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The 700 Club

Man's New Identity Leads to Extreme Weight Loss

Ed Heath - 700 Club Producer

“Yeah, when people see pictures of me when I was younger and they look back at those pictures, they really can’t believe that’s who they’re looking at, that it’s me.”

From an early age, Justin had a passion for food. He recalls, “Food was like my best friend. It would comfort me; it would bring me pleasure. It took away the anxiety; it took away all my emotions for a moment. It numbed me, if you will. Hitting 2nd grade I was around 200 pounds. Going through middle school, I probably hit around 350, 400, 450.”

As his weight climbed the attacks from classmates increased. Justin remembers, “They would say things like, you’re fat, you’re ugly. You waddle. Just a bunch of vulgar names. And then, you know, that stuff would make me want to go to food. I got a lot of pleasure from it, a lot of acceptance. Because it just made me feel good.”

Then, he recalls, “My panic attacks started at 14 years old. The doctors put me on medication. The medications helped in a temporary sense to where, you know, they’d make me feel a little numb. And kind of tired.”

Justin grew more sedentary and his weight increased. But nothing freed him from his depression and fear.  Around this time a friend of his mom – a woman named Marge - started talking to Justin about Jesus. He said, “She talked to me about how God can help me through the anxiety attacks and such and that He wouldn’t leave me or forsake me. That He was with me always. To know that somebody can love you that much and to know that I can be forgiven of the wrongs that I’ve done, the things that I’m not okay with, the things that would haunt me day and night, like why did I make this decision. Stuff like that, it attracted me.”

But Justin wasn’t willing to surrender his food addiction. He said, “Food made me feel accepted. Food made me feel good.  Food, you know, it made me feel like everything else didn't matter. I felt like it loved me, even though it didn’t. But it just—it made me feel satisfied and fulfilled.  It was this –this condition I guess that I had that I didn’t want to give up. So yeah, there was this battle going on.”

When he was 16, Justin went to a doctor for an insurance physical. He remembers, “The doctor looked at me and he was stunned. He looked me over, he checked me over, and he was really anxious. He was really unsure, actually, on if I was healthy and if I was okay.” He was sent by ambulance to a hospital in Pittsburgh for more testing. There, the seriousness of his morbid obesity became real. Justin said, “I remember my parents being at the foot of the bed. And they looked at the bed scale and my mom walks up to me and she says, honey, do you know how much you weigh? And I said no, I don’t. And she goes, you weigh 799 pounds. And I was –I was blown away and numb at the same time.” He continued, “And I thought things like who could love me? I’m so large. Who can—who would love me? I - I don’t offer much. I just sit here and I eat. And those are real thoughts that entered my mind for sure. And those thoughts plagued me. I guess I felt like I was in a prison at that moment. Just not knowing where to turn next.”

Lying in his bed, Justin remembered what his mom’s friend Marge told him about Jesus’ love. And he cried out to God for help. He said, “When I gave my heart to Jesus and surrendered over, there was a peace, obviously. I felt loved and I felt valuable. I felt like even if I was that much weight and wasn’t confident and happy about myself, I felt like the Lord saw something different. Like He saw my identity as His child. And I allowed God to take a messed up, broken person that I was, and I allowed Him to change me from the inside out. I gave my heart to Jesus in August 2003. And I realized that I was loved by Him and that He cared about me. And I had value and identity.“

With a new identity, Justin started functioning differently. He was motivated to eat better and started moving. He recalls, “I would have to start walking a little bit. So I remember taking a couple steps, maybe 3, 4, 5 steps. And then I would have to go back to the bed and sit down. But that was a milestone for me. Because I was able to actually move, I was able to function.”

He was discharged after six days. Once at home, Justin started working with a therapist and a nurse to continue building his strength. It took him 33 days to walk a total of one mile. He said, “And then I started walking a little bit easier. It took me less days, 20-some days the second time. I did another mile. And then less time to do my next mile. And eventually I started walking around stores and going out and actually becoming part of society again.”

The first year Justin dropped 200 pounds through dietary changes and exercise. The second year, he dropped another 200. He learned to rely on God anytime he felt like giving into his food addiction. Justin remembers, “The closer I got to God, the closer I grew in my relationship with Jesus, I do believe my body got healthier. It’s because I –I had a reverence. You know, I had a fear of the Lord because He created my body. He made it. He created it in such a way to where it is a temple, you know. He lives in it. If God comes to live in you, if He dwells in your body, if He dwells in a temple, don’t you think that temple should be taken care of?”

Today, over 10 years later, Justin remains addiction and panic attack free. He is married and has shared his transformative story on radio, TV, and church meetings.  As a weight-loss coach and motivational speaker Justin enjoys pointing others to the life-changing power of Jesus. He believes, “God made you, you. And He wants you to be the best version of you. And that only comes from surrendering your life over to Him and allowing Him to shape you in who He wants you to be.”

Learn more about Justin's journey at onestepnation.com.

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