SAN ANTONIO -- Herbert Abrams was morbidly obese and diabetic by the age of 27. His whole life he believed he was destined to be overweight.
Anytime there were ads about food [on the radio], I'd start salivating in the car, Abrams recalled.
He had an obsession with food that ultimately led to the lowest point in his life, and his heaviest at 306 pounds.
I was an addict on fat and sugar, admitted Abrams, who stands at 5-feet-4-inches tall.
They started taking pictures. This is not what I wanted to be known as, Abrams said, referring to a vacation trip to Asia that pushed him to change his life.
He said locals had never seen anyone as big as him and they treated him differently.
It dawned on me, why wouldn't you take care of yourself? he said.
And so, the change began. He learned to eat healthy, trimming his portion size and cutting out fast food altogether.
It took me a couple of months to kick the habit on fat, sugary foods, he said.
That was three years and over a hundred pounds ago. Today, at about 200 pounds, 31-year-old Abrams is a new man.
All my life, I never thought I could run a mile, Abrams said.
Abrams started taking a few aerobics and weight classes and then decided to try ultra-endurance races, like 50-mile ultra-marathons and trail runs.
I was doing things I never thought, he said. I ran my first mile and a year later I ran my first 50 miles.
After tasting success, he tackled the biggest endurance test of all: the Ironman triathlon.
It was daunting at first, Abrams said. Just like losing weight, I didn't know I could do it.
He followed the training guide in a book he purchased on Ironman races and dove right in to his first race, the Arizona Ironman, in November of last year.
No matter what, I was going to stick it to the end, he said. Either I was going to drop on the floor, or they were going to have to pull me off.
It took Abrams 16 hours and 52 minutes to finish the course. After a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run, Abrams crossed the finish line.
It was pretty amazing. All of a sudden you turn in and see the lights. The pros are there -- they're cheering, Abrams said, getting emotional as he reminisces.
As long as you have a goal, it takes [the] dream and makes it a reality. That's what he's done. He's always set a goal, said Dawn Elder, a triathlon trainer who is now working with Abrams.
Abrams is also working with a nutritionist to help him reach his goal of 160 pounds.
Most of the time people are surprised at their success, Elder said.
You have to be willing to get out of your comfort zone. I stayed comfortable for so many years, Abrams said about the frame of mind it takes to go from fat to fit.
While Ironman competitions are extreme for most people, Abrams says the lessons he learned can apply to anyone.
Most people limit themselves. I did that for years [thinking to myself,] 'I can't go above that'. But when you take that away, you can live without limits, he said.
Abrams's next competition is in Arizona later this month.
Before starting any new exercise programs, check with your doctor first.