one offering a first prize of an all-expense-paid trip to one of China's most famous boot camps for the obese.

The weight-loss clinic is housed in a drab building, far from the city center.

"It's a beautiful place. It really is," Bland said. "It is difficult though: I am away from home -- all my family and friends. But my goal here -- my goal is to lose the weight, so I think in the end I will be healthier and happier."

Being this far from home, Bland said, has been a clean break from his bad habits. He simply doesn't know where the restaurants are, or how to order takeout.

"It is away from everything I know, all those things -- even the excuses you make up: 'Oh I have to do this today, I can't work out, I have this do.' So coming here eliminated all the excuses."

So far he has lost nearly 240 pounds -- a result of diet, exercise and traditional Chinese medicine such as acupuncture, which doctors say reduces appetite and increases metabolism. He works out at a gym three times a week, he walks every day and plays badminton as well.

Bland's doctors are impressed with his determination to shed the weight.

When he was in America, he had a different lifestyle, said Su. If he wanted to eat he would just order on the phone and "every day stay on sofa, playing games, watching TV," Su said.

Bland has only been home once in the past seven months, for two weeks. His family was amazed at his weight loss, and more importantly, despite the fears of his doctor, Bland did not put on any weight while he was away.

In fact, he woke at 4 a.m. most days, he said, to work out at the gym -- an indication, said his doctors, that he has broken the bad eating and living patterns that caused his weight gain.

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The ultimate goal for Bland is a weight of 220 pounds. To reach that goal, he must lose another 180 pounds. His doctors hope he can do that in the next five months -- a year after he arrived at the hospital.

"I know I will get there. Will it happen in the next five months? I don't know, but I will get there."

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