"I was embarrassed to take my shirt off when I was 380 lbs. – now I am strangely still embarrassed," says Greg Cohen

By Gabrielle Olya
Updated March 09, 2016 10:40 AM
Credit: Courtesy Greg Cohen

Greg Cohen was overweight his whole life, but it wasn’t until the death of his father while he was a junior in college that he really lost control.

“I was probably at or above 300 lbs. at that time, so spiraling out of control from that weight only meant bad things,” Cohen, now 28, wrote on Crowdrise. “This is when I transitioned from fat to obese in my mind. Surprisingly, the worst part of that transition was not the physical appearance – it was my mental and emotional state.”

Growing up, Cohen had been the “fat funny kid” and never had problems making friends, but he became socially withdrawn and used eating as a way to deal with his grief.

“[I was] so embarrassed by the way I looked, I didn’t want to go out, I didn’t want to meet new people, I didn’t even want to see friends of mine,” he said. “The only way I dealt with this was to eat. I was an emotional eater. And I had a lot of emotions. So I did a lot of eating, and I was eating the worst types of food possible – highly caloric, highly processed, full of sugar and carbs.”

Cohen soon found himself weighing 380 lbs. at only 5’8″, and doing even everyday tasks became nearly impossible.

“[At that size] you’re winded from walking a single flight of stairs. Any towel that is not a beach towel is not going to be close to wrapping around your waist. Movies and sporting events – good luck in those chairs,” he wrote. “You are looked at by everyone in every place you go. Flying was the worst – the seatbelts wouldn’t fit around me.”

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In February 2014, Cohen decided he needed to make a change.

“My weight was a burden on my life – both literally and physically,” he said. “I carried it around with me everywhere I went. I know the type of person I am, the quality of life I envisioned for myself, the quality of life I deserved.”

Cohen met with a trainer to discuss his weight loss goals, and over the next two years he lost 187 lbs. through clean eating and a dedicated gym routine. While he’s proud of his weight loss, he has encountered a new problem – lots of excess skin.

“I was embarrassed to take my shirt off when I was 380 lbs. – now I am strangely still embarrassed,” he said. “When you are obese, everyone can see it – clothes on or off. Now, when I take my shirt off, my skin hangs and gets in the way of wearing proper-fitting clothes – clothes that I worked hard to fit into.”

He is now raising money through his Crowdrise page to pay for skin removal surgery for his lower stomach. The procedure costs $8,000, and is not covered by insurance.

“I have waited my entire life to be the person I am today,” said Cohen. “I am the greatest version of myself I have ever been. Twenty-four months ago, I didn’t think it was possible. Here I am today ready to take the next step in my journey.”