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Here's How This Man Quit Drugs, Alcohol, And Junk Food And Lost 125 Pounds

No crash diets, trainers, or nutritionists. This is how he did it.

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Welcome to BuzzFeed Health's new health transformation series, where we share the stories of people who have made incredible overhauls to their health, fitness, and lifestyles. Want to share your own story or tell us about the health transformation of someone you love? Email healthstories@buzzfeed.com.

Stephen Odom, 28, is a photographer and live music production assistant living in Houston. He spoke with BuzzFeed Life about how he overhauled his health and fitness and changed his life. Here's his story.

Odom was a high school student when his recreational drug use turned into a devastating addiction.

Courtesy Stephen Odom

When Stephen Odom started smoking pot as a teenager, he saw it as a great way to calm his anxiety and have fun in high school. But his drug use evolved into reckless self-medicating. "It started out as a fun party surrounded by people, but eventually turned much darker," he writes on his blog. "I was constantly seeking to push the envelope. Constantly trying to not feel anything. Trying to numb that internal malady." Odom lost control of his drug use, barely passing high school and getting his first DWI in his senior year.

In his early twenties, Odom hit rock bottom and knew he needed to make some changes.

Courtesy Stephen Odom

By the time he was 22, Odom was drinking heavily — a gallon of whiskey every couple of days — taking tons of pills, and huffing nitrous oxide. He'd gotten two DWIs. His therapist presented him with a choice: go to rehab or she'd stop seeing him. Her ultimatum worked. Odom checked himself into an inpatient rehab program. After fighting his way first through intense withdrawal and then through a few relapses, he got clean and sober for good in August 2009.

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Even though he completed rehab and was in thriving recovery, he still felt something was missing.

Mitch Frink / Via mitchfrinkphotography.com

Though he'd kicked his addictions and his careers in portrait photography and music production were finally starting to take shape, Odom still just wasn't happy. He tried to figure out why, and thanks, he says, to the clarity of sobriety, he realized that it was time for another big lifestyle change. He wanted to lose weight. A lot of it. He'd been chubby as a kid, and though he'd slimmed down in middle school using the Atkins diet, he gained a bunch of weight in high school as his addiction took off and he stopped caring about how he ate. Now he weighed almost 300 pounds.

He didn't know much about eating healthily ("I never ate a salad in my life before I started losing weight!" he says) or exercising. "It was a little scary. It was such a daunting task." But he realized that if he could get sober one day at a time, he could lose weight the same way. He didn't consult a trainer or a nutritionist, or dive into the research on weight loss. He simply joined a gym. "I discovered the elliptical and it all made sense! I started to LOVE that machine," Odom writes in an email to BuzzFeed Life.

The change was gradual — one lifestyle tweak at a time — and Odom loves where he is now.

Mitch Frink / Via mitchfrinkphotography.com

He started using the elliptical four or five days a week for half an hour or 45 minutes each time. Some weight came off. Encouraged by the results, he figured he should make some changes to his diet. He started by simply cutting out soda, fast food, and candy. "I didn't know how to eat healthy but I knew this is really bad for me," he said.

Odom kept making changes and taking it one day at a time. He learned how to cook for himself. Now he preps healthy meals each week. He started riding a bike, and now he rides for cardio or just to clear his head. Just a couple months ago he put together a weight training program using a fitness app, and now he lifts a few times a week.

Just four years later Odom weighs 175 pounds. And he believes that "if someone as stubborn and naive and not very knowledgeable as I was can do it, anyone can. I truly believe that ... It seems daunting at first but once you get the ball rolling it starts to click into place in your mind and in your body. It's really cool. Today life is good."

Here are six things that helped Odom get healthier. They're his top tips for changing your lifestyle.

Courtesy Stephen Odom

1. Reward yourself.

"I absolutely reward myself with cheat meals. I didn't get in shape to forfeit all that food, or the things I enjoy. Now I use it as a thing to look forward to." Odom eats clean and healthy during the week and looks forward to some kind of treat over the weekend, like sharing pizza with his girlfriend.

2. Focus on the short-term goal.

"Don't focus on the big picture. I had to do this with my weight loss and sobriety. The daunting task of 'losing 100 pounds' or 'staying sober for the REST of my life' was at times too much to handle or think about. It helped me a lot to set small goals for myself. 'Today I am going to be healthy. Today I will hit the gym and do esteem-able things. I will stay sober today. I won't eat junk food today.'"

3. Start small.

"Cut out the junk food. If it has a drive-through window, cut it out of your diet. If you love soda like I did, switch to diet (and then get rid of them all together because all soda is bad for you)."

4. Learn how to cook a few healthy meals that you enjoy.

"For me, I love Asian flavors. I started with teriyaki chicken and veggies as my first prep meal. Devote a time or two during the week to cook. This can be a therapeutic and almost meditative process, if you let it. I enjoy cooking today because It is me time. It is time that I get to spend with myself, doing something healthy for myself."

5. Do "esteem-able" things (actions that build self-esteem) when you feel down. "Sometimes I was too depressed to leave the house due to the way I looked or my lifestyle choices. If I am feeling down, I will force myself to: clean my room, clean my desk, do some laundry, cook/eat a healthy meal, go shop for groceries, ride my bicycle, call a friend, etc. These small tasks may seem small, but in the end they will only help with building your self-esteem, which ultimately will lead to greater success with your health journey."

6. Reward yourself for a job well done.

"After you kick ass for a while and see results, go out and buy yourself something you've been wanting. I recently bought myself some new Vans shoes with pink flamingos on them because I deserved them. I also bought myself a Ninja blender to make post-workout shakes and smoothies."