But it was not to be. Weighing in at 440 pounds, the Cleveland native decided to challenge himself last year and ended up making a change so dramatic that it caused raised eyebrows and double takes across the community. In one year, the 26-year-old lost 213 pounds and never looked back. Today he weighs 227 pounds and is still losing, thanks to a few simple keys which he believes anyone can do at home.
According to Craigmiles, his lifestyle change started with the realization that he was losing mobility in his legs and was enduring too much pain.
“What really did it is when I went to a knee doctor in August 2011,” he said. “My right knee was bothering me so bad that I couldn’t do what I was accustomed to doing everyday. I couldn’t play basketball, football — I couldn’t do anything fun. I had lower back pain. My girlfriend has two children and I couldn’t even get out and play with them the way I wanted to. It started eating at me every day. I could feel myself being mean, being more upset with myself. I just had to look in the mirror and realize, ‘I have to do this!’ Regardless of what sacrifices I needed to make I knew I had to put myself first and just do it! It started from there.”
Craigmiles said he began taking a weight-loss product by AdvoCare, a health and wellness company offering weight-loss, nutrition and sports performance products.
“A friend of mine wanted me to try it and I said, OK,” he recalled. “But that just kick-started the lifestyle change. I actually lost more weight since I’ve been off of it. I’m down to a total of 213 pounds right now and I lost 130 of those pounds without AdvoCare — just by changing my lifestyle — changing my eating habits, boosting my cardio and working out regularly at the Cleveland Family YMCA.”
Craigmiles said he has been overweight for as long as he can remember due to a medical problem doctors discovered in him at an early age.
“I remember when I was around 5 years old getting my tonsils taken out and being diagnosed with thyroid problems,” Craigmiles said. “Everyone who understands thyroid problems knows that it messes with your metabolism. So I had the energy as a child but I was putting on weight because I couldn’t burn what I was eating.”
Craigmiles confessed he was the type of child who would pick on himself before anyone else would to deflect the pain of being overweight.
“I was the class clown. I wanted to be the funny guy so no one would pay attention to my size. But anyone who grows up like that understands quickly that you need to do something about your size,” he said.
Even in his teens Craigmiles said he was athletic in spite of his size, elaborating that, “I was always a big guy who played sports. I played football and basketball — not in school but in the neighborhood. I did almost anything everyone else did, but I was heavier and I couldn’t do it as well because of my size. I never let my size hold me back from doing anything. But you do come to the realization that if you don’t get this size off of you, something bad is going to happen.”
Last year marked a real turning point in his life. Craigmiles said he started exercising five days a week, five hours a day at the Family YMCA, and doing cardio workouts while playing sports on Saturdays and Sundays. He also started eating healthier. The results were amazing.
“I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I don’t have sleep apnea anymore! I don’t have to use my CPAP (Continuous Positive Airway Pressure) machine to sleep! I don’t know how much money I’ve just saved my health insurance,” he said, laughing. “The next process in this transformation is trying to get approved for skin removal surgery. Losing over 200 pounds in one year — you’re bound to have some excess skin.”
Craigmiles admits his watching “The Biggest Loser,” season after season played a role in his decision to lose weight. But he said, “It’s more realistic doing it here at home by yourself, because we watch ‘The Biggest Loser’ with cameras, coaches, nutritionists — but here, we don’t have any of that. You have to do it yourself. I looked at these people who never worked out a day in their lives and they shed 150 to 200 pounds in a year. I was thinking that would never happen here in a small town. But I guess I proved myself wrong.”
With a support system that included family and friends, Craigmiles said he found the inspiration to stick with his resolve and believes anyone can do the same.
“My friend Brant Donlon is 6-feet-5, weighs 180 pounds and has 4 percent body fat. He helped me a lot. My older brother, Quantal Langford, owns Just Heart Apparel. He sponsored my new clothing while I was losing weight. It was hard for me to buy new clothing while I was losing so fast. And my mother, Shelley Smith, was my emotional inspiration. She’s diabetic. She also suffers from neuropathy,” Craigmiles said. “She’s always seen me big — but when she sees me now, she is so proud she can’t put it into words. This was all the results of one year later.”
Craigmiles said his advice to anyone who is overweight or obese would be to avoid becoming complacent or accepting the condition as a foregone conclusion.
“We, as big people, get into a denial state of mind where we start looking at things as if it’s supposed to be like this or saying, ‘I’m just big boned’ or ‘This is how it’s supposed to be.’ That’s us blocking ourselves,” he insist. “One of the things I can personally say is: That is not true. It’s not true! I’ve been big as long as I can remember. In one year I reversed my entire life. That lets me know it can be done.
“It’s not just something we see on TV with ‘The Biggest Loser.’ I didn’t have a strength coach or a mentor. I just went in there and put in the work. I watched ‘The Biggest Loser’ every season and everyone would say, ‘Dominique, you need to go on there! You’re already athletic.’ I said no. That’s when I was in that denial state of mind. I felt like this is how I’m supposed to be. I was suppose to be the big guy — ‘Big Dom.’”
Now that he has shed 213 pounds, “Big Dom” is leaner, healthier, happier and more outspoken about the change in his life and the conviction that others can do the same with a simple formula for success.
“People ask me how can they do this. I tell them to just get there — physically, get to that place where you can work out. Even if it’s at home — get to that state of mind to where you WANT to work out. Without those two steps — willpower and working out — you will never have the results you need.”
Now that he is reaping the rewards of regular exercise and eating right, Craigmiles admits, “It’s almost like I feel liberated. It’s like the shackles of the ‘big guy’ role have been let go. I feel more alive because I’ve added more years to my life by taking all that weight off. I feel more exuberant! I feel more appreciative of everything.
“There were little things I couldn’t do, like bending over and tying my shoes without getting winded or walking up a flight of steps without getting winded. It’s great to go out and run up and down a basketball court and not have pain anywhere. And I can continuously do it. My endurance level — everything is just different! It’s not even the same person.”
Craigmiles, a house manager at Life Bridges who is pursing his psychology degree at Cleveland State Community College, said if he had the opportunity to speak at functions and raise awareness about obesity he would gladly give back to the community.
“Obesity is rising. Being someone who can personally relate to it for most of my life, I feel I can definitely give a message to younger people and people of all ages. I thank God every day that He gave me the opportunity to make this change. If I can send out a message I definitely would.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 35.7 percent of adults and 16.9 percent of children age 2 to 19 are obese. Obesity rates among U.S. adults have more than doubled from the 15 percent of 1980. In that same time, they have more than tripled among children, creating what some experts call an “obesity epidemic.”
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that people who are overweight or obese get at least 2 hours, 30 minutes a week of moderate-to-intensity physical activity to prevent further weight gain or to lose a modest amount of weight. To achieve significant weight loss, however, you may need to get between 4-to-5 hours of exercise a week or more. Your doctor also may recommend a weight-loss plan suitable for you.
A new report recently released by the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation projects that half of U.S. adults will be obese by 2030, unless Americans change their ways.