By Victoria Hansen
SUMMERVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) -- Many of us talk about it. Most complain, really. But very few actually do something about it when it comes to losing weight.
Bryan Ganey is different.
"I've never felt this way before in my life," said Ganey. "It's really hard for me to believe some times."
That's because the 40-year-old has lost 355 pounds.
"I never forget, ever. I have the pictures. That's me and I know I could be back there," he said.
At his heaviest, Ganey was nearly 600 pounds. In most pictures he looks happy, at least he's smiling. But one screams for help.
"At the time I was 37 years old and I just knew that I was going to die. I don't mean to be dramatic but that was it. That is what I was faced with," he said.
The photograph was taken while Ganey was hospitalized. His weight had literally crushed his health. He looks disgusted and depressed with himself. But still he says doctors dance around it. A nurse practitioner gave it to him straight.
"She told me you are too young to be here. She asked, 'Do you really want to spend the rest of your life in the health care system?'" Ganey said.
The words rolled around in Ganey's head. She left and he laughed; it was ridiculous. He knew she was right.
"When you're eating yourself to death, you need to somebody to tell you you're doing it," said Ganey. "It's just having someone say out loud what you're doing."
Doctors recommended gastric bypass surgery, but Ganey didn't want to go down that road. He knew it wouldn't make a difference if he didn't get his appetite, his addiction, under control.
"For me it really is an addiction. I have to fight that to this day because there are just some things I've had to say goodbye to that I will never eat again," he said.
Ganey started slowly. He gave up fast food and still rarely eats at restaurants. He measured his meals. Yes, he ate. And he learned the hard way starving himself never really works.
"Unless you do that for the rest of your life, the weight is just going to come back," he said.
When it came to exercise, it was all about baby steps, too. At nearly 600 pounds, just standing up and sitting down torched calories.
It's hard to believe he now runs six miles.
"Now that I'm able to run, that's my latest obsession. That's my new thing, to be able to run further and faster," Ganey said.
The weight dropped quickly at first. In 17 months, he lost 240 pounds. People really noticed. Many wanted to know his secret.
Daphne Sharpe, a co-worker, watched Ganey slowing shrink. She confided in him that she was considering surgery.
"One day he came to me and he's like, 'Daphne we need to talk,'" said Sharpe. "He got down on his hands and his knees and begged me, please don't have the surgery. He said, 'Try it my way for 30 days.' And that was 127 pounds ago."
Ganey's way is the hard way. He knows there is no quick fix.
"There is no point to losing an enormous amount of weight in too short a period of time," said Ganey. "Because you don't have the time to adjust, you have not had the time to build the habits. You have not created new behaviors. You haven't struggled enough to build the strength to get you through the bad times."
In other words, you haven't changed your life. You haven't changed the daily bad habits that made you overweight in the first place, he said.
"If they would just start slowly and think about what can I do the rest of my life," he said.
Ganey's been on his weight loss journey for nearly three years. He still struggles, and occasionally stumbles. But he never forget what his nurse practitioner said.
"It's my health. It's all I care about. I don't even really care what I looked like. I just want to live," Ganey said.
Ganey had not seen the woman who motivated him since he was hospitalized. Cindy MacDonald had only seen pictures he had emailed her in the last year.
ABC News 4 arranged a reunion. We thought it was fitting they meet at the last place they saw one another, and the last place Bryan ever wants to be again, Trident Medical Center.
"There she is, I would know you anywhere," said Ganey.
As the two made their way across the hospital's front lawn, MacDonald's face gave her away. She hardly recognized the man she once cared for.
"I recognized the face, but the rest, no. I mean you just don't get that impact from pictures," said MadDonald.
Ganey gave her a big bear hug and MacDonald fought back tears. It's rare to hear back from a patient, much less witness such a transformation.
"You just never know when your words are going to stick," said MacDonald.
"I'll never forget it as long as I live," said Ganey. "I think it's just what I needed at the time. Thank you, and I just can't stop giving you a hug."
If you'd like to learn more about Bryan's journey, he has a blog. You'll find it at www. ganeybypass.blogspot.com.