PALM HARBOR — Brandon West started down the road to obesity when he was 16.
A dirt bike accident wrecked his knee and left him bound to a wheelchair for about seven weeks.
Over the next year or so, he ballooned to 401 pounds. And it took him two years to lose 50 pounds. He lost that weight by trying different diets and doing a bit of exercise.
But last August, he discovered a quicker way to drop the weight. He was introduced to a product called Bios Life Slim and he started exercising.
He entered the Get Slim Challenge sponsored by Unicity International Inc., the maker of Bios Life Slim, and says he lost 76 pounds in 90 days.
In April, he took second place in the contest and the title of Mr. Slim, which came with a $2,500 prize.
"I've never been so happy about this in my entire life," said West, who is now 21 and stands 6 feet 5. "I feel like I'm back to who I was before I gained all the weight."
On Thursday, he was surprised with an oversized check during an impromptu visit outside his home by D. Clive Winn, senior vice president of global marketing for Unicity International.
"Brandon has been amazing," Winn said. "We were just so impressed by him."
With his prize money, West plans on paying off his credit card and spoiling himself with a few new outfits — none of his clothes fit him anymore.
West has continued to lose weight, dropping 110 pounds in the 180-Day Get Slim Challenge, which awards $15,000 to a grand prize winner. The challenge has already ended and its winners will be announced at the end of July or early August.
The winner won't be determined by weight loss alone. According to the product's website, contestants are judged by their total body transformation, percentage of weight loss, inches lost and their personal story of their weight loss.
"I'm very hopeful that I win," he said.
West was never a stranger to physical activity.
Since he was very young, he played baseball, football and earned a black belt in karate. He also wrestled and became an Eagle Scout at 17.
Dave Richardson, the father of one of West's friends, Garrett, introduced him to Bios Life Slim.
According to its website, Bios Life Slim is a fat-burning product that contains natural ingredients and helps the body naturally regulate the amount of fat stored.
Richardson, 57, also of Palm Harbor, bought a Bios Life franchise last February and lost 45 pounds by using the product.
Garrett Richardson and West, tried the product together. West started out by drinking Bios Life Slim two to four times a day and adopting a healthy diet. Occasionally, he'd go for a walk or a bike ride.
West lost 12 pounds in the first week.
"I was shocked because I didn't believe that it would work," he said.
After the first month, he was 40 pounds lighter and friends began to comment and ask about his weight loss. West started selling Bios Life Slim to others.
Winn, the Unicity International official, said the company's Get Slim Challenge, which was created two years ago, gives those who join the company more motivation to lose weight.
West began working out more about two months ago. He goes to a local gym five days a week for at least two hours. He said his life is a lot better now and he's thinking of joining the military — he was once told he needed to lose weight first before he could join.
Richardson, who considers West a part of his own family, is proud of the progress he's made.
"I've never seen anybody change that much," he said. "I knew that it worked, but I didn't go and try to make 100 pounds out of it. For me, getting 45 pounds off was pretty good, but I still don't look as good as Brandon."