After Receiving A Wake-Up Call, A Grieving Man Lost 240 Pounds

Joel Reed had a tragic childhood. He lost both parents in his teens and overate to cope with it. But when he reached 467 pounds, he knew that he had to make a change. Through diet, hydration, and exercise changes, Joel lost 240 pounds. He even fell in love after meeting a woman who lost 250 pounds herself! For inspiration, read his story and learn how he achieved his dreams.

Joel Had A Tragic Childhood

Joel Reed had a difficult childhood in his Texas home. At age ten, his father passed away from a stroke. Before his death, Joel’s mom was diagnosed with cancer.

“She wanted to be strong for me during this time, so she had hidden this from me,” Joel later said. But she couldn’t keep up the act for long. “Eventually, the cancer had spread to her spine and she was not able to function normally.”

Because Of His Mother’s Illness, He Lived As A Recluse

Joel had always been overweight, but after the death of his father, his diet worsened. Because of his mother’s cancer, the two became recluses. They ate “almost nothing but takeout and delivery,” according to Joel.

“Food, especially unhealthy food, was something that always brought me comfort,” he said. “Once I started eating, I could not stop.” His eating habits seemed to stem from depression, but without healthy coping mechanisms, he continued to rely on them throughout his teen years.

After The Death Of His Parents, Joel’s Health Suffered

When he was 15, Joel’s mother passed away. He was heartbroken and lonely, but fortunately, Joel’s family friends took him in. However, he still struggled with a deep depression from being an orphan.

“Ever since I can remember, I have always been overweight,” he told Daily Mail. “My weight really started to go up after the death of my parents.” His adoptive parents noticed Joel’s ailing health and did everything in their power to help him.

He Tried Many Times To Lose Weight

Joel recounted that his adoptive parents tried to help him get his health on track. “I even saw some success for a while. However, it didn’t last.” During his junior year of high school, Joel’s mental health plummeted.

Joel claimed that he became “lazy” and uncaring during late high school. “I tried to put up a front that I was happy, but I was really not,” he admitted. He cared little for his mental and physical health, and he refused to seek help.

Eventually, He Received A Wake-Up Call

Right before college, Joel went to the doctor’s office for a routine checkup. There, he received a wake-up call. When he stepped on the scale, he weighed 467 pounds! At such a young age, Joel’s life was in danger.

“I knew I was fat, but I had no idea that I had gone so far,” Joel said. “I realized that I was not truly living my life…if I wanted to take my life back and live it to the fullest, something had to change.”

But Change Seemed Far Away

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Unsplash/Amanda Shepherd
Unsplash/Amanda Shepherd

Although Joel wanted to change, he had no idea where to start. Unhealthy habits followed him throughout his childhood. According to Joel, he used to drink a two-liter soda bottle two to four times per day. He would also eat an entire box of snack cakes or bag of chips in one sitting.

“While I knew that I was eating bad things, I really did not understand how terrible my diet was for me,” he admitted.

Moving To North Carolina Became A Catalyst For Change

When Joel went to college, he moved to North Carolina. He moved in with his aunt and uncle. Although the move was difficult, Joel viewed it as a catalyst for change.

“I remember when I moved to North Carolina; I saw it as a fresh start for me,” he said. “It was almost a way to re-invent myself. At this point, I decided enough was enough, and I didn’t want to be obese anymore.” So he began his health transition.

He Started By Tracking His Food

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Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Joel knew that he should not start with a drastic overhaul. Instead, he began by tracking his food. He used the app MyFitnessPal, which not only tracked his daily calories, but also recommended diets and healthier replacements.

Joel recommends using a food tracking app to help people keep count of their calories. “At the beginning, it was almost one-hundred percent diet,” he revealed. After all, his diet was the biggest issue that deteriorated his health.

He Drank A Lot Of Water

A man refills a water bottle.
Inna Borodaieva/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images
Inna Borodaieva/ Ukrinform/Barcroft Media via Getty Images

Along with eating healthier, Joel also began drinking a lot of water. He would drink one to two gallons every day, and he noticed that he felt a lot better.

Joel did not make up this idea. A 2016 study in Frontiers of Nutrition proves that hydration is a key to weight loss. It helps people feel fuller, which causes them to eat fewer calories. “Staying hydrated is a major key to losing weight and keeping it off,” Joel claimed.

He Replaced Unhealthy Foods With Healthy Substitutes

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Unsplash/Adam Bartoszewicz
Unsplash/Adam Bartoszewicz

Joel said that his goal was to eat fewer calories than he burned. He achieved this through food replacements. He replaced high-calorie snacks with healthier options, such as veggies and hummus and fruit with nuts. He also stopped drinking high-calorie beverages such as soda and sweet tea.

Nutritionists call these beverages “empty calories,” because they provide no nutrients, only sugar. Some studies have found that diet soda and sweetened sparkling water keep people craving sweets, according to Harvard Health Publishing. So Joel replaced all of these drinks with water.

His Biggest Change: Cooking At Home

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Adams Wood
Adams Wood

Joel’s most drastic diet change was eating at home. Before, Joel ate fast food or restaurant food all the time. But now, he had to learn how to cook. In 2014, researchers found that people who frequently cook at home–six to seven nights per week–tend to weigh less and be healthier than those who eat out.

That said, Joel also had to avoid some unhealthy shops. According to an Instagram post, he adores Costco, especially its hotdogs. But he stopped shopping there to focus on health meals.

Then, Joel Gradually Started Exercising

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Adams Wood
Adams Wood

Once Joel lost some weight through his diet, he gradually began exercising. He took a one-mile walk every day, going at a moderate pace. Studies have shown that walking can promote weight loss with a healthy diet, according to NBC News.

“I started out with light exercise and then worked my way up,” Joel recalled. After gaining more muscle, Joel tried out some cardio machines at the gym. He recommends finding an exercise that you enjoy at least slightly.

Along With Cardio, He Lifted Weights

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Adams Wood
Adams Wood

Eventually, Joel wanted more than cardio. He started lifting weights, too. Research in the Journal of Applied Physiology concluded that a combination of cardio and strength training is ideal for weight loss.

As with walking, Joel started small. But throughout the years, he has learned to love weight lifting. He now lifts for one to two hours on most days of the week (five to seven days). He also implements 20 to 30 minutes of cardio into his workout.

After Dropping 240 Pounds, His Goals Exceeded The Scale

After a few years of weight loss, Joel shrank to 227 pounds. He lost 240 pounds during his journey! “For the first time in my life, I am truly proud of myself,” Joel reported. “I look better, I feel better, and most importantly, I am a lot healthier.”

But believe it or not, Joel wasn’t done. His goals were not limited to the scale. He wanted to play sports again, like in high school, and he focused on strength training.

Joel Returned To Playing Football

Before Joel weighed almost 500 pounds, he played American football. He wanted to return to that passion. As he lost weight, he began playing soccer and flag football. He tracked his running goals on apps like MapMyRun.

Once he felt confident enough to play football again, he tried out. And he got on the team! Now a college athlete, Joel focused on remaining healthy and building muscle mass. He would end up exceeding his expectations.

He Even Competed In Strength Competitions

Joel did not just work out to lose weight. He also aimed to become the strongest he could be. After a few years of his weight loss journey, he began training for powerlifting and Strongman competitions. He has regained some weight in muscle mass.

Joel now competes in weight lifting and shares his progress on Instagram. He describes lifting as a lifestyle change–one that he enjoys enough to stick with it through his highs and lows.

The Change Shocked Friends And Family

When Joel posted new photos to Facebook, his friends and family from Texas couldn’t believe their eyes. “Most people are shocked,” he said. “Most people say congratulations. One guy even told me he thought it was photo shopped.”

But to Joel, his favorite part about sharing progress was the inspiration. “The best thing that people say is that it motivates and inspires them to lose weight themselves.” This influenced him to reach out to more people who want to become healthier.

Joel Decided To Inspire Others

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Adams Wood
Adams Wood

During his weight loss journey, Joel created an Instagram account to share tips and progress. That account now has over 6,700 followers, and he encourages people to achieve their goals every day.

In May 2020, Joel took this even further–he became a fitness coach with MyBodyTutor. “I’ve always wanted to help others achieve their fitness goals,” Joel wrote. Now, he helps people strive toward a healthy, sustainable diet and exercise routine that they enjoy.

After Losing Weight, His Life Became Much Easier

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Adams Wood
Adams Wood

Joel did not realize how much easier life could be until the lost the weight. “I don’t have to worry if a store is going to have my shirt size or not,” he told Daily Mail. “I don’t have to worry if I’m going to fit in a certain car or not anymore.”

But the worst wake up call for Joel was furniture. “Most importantly, I don’t have to worry if I am going to break a piece of furniture when I sit on it.” He called that his “horrible reality.”

Joel’s Main Advice: Get Excited About The Process

For those who want to lose weight, Joel’s main tip is to “get excited” about the process. He encourages people to exercise in fun ways and find recipes they enjoy. “The more you love the process, the more likely you are to succeed,” he wrote on Instagram.

“You can achieve so much more than you may even think is possible,” he continued. “There will be ups and downs…But that doesn’t mean you should quit. Keep working!”

He Met His Girlfriend Kaitlin, Who Also Lost 250lbs.

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Adams Wood
Adams Wood

It seems that everything was falling into place for Joel– he even fell in love! Joel met his girlfriend Kaitlin online. They quickly bonded over their shared weight loss journeys, as Kaitlin had lost 250lbs as well! Today the two work out in the gym together and stay on their health path.

Joel says, “This is a better body than I had before. It’s something I’m really proud of now.”