After looking at photos of himself from a cruise to the Bahamas with friends last November, the 26-year-old from Albertville, Alabama, knew he needed a drastic lifestyle change.
With nearly 300 pounds on his 5-foot-6 frame, Velez made a vow to himself that he would be in better shape in time for his next planned vacation the following March. But he didn't just plan to get in shape, he set the almost seemingly impossible goal of losing 100 pounds in those four short months.
"It was almost as what we call cold turkey," Velez told " Good Morning America." "I woke up one morning and I was like, 'I'm going to do this. I'm going to do this now."
"I would go to the local track and start walking in the morning, and go that afternoon, every day," he said. "I went to the track because [I was too]self-conscious to go to the gym…so I just would go to the track by myself and I started there until I felt comfortable enough to go to the gym."
Velez says he walked from light pole to light pole around the track to keep himself motivated and moving forward. As the pounds dropped off he began to jog and then, once he got in the gym, added weightlifting and abdominal work to his workout.
Velez also changed his diet, going from the sweets and the Hispanic food native to his heritage to avoiding food that was white in order to lower the carbohydrates in his diet, and also eliminating sugary drinks and anything carbonated.
"Being Hispanic made it extremely difficult because rice and beans and tortillas and breads and pastas are big part of our food," he said. "And with it being the holidays, right around Christmas, I made my own meals and went and bought my own food, like grilled chicken and fish, so my family would have their food and I had my food."
Velez made it through the holidays and in March, just a few days before he left for his planned vacation to Puerto Rico, he stepped on the scale again. This vacation, he weighed just over 100 pounds less, reaching his goal and then some.
"I would say the switch from drinking nothing but water was, like, the first 10 to 15 pounds and that came off probably within the first two to three weeks," Velez told "GMA" of his rapid weight loss. "Adding the cardio to it - which, to me, unless you sweat, it's not a workout - on a daily basis really helped with the weight loss, as well as watching what I ate."
Today, nearly a year later, and on the eve of his 27 th birthday, Velez weighs 155 pounds and has maintained his healthy lifestyle. He even started his own blog to document his progress and help others achieve the same.
"I worked super hard to get it off so I'm going to work super hard to keep it off," he said. "It's not a diet, but it's more of a lifestyle change. My body is used to eating healthy so I choose healthy choices."
While positive, Velez's weight loss has caused some confusion, particularly among the students at the school where he works.
"Students ask me if Mr. Velez is my brother," he said. "Or…me and one of my friends look a lot alike now, so they'll call me his name and I'm like, 'No, I'm the one that used to be the bigger one and they're like, 'No way.'"
- Diet & Weight Loss