DACULA, Ga. - For Wendell Weaver, life had become almost too heavy to bear.
"It was miserable,” Weaver says. “I couldn't do anything.”
He was 37, struggling with a lung disorder that required steroids, which drove his weight even higher.
"I've always been heavy, I've always been a big guy all my life,” Weaver says. "And my weight topped off at 471 pounds.”
He had to take short-term disability leave from work.
“I came to the realization if I didn't make some serious changes, I was going to die,” Weaver says.
So, in late May of 2015, Weaver took a leap of faith. He drove to Dacula Fitness, where he knew the owner, personal trainer Scott Green, from church.
"I walked in there and said, 'Scott, I need help. I need help,’” Weaver says.
Green was impressed by Weaver’s willingness to change.
"And I told him, 'If you stay in this process, it will come,’" Green remembers.
They got to work.
"Literally, I was starting at square one,” says Weaver.
At first, it was brutal.
"I couldn't even run,” says Weaver. “The first time he had me do jumping jacks, I thought I was going to die."
But this was about more than working out.
"Every day we sat down and had a 15-20 minute conversation about how I was feeling, what I was trying to overcome, what was my battle for that day,” says Weaver.
That was critical because Weaver says his self-esteem had hit rock bottom.
"Honestly, it took a lot of forgiveness,” Weaver says. “Because I really hated myself at that time. I hated what I had allowed myself to become."
Next, they tackled Wendell's eating, which, he admits, was terrible.
“To me, food is an addiction,” says Weaver. “And to not eat that anymore, to not eat all that fatty, soul food that we love here in the South? That was a struggle."
But Green didn’t put Weaver on a crash diet. He didn’t put him on a diet at all.
"He was about moderation, he was about self-control,” says Weaver.
Green told Weaver to keep living his life, but to focus on the bigger picture of eating healthier.
"Keep going out to eat, keep doing the things you do,” Green says he told Weaver. “But make smarter choices."
Weaver switched from sodas and sweet tea to water. Now, that’s all he drinks.
Soon, Wendell's wife Wendy was joining him at the gym.
Scott Green created a strength training and cardiovascular workout for both of them, setting small, achievable goals.
"It was those small victories,” says Weaver. “Every time I would go in there, those little victories I would have, that I realized ‘I can do this, and I'm gonna get stronger.’"
In the first 100 days, Wendell dropped 89 pounds.
Then, he hit a wall.
"I went through a month where I didn't lose a pound,” he says. “That was a really tough part for me."
But he stuck with it. He kept coming back to the gym.
“And I kept telling him, 'I don't want to lose you in this, it will come,'" says Green.
Come, it has. In 11 months, Wendell Weaver has lost 202 pounds. Wendy has dropped 180 pounds.
"Everybody says, 'What's the secret? What's the secret,” says Green.
“The secret is up here,” he says, gesturing at his brain. “And he just started believing he could, and coming in here, and it happened."
"I mean they inspire so many people to say, 'Hey, if they can do it, maybe I can,’" says Green.
Wendell Weaver says their weight is still a work-in-progress. But, he’s grateful for this opportunity.
"Just the ability to live and move and breathe,” Weaver says. "It was life-changing for me."