When Justin Wells’ son, Jude was born in 2013, Wells, who weighed 360 pounds, made a promise to his son that he would lose weight to be a healthy father.
And then, like many of us, the Frenchburg man backslid into the warm greasy embrace of pizza and fried chicken, snacks like Oreos and Doritos, and the foods that give many of us a little bit of happiness in the face of daily obstacles.
“Over the years, food was the one thing I found that at least seemed to make me feel better, at least momentarily,” Wells said. “It got to the point that if I needed comfort, I needed more and more food.”
He described his former diet as “everything doctors would advise you not to do.”
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Then a traffic accident reminded Wells that if he died, he would have failed to keep a promise to his only child.
So he lost 164 pounds. And recently, Wells, 35, was selected as the male Grand Prize Champion of the national Beachbody Challenge, winning $100,000. More than 60,000 people sent in their stories. The female winner was Carmen O’Quinn of Canton, Ga., who lost 161 pounds.
Before Wells changed his workout and eating habits, weeks would go by when he wouldn’t eat any vegetables, save potatoes, and he would have those fried.
Since he won a beach body competition, does that mean Wells has a six-pack?
He doesn’t, nor is that a goal. He wants to connect with and inspire others, via Facebook contact.
“I probably will never have a six-pack because my skin is shot,” Wells said. “I’m fine with that.”
Wells started with the Beachbody program, which he now streams into the workout room of his home, after his car accident. He tries to get in an intense 30-minute workout most days of the week — he takes Sundays off — and walk as many steps as possible in his daily routine.
He also changed his eating habits, giving up the salty, fatty, sugar-laden food he used to love. Now he tries to eat something every few hours — such as grapes and chicken — and for a recent breakfast, he had a multi-grain waffle with peanut butter and chicken bacon, along with some 2 percent milk.
He also eats vegetables, sometimes double portions. He concentrates on whole-grain carbohydrates, lean protein, and fruits and vegetables.
His wife, Cindy, also has lost weight — 60 pounds since her pregnancy high weight.
Justin Wells is the violence prevention grant coordinator with Saint Joseph Mount Sterling Hospital, working with the Safe School Ambassadors program and McNabb Middle School, focusing on bullying. He’s also a lay minister at Bethel Baptist Church in Frenchburg.
He’s the second Central Kentuckian to get national recognition this summer for losing more than 100 pounds. In July, Karyl Justice Mullins of Lexington was featured on People magazine’s cover and in an article about how she lost half her body weight, from 256 pounds to 128, using Weight Watchers, portion control and exercise.
Wells’ weight loss has impressed his co-workers at the hospital.
“It was his determination and his commitment” that was so amazing, said Sister Janet Carr, manager of mission services at the hospital.
Recently, at Jude’s third birthday party, Wells had a slice of cake with ice cream, and the sugary taste was a bit nauseating, he said. It will be the last sweet treat he’ll get before Thanksgiving, he said.
Going through his own life-changing experience made Wells want to share his story with others.
“My great hope is that this win will show people that significant health changes are possible, and that these big success stories you hear about aren’t fabrications,” he said.