At 25 years old, Ray Henry found himself unhappy, overweight, and alone. As he traveled back and forth from Seattle to Alaska for seasonal work, his relationship with his girlfriend and his body both suffered.
"I started to gain weight. I started to lose track of who I was," he explained to MensHealth.com. "I never even noticed it until I stepped on the scale."
Looking down, he saw that the scale read 200 pounds — and in that moment, he knew he'd had enough. So he immediately committed to a lifestyle transformation.
"Shaun T is very motivating to me," Henry said. "He said something that always stuck in my head, which was 'dig deeper.' Every time I heard that, it made me push myself. Every single time. I still live up to that every day."
Henry jumpstarted his weight loss transformation and dropped pounds, which made him instantly feel more fulfilled. But at the same time, his girlfriend began to do work on herself, too — and decided to end the relationship.
"After she left me, I hit rock bottom," he said. He experienced depression — even contemplated suicide. "I spent so much time trying to prove to someone else that I love them, that I forgot to love myself."
Learning to Love Himself
After his relationship ended, Henry focused on improving his physical and mental health one day at a time.
Henry did not seek professional help; personally, he found that he could recover from depression by learning new things about health and nutrition, and by improving his skills at the gym. He finally learned how to read food labels, how to count calories using the MyFitnessPal app, and how to improve his workout form. He gave up junk food, replacing it instead with organic produce, grass fed beef and healthier proteins.
"I started feeling better about myself," he said. "I started to learn to love myself."
While exercise has been proven to fight depression and even lower your risk of developing it in the first place, it's worth noting that medication and psychotherapy are still the leading treatments for the mental health condition.
At the gym, Henry discovered a happier place — a place where he could appreciate everything his body did for him, and everything he could do to give back to it.
"What pushed me every single day, was to learn how to be a better person than who I was yesterday," he said.
Now, one year after his darkest time, Henry has transformed himself and lost 45 pounds through diet and exercise. He still does his Shaun T workouts, but now also hits the gym every day, alternating between chest and back day, legs, and core.
Though his transformation seems perfect, Henry will be the first to tell you that changing your physical and mental health doesn't happen overnight, nor does it have a finish line.
"Even now, it's still difficult, but that difficulty just becomes a habit," he said. "It’s just overcoming that little step every single day. Once you make that step, you feel better about it."
Now, Henry is on his way to a nursing degree. He’s not quite in the market for a new girlfriend just yet, because — as he puts it — "each day I'm learning how to appreciate myself more."
As for what others can take from his story, Henry offered the following advice: "Change something. There's always a way to improve an aspect of your life. There's always something. There's always a way out of the rut."
If depression is affecting your life or you need someone to talk to, please do not suffer in silence. Support is available here.
Lifeline: 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 467
Beyondblue: 1300 224 636
This article originally appeared on Men's Health