"His weight seemed to hinder him, in terms of showing his true personality," school counselor Earl Wallace tells PEOPLE
Seventeen-year-old Christopher Charron says he was “very depressed” at 540 lbs., but it took the encouragement of his caring school counselor, Earl Wallace, to make a serious change.
“His weight seemed to hinder him, in terms of showing his true personality,” Wallace, 31, tells PEOPLE. “He hid behind his clothing because he was ashamed of his weight. A lot of people felt bad for him, but I wanted to take action and actually help him lose weight.”
Christopher was heavy as a child, but he began gaining a lot of weight after being the victim of a tragic domestic violence incident involving his birth father, in which he and his siblings were attacked.
“We were in the hospital for my daughter for about a month, so [we were eating] hospital food, fast food,” his mother Deborah, 42, tells PEOPLE. “After that, his behaviors just kept getting worse. He was very angry. He was miserable.”
Despite putting Christopher in therapy, nothing seemed to help until Wallace took notice of Christopher and pledged to help him.
“Earl took him to the side,” recalls Deborah. “He said, ‘I will be there for you, I will help you.’ Earl would give him a list of foods to eat. Christopher kept a food journal, and Earl would look at it every day and write him notes and encourage him.”
Wallace created a strict diet and fitness regimen for the teen, and even personally accompanied Christopher to the gym despite his busy schedule working two jobs.
“Christopher has social anxiety, so he wouldn’t go in there by himself,” says Deborah. “Earl would set up times and he would either be waiting outside for us, or we’d be waiting outside for Earl, and Earl would walk in with Christopher and tell Christopher what to do.”
“We would meet at the gym at least three times a week depending on my schedule,” says Wallace. “We would walk on the treadmill for intervals of five minutes until we reached 30 minutes. The walking manifested into walking for longer distances and at quicker paces, to using the elliptical machine and eventually running on the treadmill and outside.”
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At first, Christopher found the diets and workouts challenging, and wanted to quit – but Wallace wouldn’t let him.
“I did say to him a few times, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore,’ but he wouldn’t let me,” says Christopher. “He kept making me go, and go.”
Wallace’s persistence paid off – Christopher dropped 325 lbs., and now continues to go to the gym on his own at least five to six days a week.
While his physical transformation has been dramatic, it’s his inner transformation that has really impressed his mother and Wallace.
“For every pound that he lost he on his body, he lost a pound of depression and a pound of anger and a pound of anxiety,” says Deborah. “It wasn’t just a physical transformation – it was watching the child that I always knew was in there come out.”
“I’m extremely proud of the young man that he has developed into,” says Wallace. “He is way more outgoing and sociable. He speaks up for things that he wants, instead of relying on others to do so. His confidence level has elevated tremendously. I’m overly elated in how much he has matured.”
Christopher, too, has noticed a big change in himself.
“I’m very happy,” he says. “I’m not depressed anymore.”