How this amputee lost a shocking 488 pounds: 'I am alive today to encourage others'

Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.

Stanley Hollar is 42, 5’10,” weighs 190 pounds, and lives in Rushville, Ind. In 2015, after a doctor informed him  that his life was in imminent danger, he lost nearly 500 pounds. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.

The Turning Point

Weight has always been an issue, I was large even as a young child, weighing nearly 100 pounds in kindergarten. It was something I lived with my whole life. Most of my family members were large as well. Being overweight was normal and not something I even really struggled emotionally with. My family tried to say something several times about my weight but there were more words than actions, and I unfortunately just got used to the noise. Making things even more difficult, I had one leg amputated through the knee in 1996 after suffering a devastating injury.

The final turning point, which led me in the direction of weight loss, started in February 2015. I was at my heaviest and was developing major medical issues. The doctor said I needed to lose weight or I would be dead before my next birthday — I wasn’t even 40 years old yet. The fear of dying was the motivation I needed.

After a hospitalization, I lost the weight I needed to in order to be eligible to get bariatric surgery. I used a hand bike to exercise, which is basically all that my body would allow me to do. I would just turn on some country music and work my hand bike. Over that time in the hospital I lost 70 pounds, after which I underwent bariatric Roux-en-Y surgery.

After recovering from the surgery, I made another decision. I decided I needed to lose more weight. In order to do so I joined a gym, Anytime Fitness, and I got a trainer “DDoug” Sparks — yes, he signs his name with two Ds. DDoug gave me confidence and encouraged me. Over time, I kept shedding weight and I lost another 250 pounds, bringing my total weight loss to almost 500 pounds. I did and continue to do this with only one leg, hopping around the gym from station to station along with my wheelchair. Sometimes, even I have difficulty believing that this is the way things happened. I thank God for my doctors, nurses, Anytime Fitness, and my trainer. They all worked a miracle and I am alive today to encourage others, thanks to them.

(Photo: Courtesy of Stanley Hollar)

The Changes

The weight loss I accomplished was in stages. My first steps were medical intervention. I was very sick. Just before my hospitalization, I fell and could not lift myself off the floor to save my life. For most of the first 50 days, I was flat on my back just trying to survive. I spent a total of 159 days between two hospitals and a long-term care facility before I could finally come home. As time went on, I slowly changed my diet, and I also did physical therapy. How did I tackle my weight loss in the early stages? The same way you eat an elephant — one bite at time. You start small and build. You go a little farther or you do a little more each day. Before long, you won‘t recognize the new you. I used to wear 8XL pants (70 inch-plus waist) and 6XL shirts. I now can wear XL pants, some of which are loose on me. I now wear 38-inch waist jeans. Shirts I wear are regular men’s large. This past September, just two-and-a-half years later, I walked with my wheelchair as a scooter in a 5K. Start slow and tackle it one day, one step, one breath at a time. The key is to just start.

In the beginning the feeling of exercise was totally foreign to me. I hated it. It was hard and difficult. It made me hurt and sore. At first, I lost the weight so that I would not die. Then I lost the weight to prepare for the bariatric surgery. After that, I lost the weight thanks to the encouragement my trainer gave me. It felt so amazing to watch the process. At some point, I realized there is a fit person inside of me, that person was just now coming to the surface. At this point, I do it because I want to do something I have never attempted: to be athletic, fit, and in wonderful physical shape.

The After

I feel good both physically and emotionally. My life is changing for the better all the time. I am healthy, really healthy, for the first time in my life. I should have made this change a long time ago. I have a new zest for life. It is time to live it to the fullest.

One thing I didn’t expect after weight loss was all this excess skin, it just hangs off of me. I am skin and bones, and it gets in the way. It doesn’t hurt, but to remove it, my insurance company tells me would be “cosmetic.” I disagree. It’s a serious medical issue. There is the potential for infections with so much skin.

When they want to fit me with a prosthetic leg, I cannot get one until I get rid of the skin hanging around my knee. So, at times I feel great, but I am still in a wheelchair and I cannot afford a prosthetic leg on my own. I am strong and healthy, but at times I still feel defeated because I have accomplished so much, but I still cannot run or even walk. I desperately want to walk and run. In a few years, I want to run that 5K without the use of the chair. I just want to feel normal and that is not something I feel even at this point.

The Maintenance

For maintenance, I stick to my plans; my meal plans, my exercise routines. Some daily habits that work for me might not work for others, but once you stumble onto the right combination, it will work for anybody.

Exercise for me means working out five days a week at Anytime Fitness. On the weekends I try to walk. When the weather gets cold or yucky, I improvise — laps around the table or through the house. I go to a lot of my old high school’s basketball games. After the game, I do 10 or more laps in the gym. A rolling stone gathers no moss. Just move as much as you can, start slow and do a little more each day.

The hardest part of changing my diet was to change the way I thought about food. A lot of people live to eat. That does not help when you want to lose weight. What you need to do it eat to live. Eat meals that are good for you; small portions of the food you need. My meals are simple now: Some kind of protein (chicken, beef, or tuna) at each meal. That protein source is about the size of a deck of cards.  Then one piece fruit at breakfast, usually a banana. Lunch includes a vegetable serving. Dinner has a starch, like corn or peas. General rule of thumb: No liquids during or after a meal for 30 minutes. I also have protein bars and shake each day and drink about 8 to 9 cups of water. I also use a child’s plate for all my meals, just so I don’t over serve myself.

(Photo: Courtesy of Stanley Hollar)

The Struggles

I am fearful that I will go back to what I was. My addiction is food and that is a very difficult addiction to have. It’s not like smoking or drinking, I cannot stop eating entirely, so the temptation is always something that is there for me. I want and need the surgery for skin removal on my thighs and belly so that I can be fitted properly for a prosthetic leg.

Not being able to walk is a major struggle, as is not being able to afford the surgeries I need. I struggle with how the insurance companies and the government can call my surgery cosmetic. I have worked so hard and am coming to the end of my journey all of a sudden due to red tape and an issue related to insurance. If I am ultimately unable to get a leg due to financial concerns, I will be devastated.

But I have faced adversity before and am willing to face this head on as well. My friends and family have set up a fundraising website which I’m truly hoping will raise the funds I need. I just want some normalcy in my life, and I have done too much to be stopped just short of the finish line due to prohibitive costs. I want to finish strong and standing on both feet.

(Photo: Courtesy of Stanley Hollar)

Advice

Everybody can do this if you live in the moment. Don’t plan for what you have to do in the next year, month, week, or tomorrow. You need to focus on the next minute. What do I need to do right now? Focus on your next move to get you to the move after that. Put one foot in front of the other. If you do this long enough and do not stop, I promise you will get where you want to go.

If I can do it, you can do it. Never give up on the person you want to be.

You can visit Stanley’s Hollar’s YouCaring page at HelpStanleyWalk.com

Need more inspiration? Read about our other weight-loss winners!

Weight-Loss Win is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative, 135-pound weight loss of her own.

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