“My stylist opened the door to freedom (for me) and gave me my life back,” Lincolnton resident Todd Reynolds said.
The 49-year-old Lincolnton High School graduate recently reached one of the most significant milestones of his life by losing 400 pounds.
Reynolds shed the weight through a special diet program called Body by Vi, with the Michigan-based company Visalus Sciences.
The company awarded him a $1,000 shopping spree and $2,000 in products for his achievements.
Once shy and secluded, the now-confident man has had the chance to tour the country speaking at Body by Vi events and motivating others facing similar weight-loss issues.
Over the last 22 months, he has been working toward the company’s unprecedented goal, becoming the first customer in Body by Vi history to lose 400 pounds and only the second individual ever to reach the company’s 300-pound club, according to Visalus Sciences’ Presidential Director Carole Pendleton, who also lives in Lincolnton.
Reynolds said he learned about the life-changing program through longtime friend and local hair stylist Lale Ari, who works at Studio 220 on East Main Street.
Ari said she had grown quite concerned about him over the years, watching him try and fail at just about every existing diet.
“He would lose 20 (pounds) and then gain 40,” she said. “Nothing ever worked.”
Since 2007, Reynolds had encountered tragedy after tragedy, losing his brother in a car crash, and a short time later, his grandmother — the person who raised him, he said.
It didn’t take long for depression to sink in and Reynolds to find comfort in food.
“Not having her made me want to eat,” he said.
His breaking point occurred in December 2011. At 634 pounds, he determined suicide was his only way out of the mental and physical prison he found himself in each day.
“I could hardly get out of my home,” he said. “I laid in bed all the time. I couldn’t do anything.”
Reynolds needed continual assistance, relying on a walker, cane, wheelchair and oxygen to get him through life. Driving also became impossible for him since he was too large to for his vehicle.
“My doctor told me…I was going to die soon,” he said.
On December 31, 2011, Ari told Reynolds about a Body by Vi challenge party set to take place the following week. Because he couldn’t drive to the event and was skeptical of another diet, Reynolds said he almost didn’t go. However, his mother took him to the party.
Geraldine Kroell, Body by Vi customer and friend of Reynolds, said her first encounter with him that night broke her heart.
“When he got ready to leave, he shuffled his feet,” she said, “and I told him, ‘I’m going to call you.’ It was heart-breaking to me to see someone live like that.”
For nearly two years, Reynolds followed the weight-loss program, each day drinking two high-protein, nutritious shakes and eating a third meal of his own choosing.
Kroell, Pendleton and others stuck by his side throughout the tedious journey, encouraging him to make additional lifestyle changes.
After the first week, he lost nine pounds, and slowly but surely, he saw his pant size dramatically drop from an 84 to a 46, he said.
In July, Reynolds stopped using his oxygen and has since seen his diabetes disappear and his blood pressure drop to healthy numbers.
Instead of living a reclusive life inside his home, removed from human interaction, Reynolds now wakes most days at 6 a.m. to walk around town. He also enjoys cheer dance and clogging for exercise.
“It’s wonderful to get out and see the world again,” he said.
At 234 pounds, he is almost the same weight he was in high school — 180 pounds. While he still wants to lose 70 more before undergoing plastic surgery to tighten up loose skin, his main goal these days is to tell others about his miraculous experience with the Body by Vi program.
With thousands of friends on Facebook and daily comments and encouragement from others in the program, he is already making a difference.
“My mission now is to share my story and help others reach their goals,” Reynolds said.
He couldn’t be happier for the love of his friend Ari and her invite that December day.
“There’s no price tag for what my stylist has done for me,” he said.
Reynolds also knows he’s not the only person in Lincoln County who has struggled with overeating, depression and family loss. His message to those hurting is simple.
“Stay strong, and don’t quit,” he said. “Never give up on your dreams.”
Even with his weight-loss success, he said he has one more goal to fulfill — become an airline attendant and travel the world.
For more information on Body by Vi or to learn further details about Reynolds life-changing experience, visit visalus.com or ltoddreynolds.bodybyvi.com.
A Body by Vi group meets 7 p.m. every Tuesday at 210 North Laurel Street in Lincolnton. For more information, call Carol Pendleton at (704) 740-7485.