For 24-year-old Mike Crooks, health is his job.
As a nurse working in Florida, he’s always telling people to be more healthy. But up until recently, he wasn’t taking his own advice. Weighing in at more than 300 pounds, Mike said he felt like a walking hypocrite, and that being overweight made him feel awful.
At his heaviest, Mike weighed 337 pounds. But at his current weight of 204, he’s undergone an incredible transformation and lost more than 130 pounds – the majority of which took place in a brief six-month time period later on in his weight loss journey.
Mike had been overweight most of his life, and knew that genetically he hadn’t hit the jackpot as diabetes ran on both sides of his family. His earliest memories of being overweight started around age 10. “I always struggled with my weight,” he said. “I felt like the self-loathing kid, and I remember being very uncomfortable socially. I was extremely introverted and wasn’t into the social scene at all.”
Later in life, Mike recounts how poorly it felt when people would call him nicknames referencing his large size. “Being that big, I actually never felt like I was as big as I was,” he says. “People would say ‘Hey, Big Mike,’ and I never felt like that. I wanted to release myself from that massive cave that really wasn’t me.”
And that release started in 2009.
Mike was working in the emergency room at a local hospital when he and his coworkers began participating in a staff-wide Biggest Loser contest. By the end of the challenge, he’d dropped 31 pounds.
Then in the fall of that year, Mike got relocated to Florida with a new nursing job. After the move, he continued with his healthy habits and started working out more. By the end of the summer of 2010, he was down to 252 pounds despite still subsisting on a fairly unhealthy diet.
Things were off to a good start until Mike relocated one more time – this time by choice – to Kissimmee, Florida, where he began working toward his RN certification at a local college. In addition to still eating unhealthy foods like sugary desserts, burgers and pizza, he also picked up a full-time job that left him little-to-no time to be active.
Before long, Mike started to notice his clothes getting tighter, so he went out and bought a scale. By the end of summer 2011, he had jumped back up from 252 to 290 pounds. When he saw he was approaching the 300-pound mark, that’s where he drew the line.
“I grew really frustrated. Something clicked in my mind that I wasn’t going back to that unhealthy point anymore. I knew I was never going to be that weight ever again,” he says. And this time, he meant it.
Mike heard about a special his local gym was running for a free one-week trial, so he decided to sign up. It was there that he met trainer Daryl Shone, who Mike says helped push him harder than he’d ever been pushed before. He began frequenting the gym five to six days a week and also started attending Daryl’s fitness classes, which helped kickstart his rapid transformation.
Another big piece of the puzzle was a diet change. Being in nursing, Mike had taken courses in nutrition and said he always knew what to eat, he just didn’t. So he began to read nutrition labels and consciously consider what he was putting in his body, and that was a game changer for him. He stepped away from heavy, fried foods and fast food meals, and steered more toward a fresh, healthy diet.
By February of 2012, just seven months after signing up at the gym, Mike had dropped down to 204 pounds, losing a total of 86 pounds.
“When I was overweight I was so introverted I would push people away because I was so unhappy with myself. For so long, I wasn’t happy. And now I want to be happy,” he said.
At more than 100 pounds lighter than his former self, Mike enjoys going to his gym three to four days a week where he says people frequently come up and ask him about his transformation. He also enjoys running and says he hopes to sign up for his first 5K with a group of co-workers soon.
When he finishes his schooling Mike says he’d love to get into personal training because he loves helping other people and he enjoys fitness now more than he ever has before. He also sees his health care background being especially beneficial to his clients.
As for a goal weight, Mike had formerly aimed for 199 pounds. But, after reassessing, he says he’s content with his current weight of 204 pounds. And we think he looks awesome right where he’s at.
For those out there who may be struggling with their weight, Mike offers this piece of encouragement: It really is mind over matter.
“Can’t is a word that should not be in your vocabulary. I used to watch shows like the Biggest Loser and wish I could do it, but then I wouldn’t do anything about it,” he said. “The hardest step is the first step – like changing your eating habits or starting to go for walks. There’s a wealth of information out there to help you. Trust me, If I can do it, anyone can. I thought I couldn’t do so many things before, and now I know I can.”
For more stories of real-life transformation, check out the slideshow below of all of our favorite weight loss superstars.