James Woods Jr., 37, of Stone Mountain, lost 179 pounds

Be an inspiration: If you’ve made positive changes in your diet and/or fitness routine and are happy with the results, please share your success with us. Include your email address, a daytime phone number and before and after photos (by mail or JPEG). Write: Success Stories, c/o Patty Murphy, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 223 Perimeter Center Parkway, Atlanta, GA, 30346-1301; or e-mail Michelle C. Brooks, ajcsuccessstories@gmail.com.

SUCCESS STORY / James Woods Jr., 37: From 503 pounds to 324 pounds

Former weight: 503 pounds

Current weight: 324 pounds

Pounds lost: 179

Height: 5 feet 7 inches

Age: 37

How long he's kept it off: "I am continuing to lose, I have set another goal to lose 100 more pounds within a year," says Woods. He reached his current weight in November.

Personal life: While currently on disability, he focuses on improving his health with daily workouts at his local YMCA, "and just chilling, enjoying my time with family," he says.

Turning point: He "suffered some serious health issues" beginning in 2008, "including congestive heart failure," he says. "After meeting with my physician, she informed me that my lifestyle would have to change or I wouldn't be around long. That's when I decided that something needed to change — this was the beginning of my weight-loss journey." He stopped eating fast-food, sodas and his favorite treat, chocolate candy bars. "My new diet consisted of lean meats, turkey burgers, whole-wheat pasta, grilled chicken, fruits, and vegetables. Just dieting … I dropped 60 pounds. I decided to begin going to the YMCA after I realized that dieting alone wasn't going to be enough to reach my goal. It was hard in the beginning, with the physical activity, constant worrying about what other people (were) going to think when I entered the gym. I thought about giving up a few times but I stayed focused and determined to continue to push myself. I also said to myself: 'It's all about me; don't worry about what other people think or had to say.' "

Diet plan: "Breakfast is oatmeal or a meal-replacement shake that consists of bananas, strawberries, pineapples, eight ounces of two percent milk, granola, spinach, or kale. Lunch is grilled chicken, fish, baked potato, and salad. Dinner is a meal-replacement shake, baked or grilled chicken or fish and vegetables." He chose foods free of preservatives, with less sodium. "I also cut back on portion sizes and started counting my calorie intake."

Exercise routine: He does one hour of cardio at least four to five days per week and strength training three to four days per week. He walks on the treadmill, uses a stationary bike, does water aerobics, chair aerobics and other aerobic classes.

Biggest challenge: "My biggest challenge is staying away from bread and staying on track with diet," he says.

How life has changed: "I participate in more activities instead of sitting at home. I am really enjoying myself now," he says. For others, he suggests, "Make a reasonable goal and try to stick to it and remember why you started this long journey to weight loss … stick to your routine, don't let anyone get you off track."