Atlanta Councilman to Run 100 Miles for Weight-Loss Challenge

PHOTO: H. Lamar Willis

Atlanta Councilman H. Lamar Willis weighed more than 327 pounds a year ago. He has since managed to lose more than 100 pounds and isn't going to stop there.

To ring in the New Year, Willis, 41, has asked Atlanta residents to join him in his own personal 100-mile challenge. He hopes to run throughout the city and log 100 miles during 2013, with other residents running alongside him.

"This isn't just about me," Willis told ABC News. "It's about me partnering with people who do this every day."

The 100-mile number is significant to Willis, celebrating his 100-pound loss. "I was just going to run 100 miles across the city for myself but then as I shared my idea with friends, they began to offer to sponsor the miles."

The lifelong Atlantan said some people have sponsored him for up to $1,000 a mile.

"It would be great if we could raise $1,000 dollars per mile." said Willis, who's down to about 223 pounds. "That would be raising $100,000 for a great cause."

The proceeds would likely go to health-related charities in the area, he added.

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Willis said he tried to buy a life insurance policy last year but was turned down because of his obesity. Once reality set in, the councilman says he knew that he needed to begin to take action for the sake of his 13-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son. That's when he took to the streets and started walking, shedding the weight simply by exercising and watching what he eats.

"I didn't go on any fad diet or cut out any of the things I really liked to eat. I just cut back. I still eat what I want to eat, just in moderation," Willis said. "If I cut out too much, I know that I would be back at that point again."

He uses an elliptical machine, treadmill and works to strengthen his core.

Willis hopes to promote his running challenge by pairing with running clubs, senior groups who go on walks and other organizations to get the community involved.

But community groups aren't the only ones supporting Willis' goal.

The councilman said he was most surprised to get a text message from Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed, saying, "Count me in. I want to be a part of the challenge."

Although he is proud of his accomplishments, Willis says it's not all about the weight loss for him. He says he wants to help people understand that losing the weight is not as hard as it might seem and that its benefits are endless.

"Only through this experience did I realize that there is a very nurturing part of exercising that makes you mentally strong," he said.

"I knew that there had to be more positive to come out of this rather than just me losing 100 pounds and feeling healthier."

Willis sees this as an opportunity to encourage people to live healthier lives.

"I want to invite people to come join me to build the community," he said, "and to make a healthier Atlanta."

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