How Running Helped This Guy Get Sober and Drop 23kg

Emily Shiffer

From Men's Health

Carlos Hernandez, 34, always struggled with his weight. “I was always a big kid and felt like other kids mocked me. I was embarrassed to run, and I could see my cheeks bounce up and down and my stomach wiggling,” he says. In middle school, playing football helped keep his weight down. But bad grades and a tough home life led him to drop out of school, and his weight ballooned.

In his 20s, he spent most of his time partying, drowning himself in drugs, drinking, and eating fast food, and the scale hit over 91kg. “Jack in the Box tacos can be your best friend and worst enemy,” he says.

He married and had 2 kids, but never felt settled and found himself homeless, addicted to heavier drugs, and dragged down by his 113kg. “I had to take a break to catch my breath simply from trying to tie my shoes,” he says. In January 2019, Carlos went to the Salvation Army, where he found housing and resources that helped him get sober.

Seeing Success Around Him

He started noticing that one of his roommates—the one who’d wake up at 5 AM to go running—looked like he was getting really fit. “I’d look at myself in the mirror in the morning and all I saw was a huge belly and new stretch marks every day. I started asking him a ton of questions.” That’s where he learned his roommate was running with Back on My Feet, a program that combats homelessness and addiction through running.

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Taking the Plunge

The first time Carlos went out with the group, “I only ran for 200 feet and I was out of breath,” he says. But he went back 3 times a week (a group requirement) for the next 3 months. And the weight started falling off. “Losing weight can feel like a huge brick wall is in front of you. You can feel like, ‘What’s the point? I’m always going to be a fat person.’ But all you have to do to start is put one foot in front of the other,” he says.

Six months later, he was down to 105kg, but knew that running was harder than it had to be “because of my eating habits.” So he started swapping fried foods for grilled ones, steamed veggies, salad and fruit. He did his first 5K with Back on My Feet last April, and he’s remained sober, obtained his own housing, and landed two jobs at different restaurants. “Many people like me have been in a really deep depression and hit rock bottom,” he says. “Getting a support team behind you that puts their hand out and says, ‘You’re not alone, we can do this,’ saved my life.”

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