Manuel Uribe didn't leave his bed or his apartment in Monterrey, Mexico, for years. Weighing in at 1,234 pounds, he was once considered by many to be the heaviest man in the world.
When ABC News told the now 43-year-old's story in January 2007, Uribe was following a diet but still couldn't stand on his own and spent his days in a special industrial-size bed.
Today, after two years of diet, exercise and medical care, Uribe has lost more than 520 pounds and gained a girlfriend: 38-year-old Claudia Solis.
"I had an obesity problem for many years, a very significant one. I was gaining and gaining weight. I was on every diet you can imagine," Uribe told ABC News' John Quiñones.
"I used to eat normal, just like all Mexicans do … beans, rice, flour tortilla, corn tortilla, French fries, hamburgers, subs and pizzas, whatever regular people eat. I worked as a technician, repairing typewriters, electronic calculators and computers. So I worked on a chair. It was a sedentary life," he said.
Uribe was beyond the kind of overweight that comes from fast food and lack of exercise. Doctors call it morbid obesity.
According to the National Institutes of Health, obesity means weighing 20 percent or more than your ideal body weight, and it's a health risk. Morbid obesity is altogether different. Sometimes called "clinically severe obesity," it means you're 100 pounds or more over ideal body weight, with a body mass index of 40 or higher.
Uribe didn't gain weight like the rest of us. Brain chemistry, genetic mutation, addiction, psychological pain -- or an unhappy combination of all of them -- makes morbid obesity one of the biggest mysteries of medicine.
Living in the same bed for years was difficult for Uribe, especially when it came to romance. Twenty years ago, when he weighed 280 pounds, Uribe was married. But as he grew more obese, he said the relationship grew increasingly difficult.
"She asked me for a divorce," he told Quiñones. " I was very depressed."
Uribe said he was so desperate that he even considered suicide.
"Everything ended on account of my obesity, because I spent a lot of money trying to see doctors, going on diets, and I just gained more weight."
'We Don't Have an Explanation'
Two years ago when Uribe was at his heaviest -- he couldn't even see his feet -- he made a desperate plea for help on Mexican television. The Mexican government responded by appointing a sort of medical SWAT team to help him lose weight.
Dr. Jaime Gonzalez made house calls to Uribe once a week. His goal was to help his patient lose 1,000 pounds. He put Uribe on an exercise regime, and his legs and lower body were massaged daily to improve blood circulation.
"Our main concern currently [is] his lower extremities," Gonzalez said. "There are large volumes because of the amount of fluids retained here."
Incredibly enough, in spite of his enormous weight, Uribe told Quiñones that he was in good health.
"Yes, I have accumulated fat, but I'm healthy," he said. "I don't have sugar, cholesterol, triglycerides, diabetes or high blood pressure. My heart works perfectly fine."
"We don't have an explanation," Gonzalez said. Uribe did not have high cholesterol or diabetes, and his blood pressure was normal.
He didn't want a gastric bypass and instead followed the Zone diet -- a moderate regime of carbs, protein and fat. No more rice and beans. Always by Uribe's side, his mother, Ofelia Uribe, prepared five meals a day.
"What do you want for your son?" Quiñones asked.
"That he can get up and walk," his hopeful mother said.
Uribe couldn't stand to weigh himself, so the government installed a large scale into his floor. A year after beginning his diet and exercise plan, Uribe made his first trip out of his room in five years. His bed was taken outside, just in front of his home. For Uribe, simply feeling the sunshine was a major accomplishment, the first of many.
The Man Who Lost the Most Weight?
As he worked to lose weight, Uribe tried to stay a part of the outside world, using the Internet to support others who are morbidly obese, but he mostly counted on donations to support himself. He said his relationship with his fiancee, Solis, helped him to persevere.
"He's a person full of love," Solis said. "It's a privilege to know him because he truly is a divine person."
In March of this year, Uribe took a step toward his new life by planning a trip to the park with Solis. It was the first time he had traveled anywhere in seven years. His weight still leaves him bedridden, but he decided it would no longer stop him from rejoining the world.
A forklift loaded Uribe's bed onto a specially equipped flatbed truck, with a cover to shield him from the sun. Uribe's doctors were also along for the ride to make sure nothing went wrong medically.
As they made their journey, the couple were greeted like celebrites. The trip went well until the truck went through a tunnel. The cover meant to protect Uribe became an obstacle, and the truck became stuck. Uribe was rattled and the doctors found that his blood pressure was high. The date was over.
"The doctors are my doctors," Uribe said. "They're in charge of my health, and I have to listen to my doctors."
"I'm sad, but there's nothing we can do," Solis said. "We have to go back. What good would it do if he died there?"
At home, Uribe presented Solis with a birthday cake -- which he didn't eat. Uribe dreams of taking care of Solis and her son, and one day being able to walk down the aisle.
"Very soon, I am very hopeful that I will be able to leave this bed. This year, I think."
Uribe, who celebrated his 43rd birthday on June 11, has one other wish: Instead of being known as the heaviest man in the world, he hopes to become known as a champion: the man who lost the most weight.
For more information on this story and on morbid obesity:
Follow Manuel Uribe's progess and learn more about his diet at The Zone Diet