GreatistYou Brandon Final Photo We asked our GreatistYou contestants to reflect on their six-week journeys. Brandon's goal was to lose 12 pounds through healthy eating and regular exercise. Here's how it all went down.

While in grad school in Missouri, I gained 20 to 25 pounds. So given my new job as a professor and my move to Sacramento, CA, I thought it was a good time to change some of my habits. And GreatistYou seemed like the best opportunity to push myself toward a healthier life.

My biggest challenge wasn't knowing what healthy choices to make; it was following through. There's a lot of stress in academia, and I’m an emotional stress eater, so I really struggled. And when I have a lot on my mind, the last thing I want to do is go to the gym. For me working out is torture.

It was really hard to balance my own life with GreatistYou and the goal I set. I had a weeklong orientation at the university, which was a week of free food—a great thing when you’re poor like I am, but I had to be aware of what I was eating and avoid desserts.

I also didn't have a support system during the contest, so that was a big challenge. I did make a couple friends, but I didn’t have anyone around to help me along the way or go to the gym with me. However the social media aspect of the competition was very motivating. Having people follow me and comment—that was really exciting.

One of the biggest healthy changes I tried to make was thinking more positively. If I didn't go to the gym three times in one week, I would tell myself that at least I had gone twice that week and that was better than nothing. If I didn’t eat well or if I binged one day, I would tell myself that it was only one day. I tried to cut myself some slack, which I had never really done in the past. I also reminded myself that this is a challenge and there’s a process to weight loss.

I didn’t want to be on a diet. I could have lost more weight more quickly if I went on a super-restrictive diet, but that doesn’t work for me. And obviously if you’re trying to make 20 changes at once, they’re not going to work right away. So I had to focus on a few challenges at a time and take it slow. I’m still trying to be gentler with myself. In the end I wish my goal had been a little bit different because the number on the scale dictated how I felt.

The last couple days, I totally f*cked up. I’m pretty sure I’ve gained back a few pounds. I have to get back on track. It’s hard because I’m really stressed out. I have a lot to do. I keep staying late at work, which keeps me from going to the gym. I have a dog to take care of. And it’s just hard. Life gets in the way.

I finished the competition at 155.5 pounds, and my ultimate goal was to get around 145 pounds. But I’m not as concerned with the number on the scale as I used to be. I’m definitely not in the physical shape I want to be in yet, but I plan to keep up with the good habits I learned during GreatistYou.

You can check out Brandon's entire six-week journey on Instagram. Or catch up on all the GreatistYou action here.

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