A back injury and the accompanying depression caused David Santonas to pack on the pounds. Always a stocky guy, Santonas says he was eating 10,000-12,000 calories a day.
"On an average day, I'd have two bacon and egg heroes with extra bacon for breakfast, one or two Domino's pizzas for lunch," Santonas says.
He'd cap his eating off with a dinner of five hamburgers, multiple orders of fries and an order of onion rings for good measure.
"I was a fast-food junkie," says Santonas, who adds that family and friends tried to get him to slow down. "I just wasn't ready to hear what they had to say."
Although there were things he felt bad about -- not being able to fit into a booth at a restaurant, needing two seats and a seat belt extension on an airplane, Santonas continued to eat. It took a visit to his back surgeon to finally turn his life around.
"He told me I was too fat to have surgery," Santonas remembers. "The anesthesiologist thought I'd die on the operating table."
After three days of feeling sorry for himself, he was ready to make real changes. With the help of a dietitian, he was able to modify his eating habits.
Santonas has cut out all fried food. He hasn't been in a fast-food restaurant since 2011.
His usual breakfast is an omelet with one egg yolk, five egg whites and vegetables, along with lightly buttered whole-wheat toast.
Lunch is a protein such as grilled chicken or lean steak with green vegetables. Dinner is more protein with vegetables and a carb. He snacks on fruits and vegetables. He also drinks at least four liters of water a day.
Before back surgery, Santonas would walk for 10 to 15 minutes at a time. Since surgery in April, his physical activity is limited to 45 minutes of physical therapy three days a week.
ADVICE "I just want people to know that if I can do it, anyone can do it," says Santonas. "If you have a strong mind, anything can happen."
40, St. James
Occupation: Teaching assistant for the NYC Board of Education
505 Weight before Oct. 8, 2011
280 Weight after July 15, 2013