Two years ago, Michael Watson was in a rut. The 6-foot-4 inch teen weighed 335 pounds and was often bullied about his weight.
“My self-confidence was zero,” Watson, who turned 18 on May15, told CNN.
As a junior at his Canton, Ohio, school, the teen decided to make a commitment to walk to and from school every day, about 20 minutes each way. And he made some changes in his diet.
When he walks across the stage at graduation later this month, the McKinley High senior will be 115 pounds lighter.
He Walked to and From School in the Rain and Snow
One low moment came when a classmate told Watson he had something on his chin. When Watson rubbed his chin, the boy told him, “‘No, third one down,'” Watson said. “That really hurt.”
Moments like that fueled his walking.
Even if Watson wanted to take a day off, he couldn’t. “I didn’t even know when the bus came,” he said.
And on days when it was raining, people would ask if he wanted a ride. Michael declined. In addition to the walking, the student made a commitment to dieting, which especially took discipline when he was working his after-school job at a fast-food restaurant.
The boy who was too afraid to approach girls now says he’s surging with confidence. After the weight loss, he has no problem asking one out.
The School Is Using His Story to Inspire Others
Terrance Jones, who works as a family specialist and graduation coach at the school, told CNN that Watson’s story stuck with him.
“It’s an example of courageous personal development that’s rare for a high school student,” Jones said. “Mike’s decision to the initiative to live a healthier lifestyle and to stay consistent with it will always stay with me.”
Jones said Michael’s story was the catalyst for him to create a “McKinley Senior Limelight” on Facebook to showcase students’ stories.
Michael is in his school’s vocational culinary arts program. He plans to take a full-time job after graduation, and after being inspired by a drama course he took last year, plans to pursue a dream of being an actor.
He said over the past two years he wasn’t always perfect when it came to dieting, but if he lapsed, he told himself “Every day is a new day.” And over time he saw significant results.
“Anybody can do it if they put their mind to it,” he said.
A number of people praised Watson, commenting on the district’s Facebook post—including his brother Richard.
“I’m so proud of you Michael, you’ve come such a long way. Your determination and drive is going to get you so far in life! I love you brother!” he wrote.
Others also added praise.
“Wow!! Bravo!! You look so good!!” one user wrote.
“That is amazing! What an envious ‘get it done’ attitude! Well done, young man!!” another user said.
“I grew up in California in the 70s. Unless you lived more than 5 miles away, you were walking. I think that’s why my generation did not have the problems with obesity that the current generation has. We also had PE every day of middle and high school. The state requirement for my daughter here in Arkansas is just one semester for all four years of high school. That’s just ridiculous. Congratulations Mr. Watson, you look awesome!” added another.
“Bravo Michael Watson!!!! You proved to yourself you could do it. Your victory, that important ‘Life Lesson’, will continue to be valuable to you for the rest of your life,” added another.
NTD News reporter Zachary Stieber contributed to this article.