As a child, Michael Watson learned it was safer to eat his feelings.
He comforted himself with vast quantities of soda pop, potato chips, pizza and pasta. "I was just constantly eating," the 18-year-old high school senior told InsideEdition.com. "It did make me happy to eat. For a short period of time, of course."
At his biggest, just about two years ago, Watson weighed 325 pounds. He stands 6 feet, 4 inches. "It was pretty bad," he said.
And finally, after being overweight since he was in the third grade, Watson had enough. "Year after year I was getting heavier and heavier," he said. "I would be wheezing walking up anything. I was always tired."
His soul was heavy too, weighed down by the taunts and bullying of classmates who told him he couldn't sit next to them on the school bus because he was too fat. "There's not enough room," he said they'd tell him.
It took him about 18 months, but Watson shed 115 pounds, enough weight to form another person, by drastically changing his life.
He began by shunning the school bus. He followed that with shunning an awful lot of food.
In all kinds of weather, Watson walked the three miles to his high school. "I walked a lot. I walked to school. I walked home from school. It would be cold sometimes. I'd be walking in snow ... sometimes it would be raining really hard," and Watson would wear an extra coat to try to stay dry.
Now the students on the bus wanted to know why he wasn't on it. "People would be like 'Why are you walking?' And I'd say, 'Well, believe it or not, I'm trying to lose some weight over here.'"
He completely reworked his diet. Oatmeal for breakfast. Salad for lunch. Soup for dinner. PowerBars as snacks. He did all this while he was working at Kentucky Fried Chicken. It took a heavy dose of will for him to "say no to good chicken," he said.
Saying no "was very hard, to be honest. It would be Sunday morning and my dad would be like 'I'm making waffles for the family.' And I'd say, 'No, I'm good.'''
As his family ate "a ton of waffles, I'd be sitting there kind of depressed," he said.
But he stuck to his plan. And the kids at school started noticing that Watson was getting smaller.
"Every month, I got a little bit thinner," he said. Students came up to him and asked "You used to be big, weren't you?" His teachers, especially the ones who had known him since he was a child, were proud.
They were also a little amazed. After Watson got to his dream weight — 220 pounds — former instructors said "Oh my God, you look like a totally different person," he recounted. "It was just nice," he added.
Watson does look like a different person. "I could look in the mirror and actually see my jaw line," he said. He now has only one chin.
When he sees his reflection, he likes what he sees.
"Back when I was really heavy, I'd look in the mirror and say, 'You're ... the most ugliest person I know.'"
He also has something he never had before — confidence.
"I could never go back to being heavy," he said. "Every day is a new day. That's what I went by when I was losing my weight."
And he no longer makes fun of himself. "I tried to be a little bit funny" when he noticed strangers eyeballing his ample frame.
"I told a lot of fat jokes," he said. "But I finally got out of that."