By Emma Pearson @emma_pear
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Videographer / Director: Bailey O’Neal
Producer: Dan Howlett, Ellie Winstanley
Editor: Marcus Cooper
Derek Mitchell weighed 625lbs when he embarked on his epic weight-loss quest in March 2014.
After overcoming a soda addiction and starting his gruelling exercise regime, Derek, from Kansas City, USA, has shrunk to 564lbs and hopes to eventually slim down to a svelte 225lbs.
Derek said: “I love 5ks now, I do them every chance I get, which is probably part of my craziness.
“In November of 2014 I went to the doctor and the scale said 625lbs and that’s when I knew that I just couldn’t wait anymore.
“There was a lot of points where I did have some depression to an extent but running has totally changed my life.”
So far the 35-year-old has an impressive 38 5km runs under his tightening belt and he plans to complete another 13 by the end of the year.
But for Derek, controlling his bulk is not straightforward.
Six years ago he was diagnosed with a non-cancerous tumour on his pituitary gland, which affects his metabolism and makes it difficult for him to lose weight.
In the years that followed, Derek’s weight soared to mammoth proportions.
Derek said: “I really didn’t exercise. I spent a lot of time in front of my computer playing games, I didn’t pay attention to what I ate, I just ate whatever I wanted, sometimes pizza - a lot of fast food.
“I didn’t have the desire to get up and do things, I wasn’t housebound to the point where I couldn’t get out but it was more a case of not wanting to get out.”
It was after his weigh-in at the doctors that Derek decided enough was enough.
He said: “The person who first got me interested in running was actually my sister; she is a marathon runner and a former roller derby girl.
“I started with a block, and the way my mom puts it, when I got back she thought I was having a heart attack, but I got back out there and just kept going out and pretty soon I was averaging around two miles a day.”
To commemorate his progress since his first 5km in March last year, Derek has marked each run with an tattoo on his calf. The inking is of the arcade game Pac-Man eating dots.
Derek said: “Each pixel is a representation of each 5K that I’ve done.
“It’s good that I have an visual representation of what this has done for me so far.”
Derek’s slimmer frame and newfound zest for life has also dramatically improved his love life.
He had his first ever date since embarking on his 5km challenge and has since enjoyed seven more.
But the greatest achievement of his journey so far has been the effect he has had on others hoping to become more active.
Derek said: “One of my favourite things about this whole journey is just getting messages from people who say they started doing 5ks because they saw my story and everything, and that actually helps motivate me to keep getting out there.
"Originally I started doing the 5ks just as a way to lose weight and it just kind of turned into a way to help other people and to motivate other people to show them that it doesn’t matter how big or slow you are.”
Now Derek is hoping that medical treatment will boost his metabolism and shave the minutes off his personal best.
He said: “They are hoping to get me on testosterone replacement therapy to get my testosterone level back to where it is supposed to be and the doctor said once they do that, it should be a lot easier for me to lose weight.”
And he has his sights set firmly on the marathon.
Derek said: “I would love to finish a marathon someday. I’m actually shooting for Honolulu because there is no time limit, so, doesn’t matter how long I take to cross the finish line.”