For Bryan “Juice” Dawson, dropping 100-plus lbs in roughly a year wasn’t about making drastic overnight changes in exercise and nutrition. “I didn’t go balls-to-the-wall at first,” says Dawson, a Utah data analyst. “I made a couple of minor changes, let those become rock-solid habits, then added others. It resulted in a 180° change in how I live life.”

Now 185lbs, down from at least 300 (back then he didn’t feel much like getting on the scale to check), Dawson knows he’s not Men's Fitness cover-model material quite yet, but he’s a helluva lot closer than he was.

War with Warcraft

“I’ve been legit thin only a couple of times in my life—in the Army and when I worked construction—but I wasn’t obese till my 30s, when depression, isolation, using food and alcohol to cope, and playing World of Warcraft ballooned me.”

“I no longer look at narrow openings and think, ‘Well, that’s someplace I’m not going.’”

Digging out (with a fork)

“I’m not a stupid man, but back then I had no idea of the importance of calories. Nothing overrides the principle, ‘If I eat less than I burn today, I’ll be a tiny bit less fat tomorrow.’ There isn’t a single food I ate when I weighed 300 that I haven’t kept eating. I’ve changed the frequency and volume, but nothing is off-limits. And I still drink occasionally, but only what I love—no more 30-packs of Miller Lite; now it’s microbrews.”

That morning kick

“The endorphin rush of ‘It’s 6 a.m., and I’ve already done something healthy’ can’t be beat, so I put up with running three to five miles a day because there’s no other way to get that.”

Losing’s downside

“Cuddling with the wife and kid, they can’t rest their heads on my rib cage now without crying out in pain. Other than that, it’s amazing.”

Loving soreness

“I enjoy the DOMS. I hobble up the stairs as a badge of honor. As a nearly 50-year-old married guy, I just like going to the gym. I lift the heaviest shit I can, as much as I can, then go home and have a protein shake.”