Bakersfield resident Dartanyan Adkins, 34, has one piece of advice when it comes to weight loss: Lose the excuses.
Adkins doesn't believe in any "yo-yo dieting" or calorie-restriction regimes. He says he dropped from 550 pounds to his current 281 by simply improving his diet and adding exercise. It took about two years, and he's been maintaining ever since.
"I believed in myself," he said. "I got tired of living that life."
Adkins documented that journey in his new book "Lose the Excuses and the Weight," which appeared on the shelves of local retailer Russo's Books as well as online outlets this summer.
After spending most of his life obese, Adkins' wake-up call came from a 2007 doctor visit.
"I said to myself, 'I'll be close to 600 if I don't stop," he recalled. "It was fear of having a massive heart attack. I thought 'I need to lose weight.'"
He took advantage of a special at the local gym, and slowly started moving. The first day there, he rode 10 minutes on the recumbent bike.
"I jumped right on that, and I've been there ever since," he said.
Adkins also started with minor adjustments to his diet that had major results. He exchanged calorie-laden soda for a flavored drink mix that had just five calories per serving. For someone who consumes large amounts of liquid a day, that made a big difference.
Deprivation wasn't part of Adkins' approach. He didn't cut out his favorite restaurants, but took a more critical look at the foods on his plate. At Hodel's Country Dining, he still hits the buffet, but stays away from deep-fried and battered goodies. And, at El Pollo Loco, he goes for the beans, rice and cheese -- minus the cheese -- with grilled chicken and vegetable sides.
He's also made some new additions to his eating repertoire, such as lean, ground turkey, which he cooks with onions and peppers. Instead of the cakes he once consumed, he'll snack on dried fruit served with a glass of non-fat milk.
If he's faced with only fast food options, he'll chose Subway and order a ham sandwich with vegetables on whole wheat bread.
He keeps up the gym routine, too, power walking on the treadmill and lifting weights. That workout time at the gym helps him separate his mind and body, disconnecting him from the world and its issues.
"You have to challenge yourself, set goals for yourself and you have to enjoy it," he said.
These adjustments didn't leave him feeling deprived, but they were enough to melt the pounds away. Over the course of two years, he watched his pant size drop from 70 to 48.
"It was unbelievable," he said.
Adkins, a real estate agent, says he still feels like the same guy. But, he does notice he's fitter. When he was in the midst of his weight loss, he struggled to walk a half mile in the giant sequoias. During a more recent trip to Utah, hiking was a breeze.
Perhaps the biggest impact is the influence the changes will make on his son, who is a year and a half. Adkins grew up heavy, and suffered through the taunts that come from being overweight.
"I want to make sure he doesn't have the same issues with people picking on him, like they did to me," he said.
Adkins has kept the pounds off for two years so far. For him, the transformation from obesity was as simple as making healthier food choices and exercising. Any form of diet -- including calorie restriction--isn't necessary, he says.
"Calorie counting is too calculating," he said. "My attitude is to select the healthiest foods possible. I like what I eat, and I can eat a lot of it. "