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650-Lb. Man Discovers Yoga and Begins His Weight-Loss Journey

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Courtesy Richard Widmark

At his heaviest, Richard Widmark was 669 lbs. But after a lifetime of weight struggles, he has found something that means more to him than food ever did: yoga.

A friend introduced him to the practice more than two months ago.

“I’d tried the gym and doing things on my own, but I finally said, ‘Let me just try this and see what happens,’ ” the EMT, 38, tells PEOPLE.

Soon he was hooked, practicing five days a week thanks to a great instructor – Heather Dombrovskiy from Healthy Life Yoga.

“She told me that if I didn’t show up, she’d come to my house,” he says with a laugh. “I believed her!”

The Richmond, Virginia, resident remembers his “aha moment” coming about four weeks after he started doing yoga.

“Something changed in me and I really enjoyed going,” he says. “I think I found my passion with yoga. I see myself in the future teaching it to people who are in the position that I’m in now, people who might be scared to walk through the door.”

Courtesy Richard Widmark

Recently, Widmark has also been inspired to make better food choices – and his weight has dropped to 616 lbs. “I thought, ‘I want to do better with this, so I can’t eat a large pizza and do yoga the next day because I’m not giving the best of myself.’ ”

Now, he turns to vegan pizza, salads and juicing, and swaps fast food for fruit. “I don’t think about eating healthy anymore, I just do it,” says Widmark, who is documenting his journey on Facebook.

But he didn’t always have such a positive outlook.

After a failed suicide attempt, he knew he needed to make a change. “I knew I could not bring myself to that point again,” he says. “[I also realized] that even though the gun didn’t go off, I was still 600-plus pounds.”

“Instead of a gun for suicide, food was my suicide. I was slowly killing myself. Now, I don’t want to die.”

Courtesy Richard Widmark

As far as a goal weight, Widmark says: “I know I would like the first number to be a two. But I don’t want to focus on a number. I want my goal to be the happiest and healthiest I can possibly be.”

And he’s well on his way.

To help, Richard’s friends have also set up a GoFundMe account to raise money for a trip for him to see life coach Tony Robbins.