Hometown: Toms River, N.J.
Weight before: 310 lbs
Weight after: 168 lbs
Doing well can have a downside. Justin Petruzziello knows. Two years into a lucrative, perk-filled position as a mortgage banker in Chicago, he'd ballooned from 215 to 310 pounds. Until then, Petruzziello had never had a problem with weight. He grew up playing sports and maintained a healthy physique through his 20s. Yet in 2003, as his career took off, Petruzziello's focus shifted and his body paid for it. "I was working all the time," he says. "My life had no balance. I was so focused on making money that I let everything else slip."
More like crash. During the day, Petruzziello lived on fast food. On weeknights he indulged in extravagant dinners. And he stopped exercising. Before long, he was having trouble sleeping. But rather than look at his own deteriorating habits, he blamed it on stress. Within months, things had worsened. He was dozing off behind the wheel and losing focus at work.
Breathing problems and night sweats followed. "My family told me I'd even started to stop breathing in my sleep," he says. Scared, he finally went to see a doctor.
The diagnosis was sleep apnea. Petruzziello's doctor presented him with three treatment options: Lose weight, get bypass surgery, or have an operation on his windpipe. He chose the first. "I didn't want to sleep with a machine forever," he says.
To start his whole-life over-haul, Petruzziello began going to the gym every day, doing a mix of cardio and weights. He trained two body parts in each workout, and between strength exercises, he jumped rope. "I got so good that people at the gym thought I was training for a fight, but really, it was the fight against fat."
Next, Petruzziello altered his diet, which he admits was the toughest part of the battle. He began following a high-protein, low-carb diet, eating six small meals a day. He also quit junk food and soda entirely. When dining out, he made smarter choices. His two most potent weapons? Diet iced tea, which boosted his water intake, and Caramel Nut Chocolate Supreme Protein bars to satisfy chocolate cravings.
Petruzziello's efforts paid off quickly. His breathing gradually returned to normal. And the weight flew off—an amazing 12 pounds per month, on average. In a year, he'd shed a remarkable 142 pounds.
Today, the 37-year-old is still living healthy and eating right. He's even working as a personal trainer part-time, hoping to inspire others. "The only way to have lasting results is to be dedicated to your goal and change your lifestyle to get there," he says. "Being healthy is a lifestyle change, not a quick fix. If you want it badly enough, you can do it."
Justin's Secret: Take It Day by Day
"I knew it was going to take time to get the weight off. Yet rather than being overwhelmed by the big picture, I focused on each day. I kept telling myself that if I did this right every day, I would look that much better in a month."