Shane Whalley weighed 530 lbs. in January — and then he broke his bed.
“It was a huge push to be honest with myself about dropping the weight,” Whalley, 30, tells PEOPLE. “I didn’t ever want to feel like that again.”
Whalley had been using TikTok as a creative outlet since August 2019 and wondered if the transparency — and accountability to his new connections — could motivate him to finally commit to his health.
It had long been a struggle.
“I was bullied for 21 years of my life, so I found coping mechanisms through food and eating disorders,” says the hotel event operations manager from Guelph, Ontario. “My weight drastically climbed in college when I was in culinary school. I eventually developed an addiction to food, which I am still successfully battling.”
He first tried to lose weight in 2012 after losing his breath while struggling to grab something just out of reach. “My weight was crushing me,” he recalls. “I had this flash of hatred for myself. I had to ask, ‘Do I want to keep living or do I want to just stop? I chose to keep going.’ ”
Although Whalley joined a gym that very day, it wasn’t until this year, when he got more candid on TikTok, that he was able to kick off what has become a successful 100-lb. weight loss.
“I told myself from Day 1, I’m just going to be myself and hope that people enjoy that,” Walley says.
Through this emotional vulnerability — this rawness — Whalley has gained 2M followers who cheer him on whether he’s giddily explaining how it feels to sit at a restaurant table instead of a booth, or crying tears of disbelief when he tries on clothes that were once too tight.
“The first time I put up one of the videos in which I bore my heart — I wore one of my purple shirts, and I was like, oh my gosh, it’s loose! And I looked at my mom and said, it’s loose! I got really, really excited and my emotions just blew out of proportion. I didn’t know how to contain the joy.”
“I had that moment — that exhilaration of self-love that I’ve always wanted — and it was so good to feel it.”
He started radiating this new joy, and people loved it. And he felt like he had a new purpose. “I realized, someone else feels this way," he says. "Someone else out there should know this is possible.”
In addition to dropping 100 lbs., Whalley has gone down 10 pants sizes, as well as 2 to 3 shirt sizes.
He was able to do it by finally taking control of his nutrition, increasing his water intake, eating “as many greens as I could possibly fit inside of me” and including healthy proteins and fats in every meal. But the real key, he says, was confronting his weakness head-on.
“My major weakness, and where I failed in the past, was restricting myself. I felt that by saying no, my body wanted it more,” he explains. “So I compromised by using moderation. I still allowed myself to have fast food or chips once in a while because I knew I was going to succeed eventually.”
And he refused to give himself a deadline. “I removed the race, and made it into a journey," he says.
Whalley also started exercising more. Before COVID he was able to work out at the gym of the hotel where he worked, but since moving home to save on rent, he walks around his neighborhood, sometimes with his mom or his dog.
“I've gone through a lot, but I've never given up — and there were so many times that I could have,” says Whalley, who calls himself the “CEO of Positive Vibes” on Instagram.
He was even able to maintain his positive attitude after an atrial fibrillation in June. “My cardiologist believes that my weight is a huge factor,” he admits. Even though he had to lighten up on exercise for a while, he focused even more seriously on nutrition — and was able to keep losing weight.
“I knew I couldn’t stop. In the past, life always threw something to stop me from my weight loss and I knew it wasn’t going to let it happen this time."
Plus, he adds, “Knowing I was on display on social media made me feel like, I can’t fail.”
What’s next for Whalley? He is on the hunt for romantic love, which he says he has "never experienced" because of his size. Also, after running his first 1km ever, his followers are asking him to run 2km for reaching 2M followers.
And he’s seriously considering it. But mostly Whalley wants people to know that obesity like his is a mental health issue and not about “putting down a sandwich.”
“I just hope that the people will realize it’s not always our fault. Sometimes it can be, but there can also be a lot of underlying issues. For me it was addiction stemming from bullying and abuse. Most of us try our best.”
Utimately, he wants to inspire others.
“To any person out there who is struggling with weight loss: It’s okay if you don’t start today. You can start tomorrow — but definitely start.”
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