08/31/2012 11:45 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

How Horses Helped Me Overcome My Obesity

mThis blog post comes to us from Mindstream Academy, a co-ed boarding program where teens can achieve healthy weight, get fit and build self-esteem.

Name: Kristopher Beall
Age: 16
Height: 6'3"
Before Weight: 289
After Weight: 180

How I Gained It:

A year ago, life wasn't too good for me. My pant sizes were going up two sizes a week and then before I knew it, I was up to size 44 jeans. My life was absolutely miserable. If I am going to be honest with myself about my weight gain, I did it the same way most kids do -- by laying on the couch, watching TV or playing video games, feeling sorry for myself, and eating just to eat. I didn't feel very good physically or emotionally. So how did I deal with feeling bad about my weight and myself? By eating more food. I wanted to change but I didn't know how, so on the couch I stayed. Remote in one hand, chips and a soda in the other. I would try to make little changes, but they didn't seem to help. Occasionally, instead of a regular soda, I would try a diet one, or even a sweet tea, but it didn't seem to make a difference. I kept getting bigger and bigger. I felt terrible, embarrassed, and like there was no way out. I was barely able to walk. When I spoke to my school counselor about my weight, and said that it was making me so depressed that was considering taking my life, I got sent home and was told not to come back until I had a note from a psychiatrist saying I wasn't a threat to myself or others. I asked for help and they sent me home. Awesome, now I am fat AND crazy. What did I do? Kept eating. I would pray for help -- but I guess I forgot to ask for the ways to go about making it happen.

Breaking Point:

I knew I was big. I knew it was a problem. But it wasn't until I visited my aunt for a weekend and she showed me how many calories I was consuming every day that it hit me. I was fat! I began to think back and asked myself, how did I get here? I knew I needed to stop. I knew I was addicted to food. I just didn't know what to do if I wanted to change. Around that time, a guy from Mississippi won The Biggest Loser, my favorite show. I live in Mississippi too, so my mom reached out to the winner to ask if he could give me a little encouragement. He did more than that -- he told me about a place I could go to get fit, lose weight and take control over my life. I was so ready to lose this weight and I knew what to do. I was ready to take that journey.

How I Lost It:

When I arrived on the MindStream Academy campus, I was scared. It was Super Bowl Sunday, and kind of cold and windy. I didn't know what to expect, but I was so excited. I knew I was overweight, I knew it was going to be hard and I was going to hurt from exercising, and I knew I needed to push through -- that's what you have to do. And then I saw their horses and felt like I was home. For me, a big motivator in the beginning was being able to ride. At my current weight, I was too fat to get in the saddle. I was determined to lose enough weight to get on a horse, and in the process, I began to enjoy exercise, especially running. I liked eating healthier meals that were made mostly from the plants, fruits and vegetables that we grew in the garden, and was able to work with the chef to learn how to cook for myself. Soon the weight started to drop, and fast. In my first semester, I lost 90 pounds. I think a big part of my success was being with the horses. They made me more responsible. I got up every morning to care for them, rain or shine, even if I was so tired, I would never neglect them or the special privilege I had been given to take care of them myself. I take care of them and they take care of me. I learned how to lunge the horses, which basically means the horse moves around me in a circle. I control the horse by using tools that help me move the horse faster or slower, and to move closer to or farther away from me. I love lunging horses and when I do, I feel like I am their personal trainer, exercising them and allowing them to let out extra energy.

I feel that the horses played a big role in helping my overall well-being, not just my weight loss. I feel like they are my friends and they help me get stuff off my chest -- with the help of counselors who work with me and the horses.

Sometimes on this kind of journey there is some hard stuff to go through, but now I'm down to 180 lbs. I have lost 109 pounds and I feel absolutely perfect and amazing about myself. I can't wait to go and show off all the stuff I can do now. I mean, before I could barely stand up for a long time, and now I can stand for hours and walk like there's nothing to it. I am training for a 10k next month and I heard that I have been nominated as a torch runner for the Olympics!

The MindStream horses and the people that work there have helped me change my life for the better. I would like to share my story and let other kids with weight problems know that you are not the only one. If you are dealing with weight issues, low self-esteem, or bullying, you can change your life. If I can do it, you can do it. It's going to be OK and I am here to help. I would also suggest making friends with a few horses for support.