What inspired you to start the Challenge?
I’m 28 and weighed 350 pounds. I was heavy as a kid which was difficult because I felt I was different from the other kids. Recently, I was feeling depressed and lonely. I was drinking too much whiskey and beer and I wasn’t taking care of myself. I’d eat a whole family-sized pizza in one sitting. I had student loans I couldn’t pay back and decided to move back in with my parents, which made me feel worse about myself. My doctor told me I was morbidly obese. I looked those words up and was shocked. I thought, “That’s not me,” and knew I had to change my life.
What did you do first?
I educated myself about the negative effects of alcohol. Then I bought a big bottle of Hennessy and set it up in my room but didn’t ever touch it. I knew if I could see it in front of me without drinking it, it would help to strengthen me mentally. Eventually, I forgot it was even there and then gave it away to a friend. For a while I’d have an occasional beer, but I haven’t had a drink in three months and don’t miss it.
What other changes did you make?
I stopped eating meat and started following a plant-based diet. I began cooking like crazy. I made an amazing mushroom alfredo pasta the other day and my parents were surprised that they loved it too. I’ve actually inspired them to eat well. Another favorite recipe: chilli with beans and sweet potato to replace the meat. If I get the urge to eat something sweet, I’ll have grapes. I also drink smoothies with spinach, pineapple, and spirulina. I’ve lost 23 pounds and want to lose at least 50 more. I started exercising gradually, taking small steps. I get on the bike at the gym for 45 minutes and walk on the treadmill.
How are you feeling?
I feel amazing — a lot more confident and hopeful about the future. I’m excited and look at my situation differently. Instead of thinking, “Man, I’ve got to stay with my parents,” I know others don’t have that option and I appreciate my parents. I tell them how grateful I am. But it’s not enough to tell them, I show them by spending time with them and helping out around the house. I’m saving $500 a month and paying off my debts. I’m happy at work, and I’m studying for a degree in cybersecurity.
What are your hopes and dreams?
I’d like to own my own house and I’d love to get married and have at least three kids! My ultimate dream is to start a school where we teach kids life skills instead of just math and English, like how to establish good credit, and skills like cooking, pottery, and human interaction, to make the world a better place.
—Desmond Pinkett, Distribution Center #7031; Laurens, S.C.; $5K Winner