Jacob Stevenson still remembers the extreme way of eating that led his weight to reach 441 pounds two years ago.

He’d have almost a full box of cereal for breakfast, five slices of pizza later in the day, two Double Quarter Pounders at McDonald’s, chicken breasts and plenty of pasta.

“I basically had a food addiction. I just liked the feeling of eating, and I would literally eat until I would throw up,” Stevenson, 30, who lives in Adams, New York, told TODAY.

Obese as a child, he’d always been the biggest person in the room — due to a combination of overeating, a lack of exercise and a family history of obesity, he said.

As Stevenson grew, the weight took a toll on his health: He was exhausted from the time he woke up to the time he went to bed. He developed sleep apnea so severe that his doctor said he was barely breathing at night. Stevenson said would wake up with constant headaches due to the lack of oxygen.

Seeing 441 pounds on the scale in September 2020 set off alarms.

“I felt embarrassed that I let myself get to that point. I felt just nasty. If I’d go into somebody’s house, I’d sit on a couch and grab a blanket or a pillow — I would literally try to cover up my fat,” Stevenson recalled.

“When I went to see my physician, he said, ‘You need to do something right now or else you’re not going to live to be 50 years old.’”

The future of his family was also at stake. Stevenson and his wife wanted to have children, but if he weighed so much that he couldn’t even bend over to tie his shoes, how could he chase a toddler around the house? Stevenson had tried to lose weight on his own several times, but nothing worked, he said.

It was at that point that he decided to get bariatric surgery, undergoing a Roux-en-Y gastric bypass in October 2020.

The surgery involves dividing the stomach into a smaller top portion — a pouch that’s about the size of an egg — while bypassing the larger part, according to the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery.

The pouch holds less food than the whole stomach, so a person ingests fewer calories. The surgery has a “profound effect” on decreasing hunger, resulting in reliable and long-lasting weight loss, the group noted.

Want to lose weight? Doctors say it’s time to stop counting calories

Almost two years later, Stevenson has lost half his body weight and now weighs 222 pounds. He credited the procedure, his fitness and nutrition coach, and his exercise regimen for the change. He now run 5K races and is preparing for a body building competition in Texas in October. He’ll take part in a division that celebrates people who have transformed their body.

“The energy that I have, the self-confidence I have, it’s amazing,” he said.

Stevenson had these tips for people who wanted to lose weight — with or without surgery:

Track macros

This means counting how many carbohydrates, fats and proteins you’re taking in during a day and hitting a certain combination of these macronutrients. Stevenson follows a plan recommended by his coach. Depending on whether you want to lose weight or build muscle, your approach will likely be different from Stevenson’s, so it may be best to consult a nutritionist about a customized plan. For example, a lower carb diet might mean getting 25% of your daily calories from carbohydrates, 35% from fat and 40% from protein.

Measure and weigh your food

“I literally measure out everything that I put into my body, down to barbecue sauces and ketchup,” Stevenson said. “A lot of people don’t have the eye for what a proper serving size is. It’s really important to make sure you’re counting what you’re eating.”

Have a plan for cravings

Stevenson thinks about his menu the night before. If he is craving ice cream, he won’t deny himself the treat but plans for it and calculates how to incorporate it into his diet in a healthy way, keeping the ratio of his macros intact.

“If I want ice cream, I’m going to have ice cream the following day. I’ve just got to be smart about my other food,” he said. “It’s all about moderation and planning. If your family is going out to dinner, plan to have grilled chicken and veggies. You don’t have to have a burger with avocado, bacon and all this kind of stuff on top of it.”

Diabetes drug could be game changer for obesity and weight loss

Don’t be intimidated by the gym

Stevenson now works out six days a week, waking up at 4 a.m. to do so because morning exercise works best for his routine.

He typically starts with a 10-minute incline walk on a treadmill to get his heart pumping, then lifts weights for about an hour and finishes with another cardio incline walk.

“Everybody thinks, ‘I don’t want to go to the gym. People are going to laugh at me.’ They’re not going to. They’re there to do their own thing. Don’t be intimidated by the gym at all,” he emphasized.

Make exercise automatic

Like many people, Stevenson sometimes runs out of motivation and doesn’t feel like getting out of bed to do another workout. But he’s disciplined enough to do whatever it takes to get to the goals he wants to achieve, he said.

“I don’t even think about it really too much anymore, going to the gym in the morning,” Stevenson noted.

“It’s automatic. It’s like OK, it’s time to get up, get my lunch ready, take the dog out, go to the gym and put in the work.”

Invest in yourself

In Stevenson’s case, this meant undergoing weight-loss surgery and hiring a fitness and nutrition coach.

“What irritates me a little bit is when people say weight-loss surgery is the cheating way of losing weight. That’s not true. We made the conscious decision of having our bodies altered for life to have a healthier life so we could live longer,” he noted.

This content was originally published here.