It’s hard for most of us to fathom stepping on a scale that reflects a number in the 700s, but it was very much reality for James Garrison. This 26-year-old had a high school football injury that he never quite recovered from. He self-medicated with food and was unable to workout, two situations that lead him to the first season of Extreme Makeover: Weight Loss Edition.
His first weigh-in with trainer Chris Powell set the scale at 651 pounds, a weight that classified James as “super obese.” The show’s nutritionist, Paulette Lambert, told us that “super obese” represents those who are more than 200 pounds overweight, which is about 10 percent of the U.S. population. However, 365 days of dietary changes and a dedicated fitness plan helped James lose about 50 percent of his body weight; his final weigh-in (which took place in February 2011) showed him down 313 pounds.
James found his way to Extreme Makeover when a casting representative for Biggest Loser told him he was too heavy for the show, but there might be a chance on EM. He says the entire process started 18 months ago and that “I never thought it would actually end,” giving a sense of relief that his episode had finally aired.
Since his final weigh-in in February, James says he has not lost any additional weight. “I’m giving my body a break,” something he says he needs after losing 313 pounds so quickly. That weight loss has caused his body to fight back, resulting in a few hospitalizations (only one of which was mentioned in his episode). “I’ve had a lot of health problems,” says James. He says it’s those complications that forced him to lose sight of why he started this. “The show is about weight and a number on the scale, but it’s not about a number. I made the number read less, and my life read more.”
James told us he gets in about two hours of exercise each day, doing a variety of things that he loves including running, kayaking, and mountain biking. He continues to do IT consulting, joking that “I’ll always be a geek.” He says it’s those stationary desk jobs that get so many people in trouble. His recommendation if you’re stuck in a chair for eight hours during the day, “find something to do, do anything” after work.
As for his diet, he says he spent that year “figuring it out,” and today follows something like a Paleo diet. He no longer looks at food as something to enjoy, but instead as something he has to have, calling the process of eating “a chore.”
While we don’t see it on the episodes, a lot of the Extreme Makeover participants were in Los Angeles together for certain segments of filming. It was there that they all became very close and life long friends, according to James. “Some of us talk daily.”