At 23 years old, Ben Pamment ran out of excuses. The 6-foot New Zealander found himself weighing in at just over 140kg, and experiencing anxiety and depression. Though he suffered a knee injury years earlier, he could no longer think of a reason for being so unhealthy.
But, after “breaking up” with his best friend—sugar—he pulled off a staggering 156-pound weight loss transformation in nine short months, and found himself in a much healthier mental state, too.
“My life before it all happened had been very difficult,” Pammet told Men’s Health. “I was roughly always around the 253-pound mark, so I was always a bigger guy. I just never looked at it that way—as that’s who I always was, and who my friends and family always knew me to be.”
For Pammet, his “downward spiral” began with that fateful knee injury in his early 20s. He proceeded to use it as an excuse to get out of just about everything in his life.
“I would sit around and wait for something good to happen to me rather than getting out there and doing something to change the situation,” he said.
This period of waiting for something better to come along lasted for more than two years. In that time, Pammet said he “developed serious anxiety and depression where I basically closed myself off away from the world, and food and sugar became my two best friends.”
One day, Pammet woke up and simply had enough. He was tired of being alone, without friends, and missing out on a life that was quickly passing him by. The one thing he had to overcome was the fear of his family and friends judging his new larger body.
“I would avoid family events and going out because they hadn’t seen what I had become through my years of body abuse through bad habits and eating,” he said.
But this fear ended up being the catalyst to push himself to become the absolute best version of himself. The first step for Pammet was reevaluating his eating habits and changing them for the better.
“It was incredibly hard, and I fell off the wagon a few times, but if you want something enough you will get there,” he said. For him, the biggest challenge was avoiding sugar altogether. (Think it’s easy to cut sugar out of your daily routine? Here’s what really happens to your body when you cut out sugar.)
Next, he joined a gym. Though he was plagued with an injury and overweight, as an athlete, Pammet knew what to do and set small goals for himself that kept his fitness progressing. He did so through mixing a short interval cardio routine with a weight circuit five days a week.
“The change was dramatic,” Pammet explained. “I posted it onto social media, as I was very proud. I was overwhelmed with support and comments and from there onward I felt like I had to keep going not only for myself but others as I’d become a role model and I didn’t want to show everyone I was a quitter.”
Another benefit of his weight loss was his knee pain slowly subsiding. As he continued to lose weight, the pressure slowly released, and his muscles continued to get stronger.
“I just had to take it day by day and do things that didn’t put stress on my joint but still giving my body the workout that it needed,” he said. “There were mentally challenging times, too, and times I would go home in tears or wanted to give up. But I always remembered that the bigger picture was the ultimate goal and the feeling I would get when I achieved it.”
And achieve it, he did. In nine short months, Pammet dropped to 73kg, marking a 70.7kg weight loss.
“To reach the weight that I have is still crazy to me, as it hasn’t even been a year of my life,” he said. “It feels like I’ve been doing it for years but at the same time, it’s flown past so fast.”
Now, Pammet said his “whole mental state” has completely changed. He’s now able to share a side of himself he never knew existed with those around him. “My mindset and thought pattern has changed dramatically everything about the mental side has changed, and I’m very positive, where 11 months ago you wouldn’t even whisper the word positive and associate it with me,” he said.
As for advice he’d give others? “You only get out what you put in,” Pammet said.
“If you want something bad enough you will get it,” he added. “Start slow, and set yourself very small goals that you know you can achieve. When you do achieve them, you will feel amazing and continue to set more and more goals. Always keep them realistic and in sight.”
This article originally appeared on Men’s Health