The Sit Down: Josh Steele

Talk about an inspiring story: From childhood, Josh Steele had always been considered the “big kid” (something I know a little bit about since I am 6’5” and 260 pounds). He was into sports and a standout on teams for his height, but once he hit college, his weight spiraled out of control. After he graduated, Josh knew something had to be done, but he didn’t believe he could do it alone. He spent the next couple of years auditioning for a bunch of weight-loss reality shows with no luck. After he was passed over for a spot on Season 3 of Extreme Weight Loss, Josh decided it was time to take his life back—which he has, losing more than 300 pounds and meeting and marrying his wife, Kristine (a Weight Watchers ambassador and one tough cookie in the gym). Today, Josh is a weight-loss and healthy-lifestyle influencer known as The Steele Project, with a loyal following on Instagram, including yours truly. And the thing that brought us together: His awesome #RaiseYourGame attitude and an MSX by Michael Strahan hoodie.

His journey: “Growing up, I was pretty active, but always the ‘big kid.’ But it wasn’t until college that I started to stand out for not only being tall, but for also being overweight. I graduated high school at 260 pounds, but in college, I started to lose control, and by the time I was 25 years old, I was tipping the scale at almost 600 pounds. I started to interview for weight-loss shows; season after season I was told I wasn’t what they were looking for. [The closest I came] was as an alternate in case someone quit during Season 3 of ABC’s Extreme Weight Loss, [but] I didn’t have a sad enough story to grab the audience’s attention.”

His turning point: “I was a little bitter about being passed over [for the show], and I finally realized that this was my life, and no one was going to change it for me. I was tired of feeling like a failure. My passion was gone, and I was lost. The decision to change was easier, but the journey was and is still one of the most difficult things I’ve ever done. A year later, I was down 233 pounds; at the two-year mark, I was down 300 pounds.”

His new career: “About a year into my journey, I wanted to share what I’d learned, and I knew I could become a personal trainer to help other people change their lives. I didn’t know if I could make a living from it, so I started out on a part-time basis. Now, I’m the personal trainer for a local business’ employees, [along with] my current full-time job.”

His social life: “It was almost a year in from when I decided to start a Facebook page and Instagram feed to document my journey. I added a YouTube Channel in 2013. I did this purely to help keep myself accountable. Going through the casting process for the shows, I realized that there are so many people who don’t believe in themselves. I wanted to show people that happiness is possible, change is possible. I never thought it would grow to what it has, but social media has allowed me to reach so many people from all around the world, and most importantly, it allowed me to meet my wife!”

His love story: “[On Instagram], I came across a before-and-after picture of a girl from Columbus, OH. It started as just two people sharing their journey with each other. We became friends, but I had no expectations since Kristine lived three hours away. We decided to meet, and she drove to Indiana. I felt like something about her was special. We continued texting and talking [and then] decided to take our friendship to the next level. This went on for a year, and then we signed up for a half marathon. I was super nervous, because I don’t run, but I knew the half marathon was important to both of us, so I decided I wanted to propose at the finish line. I ran with the engagement ring in my pocket. All I remember is crossing the finish line, exhausted but full of adrenaline, and getting down on one knee.”

His success secret: “Believe in yourself and stay focused. People talk about wanting to change, but they don’t believe in themselves. Once I started to truly believe in myself, I was unstoppable.”

His personal style: “I’m tall and still not a small guy by any means, so it’s hard to find clothes. After losing weight, I could finally go to stores and find stuff that fit me, and this is when I first came across the MSX by Michael Strahan brand. My first purchase was a pair of fleece-style shorts and a hoodie. I still have some excess skin on my legs, arms, and around my lower back, and have a lot of trouble finding clothes I feel comfortable in. These clothes just fit me so well.”

His new passion: “Cooking is one of my biggest passions. I love to try new things, to take recipes and put my own spin on them. I love to barbecue, and smoked food is one of my biggest guilty pleasures. I could fire up my smoker every weekend! Owning a food truck would be a dream come true. Not doing it full time, but just on the weekends [so I could] let other people share in my passion of cooking amazing, healthy food.”

His influences: “I’ve had so many people who’ve impacted my life. My parents believed in me, loved me, and taught me about respect. Also [expert trainers] Chris and Heidi Powell, who I met when I was in L.A. for Extreme Weight Loss. Even though I wasn’t chosen for the show, we’ve remained in touch.”

His weight-loss advice: “You have to be ready for a change. You can’t wing it either; you have to be prepared. You have to be willing to put the work in, and not just in the gym, but in the kitchen, since food is so much more important than working out. You have to be willing to go at this alone, too, because this is your life, and no one will change it for you but you.”

His motto: “You are so much stronger than you can ever imagine.”

What’s next: “Continuing my [weight-loss] journey. I also want to grow my social media presence, and expand into vlogs. I feel there is so much potential out there and I want to reach and help more people. I want a family. My journey is about more than just working on myself; it’s just working for a better life.”