EL PASO, Texas -- Jose Loya has battled his weight his entire life. When the Covid-19 pandemic began, he was morbidly obese. When the 22-year old heard on the news that being overweight could put him more at risk for coronavirus complications, he decided to make some changes.
"I always wanted to lose it. I stepped on the scale and saw the error sign - because I was over 350 pounds - so I decided to change that," said Loya.
Today, he is 100 pounds lighter, and he said it wasn't an easy transition. Loya started by cutting out fat, sodas and fast food, eventually settling on a keto diet. He also got a lot more active, shooting baskets at the local park, and walking laps, pausing to do sit-ups and push-ups.
"I feel great. I feel lifted. Yesterday I ran 5 miles in 51 minutes. In high school, I couldn't even run a mile in 20 minutes," Loya said.
Loya's triumphant story is not the norm for people during the pandemic. In fact, many people reported gaining weight during the shutdown, referring to it as the "Covid 15." But his story does back up a recent study by physiology researchers at UTEP. They monitored physical activity, nutrition and hygiene habits of 13-hundred Borderland residents during the pandemic.
Despite gyms being closed and activities restricted, 37% of participants said they improved their habits, exercising and trying new activities. 15% said they increased their outdoor recreation activities, and 45% say they increased self-monitoring their food intake.
Loya's transformation has inspired his family, friends, and even the team he coaches - the Chaparral JV high school girls basketball team. He said he wanted to set an example for them that if he can do it, they can, too.
"Even today, I have lots of loose skin. Looking in the mirror is a constant reminder that you can't go back," Loya said. "That reminder serves as motivation for the rest of your life."