A man lost 50 pounds and reduced chest pain by prioritizing mental health

Juan Martinez can point to the exact day he knew he needed to change his life. It was July 18, 2021. He and his wife had decided to separate, and on that day she and their 16-year-old daughter packed up and moved to California. He felt suicidal.

“The house was just so quiet. I told myself I had two choices. I could either make a horrible, horrible, irreversible decision, or I could channel that negative energy in a positive new direction,” he said. “I’ve always wanted a healthier lifestyle, but I wasn’t ready to make the necessary changes. I needed the dynamic shift in my family life to do this for me and my daughter. I want to be there for them.”

Martinez knew he needed to lose weight and improve his health — he was prediabetic and had high blood pressure. He weighed 310 pounds and wore size 5 pants. He had paid for a gym membership that he wasn’t using, so he started working out.

But he threw himself into his training in an unhealthy way. “I was out five days a week, sometimes twice a day. I used the elliptical trainer 45 minutes before work and then came back after work and exercised for an hour or two. After six months, my body collapsed. I had severe hip pain and some chest pain,” he said.

Martinez knew he had to make some changes. Here’s what he did.

Martinez changed his mindset about losing weight, setting a goal of working out five times a week instead of aiming for a specific number on the scale.
Martinez changed his mindset about losing weight, setting a goal of working out five times a week instead of aiming for a specific number on the scale.Courtesy of Juan Martinez

He focused on his mental health

Through journaling and self-assessment, Martinez discovered that he used the gym to escape the emotional issues weighing on him: “I felt like I was abandoning my daughter and breaking up the family. I had to take an honest look at what I was dealing with and what I was doing.”

He realized that he was being hard on himself and that he was an emotional eater. “I ate all the time trying to find comfort and never found what I was looking for,” he said. “I’m very hard on myself, so instead of eating and doing more destructive things, I’m trying to find other outlets to express some of that frustration and anxiety.”

Now he starts every day with five minutes of journaling, as well as breathing and mental health exercises. “I realized that mental health is just as important in my journey. My mental health has improved tremendously. Even with the occasional “rough” day, my attitude is better than ever.”

He has learned to put himself first sometimes. “In the past I have put others ahead of myself, both emotionally and physically. Now I can prioritize myself. From a self-esteem perspective, it’s a step in the right direction,” he said.

He re-evaluated his exercise routine

“I changed my mindset about what it takes to lose weight,” he said. He joined the Start TODAY Facebook group. Before that he had never thought about doing walking as a sport: “I read people’s inspiring stories and saw how motivated they were and that guided me. I started incorporating walking and changing my approach.”

TIED TOGETHER: A 30-day walking plan to fuel weight loss and boost your mental health

Martinez loves how walking supports both his physical and mental health. “I usually have conversations with myself and evaluate my week when I go,” he said. He still goes to the gym, but he has a sustainable schedule — five days a week, once a day. “I’m more methodical and practical. As much as I want to lose weight, exercising eight hours a day is not what will help me succeed,” he said.

He plans his workouts for the week

On Sundays, he decides which workouts he wants to do and blocks the time for them on his calendar. He takes Kickboxing and CycleBar classes, practices yoga and walks a lot. “Having it written down and setting aside time for it makes it easier to make it a priority,” he said.

He builds a foundation of solid habits

Martinez doesn’t set a goal or count steps, although he often walks three miles and sometimes much further. “Often I go for a walk and don’t have my tracker on. It’s about building the habit. I’ve been sedentary for most of my adult life and I want to build those habits that will lead to the change I desire,” he said.

He’s improved his running habit to the point that he’s completed two 5Ks this year and has two more on his calendar. He also has a half marathon on his vision board for 2023.

While weight loss is a goal, it’s not a goal for him. “The Start TODAY group changed my perspective on goal setting. If my goal is to lose 100 pounds and gain two pounds, I might find it difficult to stay motivated. But if I set a goal of working out five days a week, I can achieve that goal. And I’ll get to the weight I want as long as I build those habits,” he said.

He also builds his sense of accomplishment, boosts his confidence, and changes his mindset so he can overcome destructive habits.

He improves his diet

Martinez works in a movie theater, so it’s easy for him to reach for sugary drinks. However, he replaced soda with water. “It’s so tempting to get this coke, but it’s ruining everything I’m working towards.” He’s adding more healthier foods to his diet, but acknowledges that nutrition is an area where he has room for growth.

Martinez dropped 10 inches in the waist, going from a size 52 pant to a size 42.
Martinez dropped 10 inches in the waist, going from a size 52 pant to a size 42.Courtesy of Juan Martinez

He’s making steady progress

Martinez has lost 50 pounds and is now 260. He said, “I’m in 44 pants now, but I’m close to 42, maybe 40!” He hasn’t had chest pain in months and his hip isn’t bothering him that much. His blood sugar level is normal and his blood pressure has improved.

And it’s impacting others: “I hear from family, friends and co-workers that posting on Instagram and Facebook about my health and running has inspired them to start their own health and fitness journeys. That was another huge benefit – to hear other people are impacted by my journey and struggles was amazing.”

Get inspired by these other success stories:

Leave a Comment