NEW HOPE, Minn. -- When it comes to weight loss, most people have to find their own niche. Tim Harriger searched for that niche for many years. He's been overweight for most of his life. He's tried many different diets, but every time he dieted, he gained more weight back than he'd lost.
"I weighed 500 and I got down to 425 and then within a year I got back up to almost 540," said Tim of his 2014 efforts to get healthy. "I just knew that I needed help and if I didn't do anything, probably later that year I'd even be at 600."
By April, 2015, Tim's weight hit 538 pounds. His visits to the emergency room were becoming more and more frequent. He had frequent leg infections from his weight. He was pre-diabetic. He had very bad sleep apnea. He had high blood pressure.
"(My doctor) said, 'Well, you possibly might hit (age) 50, but certainly not 60," said Tim.
Tim's doctor recommended either gastric sleeve surgery or the gastric bypass.
"It's kind of a prideful thing," said Tim. "You always want to say you can lose it on your own."
Tim decided on the gastric sleeve, which includes removing about 80 percent of the stomach. He was told he needed to lose 50 pounds before the surgery. Tim got a nutritionist and went on a bariatric program.
"If you're like me, and you've done all the other diets, and nothing works, and you're starting to have lots of health problems, it might be worth it," said Tim.
Tim began visiting the gym six days a week and cleaned up his diet which had consisted of lots of fast food and other junk food. He cut down his calorie intake, which he estimated was around 6,000 calories.
"The main thing for me was giving up pop," said Tim. "I was drinking upwards of a gallon a day of pop. I'll probably never have pop again and that's fine."
By October, 2015, Tim had lost the required 50 pounds, and he went through with gastric sleeve surgery.
Tim continued to lose weight over a year and a half. He lost more than 300 pounds, dropping down to a weight of 218 pounds--lighter than his doctor ever projected.
"I always try to turn things into a game," said Tim. "If they say to exercise three days a week and they say, do a half hour, I try to do four days and I try to do 40 or 45 minutes."
Tim lifts weights about every other day and does a combination of running, elliptical and biking about six days a week. He signs up for 5K races to help keep him motivated. On April 15th he'll compete in his second annual Y Run around Lake Calhoun.
As for diet, Tim had to drastically reduce his calorie intake after the surgery. He's slowly been able to increase his daily calorie intake to about 1,500 a day. He focuses on eating a high protein diet. A typical breakfast for Tim is a greek yogurt and a piece of fruit. For lunch he'll pack a meat and cheese sandwich with light mayo and maybe a piece of fruit. Snacks during the day include a glass of milk or a protein bar. Dinner is another high protein, low calorie meal.
Tim has been maintaining his weight for six months so far, and this month on the second anniversary of the beginning of his journey, he dropped five more pounds, getting down to a weight of 213.
"I don't have the pointing and the, 'mommy, he's fat' and all that stuff that anymore," said Tim. "All of the sudden you have to adjust to things--just every day living things you wouldn't think about--like, you'll get in the car and you'll think the steering wheel is going to hit my stomach, but no, it's this far away now. You see a folding chair. It's like, can I sit there? It's like, well yes, I can now."
Tim used to wear size 6X shirts. Now he wears L/XL. Tim's ring size went from 16 to 10.5. His wife had to buy him a new wedding ring. He even lost a shoe size.
Tim says there's no looking back. To show his commitment, he doesn't miss workouts, even on days he works 14 hour shifts at his job as a supervisor at a group home.
"For me I know (going back) is a death sentence," said Tim. "I know if I get back into the old habits...all the health problems will come back. The whole lifestyle--I'm just done with that and just living for my family too."
Tim says he's now regaining the confidence that he'll live to see his daughters, age 10 and 12, graduate from high school. He wants to be there to walk them down the aisle at their weddings.
"When you're that heavy, you don't think you're gonna be an old man," said Tim. "For the first time I'm thinking about growing old with my wife, and it's pretty cool to think about."