If you think your New Year’s resolutions look tough, take inspiration from Josh Houpt – he lost almost half his body weight, gained his life back, and in the process became a fitness instructor.

Confidence is not something U.S. born chemistry teacher and BODYBALANCE™ instructor Josh Houpt had as a child. His childhood memories include abuse and family member drug addictions. His mother left when he was age 7, and he ran away at age 15.

At 450 lbs., Houpt stopped weighing himself. He thinks he reached his peak at 475 lbs. “In my head I never looked that big, until I saw pictures, and then I just stopped looking at pictures, or even taking them,” Houpt explains. “I really saw myself as normal, but people would ask me why I was breathing so heavy. I hated clothes shopping. I hated formal events. My diet would be a whole large bag of chips and a 2 liter [of soda] while I was home binge watching [TV] as a way to relax. I didn’t date, and being with someone was the last thing I wanted in my life.”

A pivotal moment in Houpt’s life came while working with kids in juvenile corrections. “I was helping many teens get their lives back together. I think I healed by healing other people,“ Houpt explains. “I then moved to Sweden, where I was riding my bike everywhere, and I was teaching students, and more weight began falling off.”

He moved back to the U.S. and was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. According to the Mayo Clinic a normal “A1C level” is below 5.7 per cent. A1C levels correspond to blood sugar levels. People with long time uncontrolled diabetes may have A1C levels above 8 per cent. Houpt’s A1C was 12.5 per cent. “They put me in their medically assisted weight loss program. I chose non-surgery. I worked with the personal trainers doing basic weight [training] and cardio.”

Houpt’s first group fitness class was cardio dance. He later discovered BODYBALANCE, then BODYPUMP™, and eventually started doing them back-to-back. Meanwhile, his A1C kept falling to 7.5 per cent, 6.5 per cent, 6.1 per cent, and finally 5.1 per cent. He no longer needs medications.

At the beginning of Houpt’s Les Mills journey, he says he felt fine after BODYBALANCE, but felt like he was “going to die” after BODYPUMP. While Les Mills’ Smart Start program to slowly acclimate new participants into class existed, Houpt says he was too stubborn to use it. Despite the challenge, he returned to class week after week because he started feeling good, was inspired by the instructors, and made in-class friends. “Joyce is a retired lady who shows up to BODYPUMP rain or shine,” says Houpt. “Joyce would always ask me where I was if I didn’t show.”

After losing 200 lbs., Houpt’s BODYBALANCE teacher encouraged him to go through Instructor Certification Training. While he was nervous, he accepted the challenge. “I was scared because you watch the videos with super fit people, and you wonder how you will fit in with this?” he explains. “Some [yoga] positions look different on a larger body, and I still struggle with the edge of some poses.”

As a flexible man, whose favorite BODYBALANCE pose is Standing Camel, Houpt says pose options have allowed him to get deep enough in poses and stretches to feel them. In some tracks, he uses the advanced options. In other tracks, low options or even pregnancy options help Houpt feel successful. “The options are there to match your needs, and there is no shame in taking them. Always push towards the next level for yourself.”

Houpt passed his Initial Training and practiced diligently before submitting his assessment video. He filmed three times and chose the best one. He was thrilled to pass after the first submission!

Houpt recently moved to the U.K. to teach chemistry and continues to take BODYBALANCE and BODYPUMP classes. He hopes to start teaching BODYBALANCE there in the near future. Throughout the move, Houpt says he’s stayed on track with his health goals and has maintained the 200lb. weight loss. “My weight stays steady, but my shape changes and my ability changes,” he explains. He now wears size XL shirts instead of 4XLT, and buys pants with a 38 inch waist, versus a 51 inch waist. Houpt says he enjoys being able to shop in “regular stores”.

The healthy Houpt of today, the one without diabetes and with confidence, encourages others to continue moving towards health. “Keep going, no one is judging you,” he says. “It's all about balance…no one program can do it,” he adds. “BODYPUMP and BODYBALANCE work great together. Add some cardio.“ He also reminds himself what his first personal trainers taught him: “The only bad workout is the missed one.”

Carrie Knight is a BODYBALANCE Trainer and a BODYBALANCE and CXWORX Assessor Lead for Les Mills in the United States. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin – Madison with degrees in Broadcast Journalism and Political Science. Her background includes being a TV news anchor, radio talk show host, fitness writer, and recording voice overs. Carrie is thrilled to combine her love for fitness and journalism by writing for Fit Planet.