(CNN) -- Edwin Velez used to have to suck in his stomach in order to tie his shoes. He requested tables at restaurants, rather than booths, and constantly made jokes about himself in order to hide how uncomfortable he was about his physical appearance.
"I may be big, but I'm sexy," he would say.
But on the inside, Velez, an English-as-a-second-language teacher from Albertville, Alabama, really wanted to make a change.
He attributes his weight struggles to eating habits he learned as a child. He grew up in a Latin family, with a diet consisting of rice, beans and plenty of fried food. His family moved from Puerto Rico to Florida when he was 4.
When he was younger, Velez loved playing baseball, but after his sophomore year of high school he weighed 250 pounds and had to give up the sport because it exhausted him.
In college, his eating habits worsened. Like many students, he ate whatever was readily available and cheap, such as cafeteria hamburgers, French fries and chicken fingers.
By the time Velez reached adulthood, he weighed 310 pounds.
It was not until he was reminiscing over photos from one spring trip to the Bahamas with friends that he realized he was significantly overweight.
Velez set a goal to drop 100 pounds in a year's time before his next trip. He changed his diet, exercise routine and most importantly, his attitude.
He began walking 45 minutes every morning and soon after was able to jog.
"It was only after I lost 30 to 40 pounds from jogging that I joined a gym," says Velez. "It's intimidating."
Once there, he began lifting weights and building muscle to sculpt his ideal body. But "it doesn't just happen at the gym, it happens after (the gym), too," Velez says.
He cut out soda, sweets and carbohydrates while focusing on high-protein foods such as fish and chicken, pairing them with fruits and vegetables.
Since Velez had never been a gym-goer or calorie counter, many people who knew him discouraged him from starting his weight loss journey. They told him he was working toward an unrealistic goal because of his past habits.
Velez says that he's competitive and that their words fired his desire to prove everyone around him wrong.
"You really have to want it bad enough," says Velez. "Once you get the mental part right, you can't let the negative Nancys get you down."
After a year and two months -- and 155 pounds lost -- he decided to reward himself with skin removal surgery. He now has plans to t