You might have heard of Jesse Shand, 28, of Novi, Michigan. He’s better known as “Wetbreasts“ on the Bodybuilding.com forum. When he posted some images of himself at more than 600 pounds, he was just trolling for a response. The feedback he got, however, astounded him.

Rather than bullying Shand, posters urged him to take his life into his own hands and get healthy. And get healthy he did. So far he’s lost a whopping 376 pounds—more than most of us will ever weigh, even on Thanksgiving afternoon.

Shand’s story is inspiring to any man who has taken on a seemingly impossible task. We tracked him down to talk about finding inspiration in an unlikely place, how he did it and what his life is like now that he’s half the man he used to be.

“The proudest point in my life is when my mother posted a video thanking the people who convinced me to live. She was really worried about me. Now she doesn’t have to worry if her son is going to wake up the next day.”

A lot of guys struggle with weight, even to the point of obesity. But they never end up doing anything about it. How did you start your journey to losing nearly 400 pounds?
It was completely by accident. When I started my thread on Bodybuilding.com I was just trolling. I didn’t go to BB.com to change my life. I avoided all the fitness threads. I had long since given up. But they tried to convince me that it could be done. They rejected my excuses and told me ways that I could start small. At first, I just wanted to appease them to get them to get off my back. I started getting more stamina and it just clicked. I realized I could do it. Everything snowballed from there.

So you were totally inactive and over 600 pounds. How did you even get started?
One of the members told me I was so big I could just flop around and that would count as exercise. So I posted a video of me doing that on my YouTube. All I did was put on music and flop around with my upper body. It had me tired and sweating. I realized little things would create big changes if I was consistent. Next I started doing laps in my small mobile home. I could only do five of those on day three. I felt like I was going to have a heart attack. But the forum convinced me that it wasn’t about how much I could do, it was about doing it consistently.

Even though that was hard at first you had to eventually switch to a “real workout.”
When I did my first “real workout” I was about the same weight I started at, around 40 days in. One of the BB.com guys sent me a weight set. That’s when I first started lifting at home. I posted a video of that. The members corrected my form and I got a little better at that and I just started lifting every day. They suggested that I just do bodyweight squats. That impacted my leg strength. That was my first real workout.

How long had it been since you last left the house?
When I first made that thread I hadn’t left the house in well over a year. It was probably closer to two years. I live at home. My mother did all my shopping for me. I hadn’t showered in over 18 months. I couldn’t fit inside it. Some of my first pictures, my chest is just caked on with dirt. I couldn’t have been much more reclusive.

How did you end up such a shutaway?
I’ve always been heavy, but even at 300 pounds I was going out and playing basketball. I was with a friend who got pulled over with a friend and there was marijuana in the car and I got probation. I realized the only way I was going to be able to complete probation was by cutting ties with those friends. I started playing massive multiplayer online games like World of Warcraft and I started leaving the house less and less. I had some friends who were straight edge, but I even saw them less and less as I got addicted to these online games. Eventually I just gave up because I weighed so much and there was so much effort to get healthy.

What’s your routine these days?
In Michigan we have harsh winters. But when it’s not like that I ride my bike 7.3 miles to and from the gym. I do 30 minutes on the elliptical, 30 minutes on the bike. Monday is chest, Tuesdays is for legs, Wednesdays is triceps and shoulders, Thursday is my back. Friday is a free session. Things I feel like I didn’t work enough on. Sometimes it’s abs. Every Saturday I meet up with my friend Phil and we ride a trail. My stamina has gotten up to the point where I can do a 32-mile bike ride. I meet my friend for racquetball a couple of times a week. I’ve been trying to add a few more sports into my routine.

You have some pretty objective proof that you’re healthier, but how do you feel?
Well, there’s good and bad. I have a lot more stamina and I’m doing things I never thought I’d be able to do. Around day 40 I could stand long enough to be able to shave without sitting down. By day 200 I could fit in my shower. Not long after that I could sit behind the wheel of a car. Now I can go out and play sports and do events with my friends. But there are some things that didn’t gel with what I thought I was going to be able to do. The damage to my confidence has been a lot harder to repair. I have to force myself to get out and do things sometimes. Not everything happened like I thought it would, but it’s mostly positive.

Jesse-Shand

What’s been negative about it?
Trying to navigate social situations now. It’s not just the reclusiveness. My friends all want to go to bars or eat places that have no clean food whatsoever. You have to always be on alert for that and I have to be diligent to keep myself in line. The very public nature of my weight loss means there’s a lot of pressure. When people lose weight they have weeks where they’re off at weigh in, but I feel like I have to make sure that the weight keeps coming off. I have so much effort and support and I feel like I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I weren’t able to make constant gains. There’s a lot of anxiety that comes with that.

What has your proudest moment been?
The proudest point in my life is when my mother posted a video thanking the people who convinced me to live. She was really worried about me. Now she doesn’t have to worry if her son is going to wake up the next day. I was really proud that I was able to give back a little bit to my mother. She was my sole provider and she was the only reason I was able to do anything at that point. Anytime I’m able to give something back to her it makes me so proud.

What’s your goal weight?
Right now I’m at 277 and I’m constantly told I don’t look like 277. I think I have 30 to 40 pounds of loose skin. I think somewhere in the 240 range is where I want to be without the skin. I feel like I’ll know what my goal weight is when I get close to it.

What would you tell people that are in similar situations as yours? I don’t necessarily mean that big, but anyone who is dangerously overweight and unhealthy.
It’s not nearly as difficult as it’s built up in your mind. That was the real big surprise. You see The Biggest Loser and people are throwing up or passing out. They’re spending 8 hours a day working out. That’s what it was in my head. The biggest takeaway was that I just needed to make small changes and be consistent over time. You hear that it’s going to take two years, but that passes so fast.

What have you learned about exercise and fitness in general?
Log your workouts. The human body really enjoys routine. Once you get into that routine, it’s coasting. Weight loss is made to be a lot more complicated than it really needs to be. You don’t have to follow any real specific diet. People want to cut out this or that, but it’s not about that. It’s just about making common sense choices, being consistent and working out.

Any final thoughts on your journey?
It’s not easy to force yourself out of your comfort zone. But if you want to make real changes in your life, you have to get out of your comfort zone. I haven’t always been great with that, but I’m learning. Running into BB.com helped me make those changes. I’m very fortunate. I don’t have any avenue to repay the support I was given, but if I can help other people and give some tips that makes me feel like I’m doing my part.

If you want to help Shand out, he has a GoFundMe raising money for the removal of excess skin. 

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