Mark Nichols, 47, of Holly Springs lost 140 pounds

SUCCESS STORY / Mark Nichols, 47: From 405 pounds to 265 pounds

Former weight: 405 pounds

Current weight: 265 pounds

Pounds lost: 140 pounds

Height: 5 feet 10 inches

Age: 47 years

How long he's kept it off: In March he had gastric sleeve surgery. He reached his current weight in September.

Personal life: "I currently work for Coca-Cola United as a sales supervisor. I've been with the Coca-Cola Co. for over 25 years," said Nichols, who is married with a son and lives in Holly Springs. "We love camping in our new-to-us pop-up camper. … I'm a former (Boy Scouts of America) scoutmaster from the Ball Ground community. My son is an Eagle Scout. We love our schnauzers."

Turning point: "I was tired of being overweight and needed a fresh start," Nichols said. "I wanted to be around for my family longer and enjoy the life of camping and traveling in a pop-up camper, a simple life. My weight was slowing me down."

Diet plan: His day begins with a protein shake. Midmorning he has lunch meat and string cheese. At noon he has a protein shake followed by an afternoon snack of ham and string cheese. Dinner includes some sort of protein, and for dessert, pudding with PB2.

Exercise routine: "Well, for anybody doing this, your mind has to be set," Nichols said. "You have to go through a psychiatrist before surgery, and that's what set me off. I know if I was going to go through this I had to mentally get help. That's why I joined Onelife Fitness in Holly Springs and I asked for the toughest personal trainer." He began training a month before surgery and lost 30 pounds. He continues to do personal training twice a week, once by himself and once a week he has a co-training session with his wife.

Biggest challenge: "Well, getting focused, eating right and learning portion sizes — when to drink and not to drink," Nichols said. "I started on March 21 with eating 2 ounces of food for every three hours to now 1 cup of food every three hours. I can't drink for 20 minutes before or after a meal. It's all about the protein. Now I don't have that hunger feeling since the surgery. I will get weak and have no energy, so I have to eat my protein every three hours."

How life has changed:

“I’m smaller than I was seven months ago, but my mind still says I’m big, so I have to do things I had a hard time doing before. … This helps me realize I’m smaller and healthier,” Nichols said. “I like to go spelunking. My wife and I take hikes, and when we go out to eat — she outeats me. I have to take half my food home. I’d love to be 180 to 200 pounds, but my doctor and my surgeon say 240 pounds is my goal because of my bones and structure. … Listen to your doctor and don’t let it get bad like I did ― you want to be around for your grandkids.”

Share Your Success: Each week, Success Stories focuses on an individual’s unique weight loss journey. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution does not endorse any specific weight loss program but includes names and links for the benefit of readers who want further information. Have you lost weight successfully with a healthy lifestyle change? If you would like to share your story with our readers, please include your email address, phone number, and before and after photos (by mail or JPEG), and contact us at: Success Stories, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 223 Perimeter Center Parkway, Atlanta, GA, 30346-1301; or email Michelle C. Brooks,