Three years ago, Carlos Orosco wasn’t sure he would make it to age 40.
At 651 lbs., he had severe health problems: extreme gout, ulcers in his legs, high blood pressure, sleep apnea, and cellulitis, a painful bacterial infection that causes the skin to turn red and swell.
Orosco wanted to change, so he met with a bariatric surgeon to talk over his options for weight loss surgery. That was when he learned the true danger of his situation.
“We discussed my weight, age and the fact that if I didn’t make the necessary changes, that I would just continue to get larger, and my life expectancy was really uncertain,” he tells PEOPLE. “So I made it through the rest of the appointment, left the office, sat on the bumper of my car and broke down crying for a long time, before regaining my composure. The fear of losing my life was made a reality to me that morning, and it was a feeling that I had never felt before.”
Plus, Orosco says, he realized that he wanted to be around for his family.
“I knew that my sister and brother in-law were expecting their first child, and that I was going to be an uncle soon and I needed to get healthy now,” he says. “I needed to be around for a long time to come, to be able experience my niece growing up. I realized that I was being selfish, living the way that I had been for so long, and did not realize the family and friends that I would be affecting if something were to happen to me.”
Before he could get weight loss surgery, Orosco had to show that he could modify his eating habits and set himself up for success post-op. He immediately cut out fast food, fried foods, breads, soda and alcohol, and with regular walks, he managed to lose 100 lbs. in six months.
Orosco finally had weight loss surgery on Dec. 22, 2016, and was able to maintain his healthy diet afterward, steadily dropping pounds. He also continued walking, and decided to try out a 5K run/walk in fall 2017. He finished in 90 minutes and found a new passion.
“Running was never something that I ever wanted to or thought that I would ever be interested in. But I immediately fell in love with the pre- and post-race environment, and how supportive everyone was, regardless of size, speed, or experience,” he says. “Runners, walkers and these athletes in general are some awesome people who I have a very special place in my heart for.”
In the year and a half since his first running event, Orosco has now completed 32 races, from 8Ks to a half marathon. He has another four half marathons and a 24-hour Ragnar Relay planned for spring and summer, and he just ran his first full marathon in Detroit on Oct. 20.
“I have a lot of great family, friends, trainers and training partners,” he says. “They all help me in various ways, with motivation, inspiration, holding me accountable and always ensuring that me being healthy and happy is the priority.”
And over that time, Orosco lost a whopping 475 lbs., well over half his size.
“My body image and self-confidence are at an all-time high,” he says. “I am much more confident, and most importantly I am genuinely happy, and do not have to fake it anymore. I can finally live a life, and lifestyle, that I feel was intended for me.”
But Orosco emphasizes that it wasn’t easy.
“A lot of people see the before and after, and some see having a bariatric procedure as an easy way to solve the weight issue, but in actuality it is the hardest thing that I have ever done in my life, and have to work on every day,” he says. “Some people don’t realize or understand the mental and physical sacrifice, and the challenges that are associated with this process. There are also a lot of early mornings, extended days and late nights, and missing out on events, that are all part of this journey.”
Orosco says that having people who care cheering alongside him makes all the difference.
“You need to have the right people in your corner, the right people on your team,” he says. “These people need to be people who know you, understand what you are going through, hold you accountable, listen to you, tell you what your need to hear, not just what you want to hear. In my experience, having these people, whether they be friends, or family, has been vital to my success, and I know that what I have done, and what I continue to do, would not be possible without them.”
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