05/31/2013 08:02 EDT | Updated 07/31/2013 05:12 EDT

My Weight Loss Journey: How I Lost 100 Pounds

andy manko

Like so many people, I have had a history of weight problems. For me, it started with genetics. No one in my family is small and, in a family of big people, I was always the BIGGEST.

When I was younger I didn't realize I had a problem, even though my parents were overweight. In fact, my size helped me in a number of ways. In high school and university I excelled at sports where size was important. My friends referred to me as "The Big Man" in an endearing kind of way. My level of activity allowed me to eat what I wanted, when I wanted it. I'm not even sure how my parents could afford the amount of food I consumed on a daily basis.

As soon as I entered adulthood though, I really started to struggle. At first, I lied to myself, saying I wasn't really that fat and that I could lose the weight any time. I actually made several attempts to shed some pounds -- a few very successful, others not at all. I tried multiple diet programs and cleanses -- they all worked for a short period, then suddenly the weight would come back.

Over time I developed serious health problems. About 12 years ago I found out I had diabetes and I promised myself and my family that I would be the best patient ever; that lasted a couple of weeks. Then my father died of a stroke at 57 years old -- another hint that I needed to do something. He had always said, "I don't want you to have the problems I have when you're my age." I was starting to get it.

At the time I had a very stressful job, travelling four days each week, not exercising, and eating and drinking as much as I wanted. One night after a long week on the road I came home and, for the first time, saw what everyone else had seen. I was out of control and I could not continue that lifestyle much longer. I remember taking extra time that night to tuck my kids into bed, kiss them goodnight, and tell them how much Daddy loved them -- I did it because I feared that I was not going to wake up in the morning. I sat down and talked to my wife about my fears and she looked at me and said, "You always said you would die for your children, why won't you live for them?"

I was 42 years old and was finally ready to do something about my weight problem. Three days later, I book an appointment at the Smart Shape Weight Loss Centre.

Like many people, I had heard about surgical procedures for weight loss, but I didn't really understand what the options were. The physician walked me through my choices and we decided that the Lap-band adjustable gastric banding system was right for me. For the first time in my life I was ready to take control of my problem. At last, I felt like I had a doctor that understood what I was going through and had an effective solution.

Understanding that you need to make a change is the key. For years, my family, friends, doctors and colleagues told me I had to lose weight. My health was suffering. I was a heart attack waiting to happen. I had heard it all before and I just tuned it out like white noise.

Since I had the procedure a few years ago, I've lost over 100 pounds and I feel incredible. The Lap-band System is no quick fix -- I've adjusted my diet and I exercise regularly. I still enjoy food and I eat what I want to, but the foods are different. I no longer crave many of the things I used to love, like fast food.

In less than two years I went from a guy who would take an elevator up one flight of stairs to someone who fulfilled a lifelong dream and climbed Kilimanjaro. Standing at the peak was one of the greatest moments in my life, not just because of the accomplishment of the climb, but because I knew what it had taken to pull it off and what that meant. Throughout, support from my friends and family has been overwhelming. And I have a new nickname: "Little Big Man."

I urge anyone that knows the difficulty and importance of weight loss to talk to their doctor and find out about their options.

Weight Lost: Andy Mako's Story