WGRZ TV Buffalo – Teen Loses 500 Pounds

WGRZ TV Buffalo – Teen Loses 500 Pounds

This Article appeared on WGRZ TV in Buffalo along with a video story a couple years ago.

Justin has continued to lose weight. To find out more about his most recent weight loss milestone, check out this post: Bradford’s Biggest Loser

Teen Loses 500 Pounds

by Robin Young


A life can be changed, even saved, just a few steps at a time.

That is the story of 19-year-old Justin Willoughby’s life.

The Bradford, Pennsylvania teen weighed 800 pounds when he was 16 years old.

“I felt like I was trapped inside a prison I couldn’t get out of,” Justin said.

Justin said he was always a heavy boy, but his weight really ballooned when he was in junior high school. He said he has an anxiety disorder, and he turned to food for comfort.

“Morning, (I’d have) maybe three sandwiches for breakfast, or sometimes eggs and sausage. I don’t remember how many,” Justin said. The rest of the day would be full of snacks like more sandwiches and large bowls of sweet cereal, candy, cookies, and whole milk.

On top of that, he never exercised.

By the time Justin was in the tenth grade, he was being home schooled and weighed 800 pounds. He was so heavy, his foot once broke through the floor of his home.

“I couldn’t even go to the bathroom by myself,” he recalls. “I couldn’t bathe myself.”

Justin admits his parents implored him to lose weight, but he ignored their pleas.

“We tried to tell him, you’re gaining, you’re gaining. You’ve got to stop,” said Justin’s mother, Diane. “He said no, I don’t have to.”

The tide changed when Justin had to visit his doctor to retain him. It had been well over a year since his last visit, and his weight had greatly increased.

“I couldn’t even get down my steps, I was so big,” Justin said.

Somehow, he made it to his doctor’s office, where the reaction was one of shock, and Justin was sent to Presbyterian Hospital of Pittsburgh.

There, doctors gave him a stern warning.

“Sitting on that bed, the doctors said, Justin, you’re going to die if you don’t do something about it,” Justin said.

That’s when his three and a half year weight loss work began. Without surgery or drugs, but with the help of a physical therapist and nutritionist, Justin cut way back on how much he was eating, cut out candy and high fat foods, and substituted whole wheat bread and pasta for plain white carbs.

He also started moving again, one step at a time.

“Taking ten steps and sitting down, getting back up, taking ten steps, and sitting back down,” he said. Now he walks a mile or more.

Justin also has had two surgeries to remove excess skin from his body. One procedure removed 20 pounds from his chest and abdomen. Another surgery removed more than ten pounds of skin from his arms and legs, and he faces two more procedures.

Justin said he is now down to about 310 pounds, and his dream is to weigh around 200.

“You’ve got to want it yourself,” he said. “It’s either you live the rest of your life overweight, or you do something about it.”

2005 Article – Teen Loses More Than 400 Pounds

2005 Article – Teen Loses More Than 400 Pounds

This article appeared in the Bradford Era a couple years ago. Justin has lost an additional 150 pounds since it’s printing.

To find out about Justin’s most recent weight loss milestone, read this post- Bradford’s Biggest Loser

Teen loses more than 400 pounds

Bradford Era

BRADFORD, Pa. – A local teenager is not himself these days. In fact, he’s half of what he used to be.

Justin Willoughby – who has lost more than 400 pounds – has been working out vigorously for the past three or four months at the Bradford Family YMCA. In that time, he said he lost about 60 or 70 pounds. Over the span of about two years and two months, he has lost 401 pounds and now weighs 398 pounds.

At his maximum weight, doctors told him that he should see a cardiologist to make sure his heart was in good condition. After losing about 300 pounds and beginning his exercise, he went to see a cardiologist to make sure it was OK for him to begin the YMCA workout.

“I’ve basically tried everything,” Justin Willoughby, 18, said, adding he’s tried diet and weight pills, high-protein diets and Slim Fast. He said there was no surgery involved in his weight loss. Out of all the weight loss efforts he’s tried, he said the YMCA workout seems to be working the best for him.

Willoughby is not alone in his effort to lose weight, however. His family, which includes his father Ron Willoughby, 58, his mother Diane Willoughby, 49, and his older brother Chad Willoughby, 22, has been supporting him by joining his workouts at the YMCA.

“He is the key,” Diane Willoughby said. “He’s the reason we started to go there. And everybody needs exercise to stay healthy.”

The Willoughbys decided to make the workout a family affair. The family works out from about 10 to 11 a.m. every day except on Sunday.

“We spend a couple hours there every day,” Diane Willoughby said. “It also helps me with my arthritis, and my husband’s got a bad back.”

“With more than one person, we have a lot more success,” Justin Willoughby said. “We’re doing things as a family.”

Basically, the family spends time on weights, the treadmills and the bikes. However, they change things up each day.

“I switch it up every day, but I do walk and bench press every day,” Justin Willoughby said.

Some days he rides the stationary bicycle, but other days he doesn’t. Some days he works on his legs, while others he works on his arms and chest. He said he walks about 2 to 2 1/2 miles each day.

“He’s trying to build muscle now,” Diane Willoughby said about Justin Willoughby.

Justin Willoughby said his father just began to lift weights with him, and sometimes they make it into a competition or a game to make it fun or interesting.

“When we go there, it doesn’t have to be boring. It can be fun,” Justin Willoughby said. “Sometimes, we compete against each other on the treadmill. You don’t have to be a robot on the treadmill.”

“Everybody’s doing really good,” Justin Willoughby said. “Our clothes are fitting looser. We got a better attitude and are more outgoing than before.”

Besides the workouts, the family has changed their eating habits.

“I’ve changed everybody’s eating habits in the house,” Justin Willoughby said.

He said they no longer eat white breads. They eat wheat breads and wheat pastas. They have a salad with most meals. They eat a lot of low-fat and fat-free foods.

“We cut out on a lot of stuff,” Justin Willoughby said. “We still can eat anything we want to. We just eat it in moderation.”

Even though Justin Willoughby said he was never really made fun of in life, he has had some embarrassing moments because of his weight problem.

“I was about 650 pounds and would go into Wal-Mart all the time,” he said. “And little kids and older people would look at me. All they did was look at me. It was embarrassing.”

However, he also said he’s got a lot of support from his family, friends and church family.

“I’ve had good friends and support along the way,” he said.

“He’s a miracle,” Diane Willoughby said.

Justin Willoughby said when he’s having a hard time getting through his exercise, he quotes scripture and is able to complete his workout. He is a firm believer in prayer.

“My crutch is Jesus Christ,” he said.

He is a member of the Open Arms Community Church. He said the church has been behind him, and he gave testimony there that he is losing weight through the help of Jesus. He said he’s going to be a minister and will be starting a weight loss ministry at the church.

“It’s really something how far I’ve come,” he said. “There’s a lot of heavy people in Bradford, and I can make a difference. And my family can make a difference.”