This College Student Lost 184 Lbs. and Just Completed the Chicago Marathon
"I beat my goal time by four seconds!" Ethan Taylor, 21, tells PEOPLE
Ethan Taylor says he struggled with his weight growing up, but two years ago as a college sophomore, he decided to dedicate himself to change.
After years of late-night snacking, lack of exercise and yo-yo dieting, Taylor hit 368 lbs., so he revamped his diet and started running. At first, he was only able to jog a quarter of a mile. But he didn’t give up, and 18 months later, he completed his first marathon on Sunday, running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon in 4 hours, 44 minutes and 56 seconds.
“I beat my goal time by four seconds!” Taylor, 21, tells PEOPLE. “It feels pretty cool to be able to complete something that massive.”
Taylor, who lives in Rockford, Illinois, says all of the hard work was worth it. He lost 184 lbs. (though he gained a bit back after eating more during training) and is now about half his weight.
“I’m happier with who I am and how I look,” he says. “It’s a 180-degree flip for me. It’s awesome.”
Taylor, who is 5 feet 6 inches tall, says he weighed 315 lbs. when he left for college. He never ate breakfast, for lunch had a big sandwich, chips and soda and ate large portions at dinner. He snacked frequently on chips, ice cream, doughnuts and other sweets and late at night, “I’d make myself a whole other meal,” he says. When he started college he gained another 50 lbs. from going out drinking and eating late-night double cheeseburgers, tacos and other fast food.
Taylor says he suffered from depression after a back injury got progressively worse and he stopped going to classes. “I just laid in bed most days,” he says.
In the middle of his sophomore year, his life had reached such a low emotional point that “I really didn’t think I was going to live that much longer,” he says, but that harsh realization sparked him to drop out of college, move home and “give it one more try,” he says.
First he started getting all his food from a local company that provides healthy, portion-controlled meals called Food 4 Fuel, eating egg white omelets, turkey bacon and roasted sweet potatoes for breakfast, and for lunch and dinner, he would eat chicken, turkey or fish along with brown rice and broccoli.
Six months later, he took up running, gradually building up to longer distances, including Sunday’s marathon. He raced to raise money for Action for Healthy Kids, a charity dedicated to making schools healthier.
He’s also back in college, majoring in exercise science, and has seen significant improvements in his mood.
Ultimately, he wants to spread a positive message that change is possible.
“I want to show people and myself that you can go from one extreme to the other,” he says.