[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]KAUKAUNA — What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Wayne Vandenlangenberg can attest to that. When he was in school he recalled always being the biggest kid in the class. “I was the kid that was always pushed around and made fun of. I felt out of place all the time. I wasn’t good at sports and I wasn’t academically smart.”
He turned to food to find comfort in his life. “I was the most fast food junkie there was. I drank 30 cans of soda a day. I knew every fast food restaurant menu by heart. I was a foodaholic,” said Vandenlangenberg. After years of binge eating his weight soared to 674 pounds.
The day after Thanksgiving in November of 2007, Vandenlangenberg was rushed to the hospital by a coworker because his body was starting to shut down. He fell into a coma for 11 days.
“I think I did actually die, because I went to heaven,” he said. “My grandmother Vandenlangenberg met me, who had been gone about 11 years. She said, ‘We’re not ready for you. We don’t understand why you’re here.’
“She was just as I remember her growing up as a kid — her hair wasn’t gray anymore,” added Vandenlangenberg. “She was sitting on my bed and she was holding my hand. I felt her rubbing my hand. She said, ‘I think you need to go back.’ That’s when I woke up.”
After 64 days in the hospital, Vandenlangenberg was sent home in a wheelchair and was told if he didn’t change his life he’d never get out of the chair. “I felt like they sent me home with a death sentence because I didn’t know what to do.”
While channel surfing one night, Vandenlangenberg happened to see one of his favorite actresses, Alison Sweeney, hosting the show “The Biggest Loser.” He got hooked on the show and recalled seeing one of the trainers, Bob Harper, explain that you don’t need a gym to work out because walking is free.
At that point, Vandenlangenberg wasn’t able to walk so he started working out by lifting cans of food and bleach bottles to strengthen his muscles. Eventually he was able to walk around his house with a walker, then progressed to a cane and finally to walking unassisted. As he started getting stronger the weight started coming off.
“I decided enough is enough, I wanted to live. My grandma said you have bigger and better things to do, you have to go back and finish something,” he said. “I had been living on the inside watching the world go by. I had to change everything. I was eating 13,000 calories per day.”
Between the exercise and changing his eating habits, Vandenlangenberg lost 200 pounds in a year’s time.
In 2010, after losing 400 pounds, he got an invitation from The Biggest Loser to be their first guest to show America weight loss can be done on a person’s own. His total weight loss now is 471 pounds. He was named the TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) 2013 Wisconsin State King because he lost his last 92 pounds as a member of that organization. He now volunteers with the group and is the leader of a Wednesday evening weekly session in Appleton.
Vandenlangenberg, who is 6 feet tall, hit his goal weight of 210 pounds on Feb. 6, 2012, and hasn’t looked back. “I feel the most active I’ve ever been. I love life. I walk a lot, I work, I speak at schools to get kids motivated to get moving.” He is willing to present to any group that invites him in to share his story, not only schools but churches and other venues as well.
Through this whole journey, Vandenlangenberg has felt the presence of God. He has a picture of himself when he was morbidly obese and on the back he wrote, “Please God, don’t ever let me look like that again.” He brings it along when he does his presentations. “I still look at the picture and I cry. I wake up every morning and I say, God, you’ve given me another day. I always say if I can help one person get healthy (it’s) worth it.”
People don’t understand that there really is something out there, noted Vandenlangenberg. “God can help you. I know he’s always there so I don’t have to worry. He guides people to get in touch with me.”
If a person is going to get back on track to better health they need to do it for themselves, he said.
“I didn’t do this to be popular, I did this to save my life. I was at my last breath,” said Vandenlangenberg. “I’m back and I’m here to enjoy whatever amount of years I have left. I feel sometimes I wasted 40 years being big. It’s so important that you don’t give up on life. There’s so much out there and God’s got such a beautiful world to walk in.”[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/1″][vc_message color=”alert-info” style=”rounded”]Your Catholic Neighbor
Name: Wayne Vandenlangenberg
Parish: Holy Cross, Kaukauna
Favorite saint: Christopher
Words to live by: “Always believe in yourself.”[/vc_message][/vc_column][/vc_row]