His life changed forever after he was accepted as a contestant on the ABC reality series that tracked his weight-loss journey over the span of a year.
But Dana's tale (Mon., June 13, 10PM ET on ABC) involves more than shedding the pounds. As with many people, there's an emotional component to his eating. After Dana's story unfolds (but his weight-loss progress hits a plateau), he'll share an intense and emotional confrontation with host Chris Powell that will bring that issue out in the open.
AOL TV spoke exclusively to Dana about his journey and how the show drastically altered his lifestyle.
You not only reveal your body but you also reveal something personal about yourself during the episode. Why?
Technically, I should be dead. I was supposed to die. I was at 516 lbs. in January of 2010. I had no intention for this to happen. I was fighting something in myself for a long time. My attitude was, "I don't want to deal with this." It was the white elephant in the room. I thought it should just stay there. But then I realized that there's a 15-year-old who's 200 lbs. or 300 lbs. who might be watching the show and may be trying to deal with the same issue the way I was -- with food. I'm doing this for them. Maybe I can be an example for that person? I don't mind putting that it out there -- I like to fight for people who can't fight for themselves. If I get through to one person, it'll be worth it.
How did you hear about the show?
Chris Powell had a documentary called 'The 650 lb. Virgin.' I saw it and was interested in getting in touch with him. I got an email from ABC, one thing to led to another and boom! I'm on the show.
Losing weight is so private. Any reservations about doing it on TV?
If I'd had a list of 100 things to do, losing weight would be last on the list. I would pray to God at night saying, "Lord, why don't you take me in my sleep?" Sometimes I'd purposely overeat to have a heart attack so I would die. I was fine taking in two seats at the movie theater. The first thing I thought about when I'd go out to eat was do the chairs at the restaurants have sides? It was a normal way of life. I was happy. Or so I thought I was. This was the only way to get the weight off.
What happened when you met Chris, which meant you were selected for the show?
I remember crying and screaming. It was a life-changing experience? Chris has become one of my best friends. He's busy. I miss him, but when I text him he always texts me back. He looks human, but I really believe he's an angel. [Laughs] You need a lot of patience to work with someone like me! As long as I did exactly what he said, I'd lose. When I didn't, I'd gain. I am looking forward to a long enduring friendship with him. I want to go skydiving. I've always dreamed of jumping out of a plane with Chris. We're doing to do that together. I'm going to film that.
Is it difficult when Chris has to step away from the process?
I was lucky. After Chris left, I worked at a YMCA. He wanted me to work out there. I have 500 friends there. They all kept me going. I had a huge support group. We'd meet at the bicycle or the swimming pool. I wasn't alone after he left -- they helped fill in the gap when Chris was gone.
What did it feel like the first time you needed a new pair of pants?
I was always wearing sweat pants. My pant [waistline] was 66 inches. Then I wore a 52 inch waste. Then I got down to a 46. I'm going to get down to a 38 or 40 inch pants size. If I can lose weight with a torn ACL [anterior cruciate ligament] anyone can. I'm also down to an XL shirt size.
Are there slips?
Yes. It wasn't perfect for a year. One week, I thought I'd do something different. I quit eating and ended up gaining 8 pounds that week. When the reading came in Chris said, "You didn't eat this week, did you?" [Laughs] I thought, "If I'm going to gain 8 pounds I want to do it from eating my favorite foods -- not from not eating."
What do you want to do next?
I want to get some speaking engagements. I want to tell people that if I can lose this weight then you can, too. America is number one in obesity. Tennessee is the second state in obesity ... it's number four in childhood obesity. I'd love to get a call from Michelle Obama. She's heading up a childhood obesity campaign. I'd love to come and work for the First Lady. It's not about being a Democrat or a Republican -- we need to talk about this. We want Americans to lose weight, but the price of fruit and vegetables is atrocious. I'd go before Congress or anybody and battle for lower prices on fruits and vegetables. I was part of the problem 20 months ago. Now, I'd like to be a part of the solution.