When he was in high school, Alexander Graf’s doctors used to tell him that he would eventually grow into his size. Even as a teen, though, Graf could sense they weren’t exactly being truthful. At his heaviest, in the summer of 2016, Graf tipped the scale at nearly 285 pounds, owing to a combination of inactivity from playing video games all day and eating, well, like your average 16-year-old. “My diet consisted mostly of processed foods and soda,” he says.
Graf, who is now 19 and attending college full-time in Phoenix, Arizona, eventually had a wakeup call courtesy of some tough love from his dad. “My father is a heavier guy who has Type 2 diabetes,” Graf says. “He told me all the things that have changed his life since he started gaining weight. I was also having a lot of back and leg pain. The future did not look good if I was going to stay where I was.”
Graf decided it was time to take action. Changing his diet, he knew, was the most important thing. He started by cutting out unhealthy food in stages—the first week, it was soda. Then the sweets. The third week, he cut down on fast food. Those small dietary changes added up quickly: After just two months of dieting alone, he lost 25 pounds. Then he took things to the next level and started hitting the gym with a buddy. For the first few weeks, they went together, with Graf shadowing his friend’s moves. But as his confidence grew, Graf eventually started going on his own. Soon he’d become one of the regulars, and began to seek the advice of his fellow gym-goers.
“They would notice the progress I was making and congratulate me,” he says. “The gym is one of the friendliest places if you talk to people.” While he did lose weight quickly at the beginning, it was Graf’s consistency that made his dramatic transformation possible. After more than two years of regularly working out and being mindful of what he ate, his hard work paid off in the form of a nearly 110-pound weight loss.
The true benefits, however, extended well beyond what Graf noticed in the mirror. “I feel completely different now, and my body feels like it has so much energy,” he says. “I gained a lot more confidence, too—I was always shy when I was bigger because I was scared that people wouldn’t like me because of my size. As I started to slim down and people noticed, it gave me a lot more confidence and I slowly became more social.”
As for what’s next, Graf says he’s now focusing on getting cut for summer. He’s working on his beach body—words he’s wanted to say for a long time.
“This year might finally be the year,” he says. “I still work out daily, and now I always try to help people who are in the same shoes I used to be in.”