By Nigel Boys
Eighteen months ago, John Likely weighed around quarter of a ton, tipping the industrial scales at a junkyard, the only place he could find to get weighed, at 500 pounds. Today he weighs 239 pounds after obtaining a job where he got encouragement to lose weight.
Looking back at when he got the job at Zaxby’s, Audalusia, a fast food joint in Alabama, Likely says he marvels how they ever employed him. He still ponders why anybody would put someone like him in their kitchen.
“A 500-pound person at a fast food place is almost impossible,” Lively told Al.com. “I couldn’t do the work. I couldn’t keep up.” He adds that he couldn’t pull his weight at the restaurant, literally or figuratively, could not fit into Zaxby’s uniform and had to rest after working for only about 10 minutes.
“They gave me life,” Likely said. “They gave me hope. They actually believed in me.” He adds that he has kept the old nickname of “Tiny,” that people used to ironically call him a few years ago, but now he uses it with pride.
Likely had a lot of help from Clint Short, his manager at the fast food restaurant, who became his trainer, Scott Brown, the owner of the establishment who got him a gym membership and O.T. Green, a coworker who help him out with nutrition tips. Weighing in at 240 pounds now, he says he feels like he can “fly.”
The coworkers in the kitchen also helped the former quarter-ton man by keeping him away if he showed too much interest in the fried food. He was also allowed to go home to rest after working a few hours and finish the rest of his shift later.
“I feel like I’ve been reborn,” Likely said. “I’m still trying to learn how to live a normal person life.” He now preaches his new lifestyle to everyone he meets, he adds.
“Everybody who I see I’m telling them about healthy living,” Likely said. “And this is from the 500 pound John Likely from back in the day. If you do this and you do that, if you have faith and believe in yourself you can do anything.”
Likely is convinced that he would have died if he had remained in his old lifestyle trajectory of eating family meals at fast food joints, playing video games at home and avoiding exercise completely. Although people still make jokes about his loss of weight, such as that he’s half the man he used to be or he’s lost a whole person, it doesn’t upset him and he’s proud that he achieved his dramatic change the old fashioned way, with exercise and proper nutrition.
Now, as Likely dashes around the kitchen, staring down the barrel of his 200-pound goal, he is giving nutritional advice to others. “You are your own limits. You are the only one who can hold you back,” Likely said, adding that anyone can do what he did, if they put their mind to it.
“If it doesn’t challenge you it doesn’t change you,” Likely continued, adding that he wants the world to know his story, not for attention or to give him credit, but because he believes his story is bigger than he ever was. “You can do this!” he added.
“I never in my life have been in trouble with the law,” Likely said, adding there was a lot of pain in his life before, but doesn’t want other people to know the pain he so often felt. “But I have been in prison my whole life,” he continued.