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Student educates himself, loses 180 pounds

  • Story Highlights
  • Brandon Hollas grew up drinking lots of sodas, eating sweets and nachos
  • He knew very little about nutrition or portion control until his weight hit 380 lbs
  • Hollas lost 180 lbs in four years after teaching himself about diet and fitness
  • This month, he'll graduate with his master's and marry his college sweetheart
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By Jackie Adams
CNN
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Indiana (CNN) -- Gathering together for old-fashioned, home-cooked meals was just a way of life for Brandon Hollas, who was raised on his family's farm in Cameron, Texas.

Brandon Hollas consumed lots of soda, junk food and hearty meals growing up on his family's farm in Texas.

Eating healthy and portion control didn't often make its way into conversations at their dinner table. But Hollas, 25, does remember eating a lot of food.

"Along with great home cooking ... I could drink a six-pack of Dr Pepper," said Hollas. "I would eat snack cakes and for lunch at school, we were allowed to make lunches of Doritos Chili Cheese nachos from the snack bar accompanied with some awesome Grandma's Cookies."

Though he helped with farm work, Brandon's poor eating habits combined with a relatively sedentary lifestyle of homework and video games -- his weight prevented him from taking part in school sports.

"Throughout elementary school I tried playing summer league baseball and basketball," said Hollas. "But [I] was never good because of my weight, which depressed me even more."

Instead, Hollas joined Texas 4-H and other student organizations. Though the activities kept him busy, he said they didn't help him burn the calories he was consuming daily.

By the time he was a freshman in college, he weighed 380 pounds.

"I can remember lying in my dorm room at Texas A&M ... with my large stomach weighing me down in bed," Hollas remembered. "I told myself, 'I have to change and I have to do it now or it won't ever happen.' " Video Fit Nation: Watch more on Brandon Hollas' weight loss »

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Around the same time, he had another wake-up call. His 11-year-old cousin was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes and his grandmother was diagnosed with Type 2, or adult onset diabetes. Their diagnoses combined with a family history of obesity to convince Hollas he had to make a change.

That very same day in 2001, he took the first step toward weight loss by eliminating soft drinks from his diet.

Hollas also joined the recreation center on campus and started riding an exercise bicycle. He lost 50 pounds within six months. The weight loss motivated him to begin learning about health and fitness at the school's library and in men's health magazines.

"I wasn't educated about how to eat right or how to lose weight," Hollas recalled. "I read all about nutrition, how to change meals to make them [healthier]."

He also started eating more lean meats, vegetables, whole grains, fiber and good carbohydrates.

The new diet and fitness regimen transformed his body and gave him the courage to start dating.

Four years later, Hollas had lost 180 pounds -- nearly half of his former weight. His weight now fluctuates around 210 pounds.

Today, weight training has helped him increase his muscle mass and he maintains his weight through a balanced diet and exercise five days a week. However, Hollas said he allows himself an occasional splurge and even meets friends out once a week for "Taco Tuesday."

"You can go out to eat with friends but just make smarter [healthier] choices," said Hollas.

Happier and healthier than ever, Hollas will graduate this month with a master's degree in agriculture economics from Purdue and hopes to land a job in the food industry and marketing.

He's also focused on staying lean and building muscle for perhaps the biggest day of his life -- when he and his college sweetheart tie the knot May 31.

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"I have learned that there are no fast, easy ways out of being heavy," said Hollas. "But [with] a lot of simple changes and commitments, it is a rather easy thing to do."

"I know that I don't ever see myself ... getting to that weight again."

iReport.com: Have you lost weight? Send your story, photos and video E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN Medical News producer Matt Sloane contributed to this report.

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