LEXINGTON, SC (WIS) - Weighing in at double the size of an upright piano, a Lexington man set foot on the journey of a lifetime.
L.B. ("Little Buddy") Bonner has never been little in his life. As we caught up with him at Dynamic Fitness in Lexington, he easily leg-pressed 400 pounds, pushing the weight away like feathers for ten to twelve repetitions at a time.
He was working out with friend and trainer, Haas Sims, who he met several years ago working security.
"You can do this - one more time," Sims urges L.B. "Another 5… mind over matter," he continues to chirp in L.B.'s ear.
If you take one look at L.B., it's safe to say everything about him is "big." He towers over the average person and consumes a considerable amount of space. He was a football player in high school with a bright future for collegiate athletics.
But, seeing him today, you only get half the picture. The story begins long before his promising athletic prowess in high school… it begins before he even took his first steps.
"I was adopted as a newborn because after having 3 girls, my parents decided to adopt a boy, and so they got me," L.B. said.
L.B. was a young man who so quickly connected food with a comfort and belonging. He weighed 150 pounds by the time he was just eight years old. But, his weight and his height were an advantage in high school, as he took up the game of football.
"I excelled in football in high school, and started to get some attention from schools and stuff," L.B. said. "I ended up tearing my ACL. Whenever you get a knee injury like that it just kind of hindered everything and I ended up walking away from sports in general and that really did a number on me."
L.B. went to White Knoll High School. He tore his ACL – and shortly after, d ropped out entirely, later earning his G.E.D.
"Losing any opportunity I had in sports really played a negative impact on me," L.B. said. "It kind of gave me a loss of an outlet. It really kinda made me turn to things that were negative in my life… drinking. It kind of started my downward spiral that lasted the next few years."
He began abusing alcohol, eating endlessly and making poor decisions. His spiral down wasn't in every sense, though. His spiral down was also met with a steady climb in his weight. He soon surpassed 400… even 500 pounds.
"I tried to make sure everybody around me was always cutting up and laughing because it hid how miserable I was with myself," L.B. said. "I just felt like a complete let down with my family to myself…. to coaches… friends. I felt like I didn't deserve for anybody to love me or care about me."
One of his biggest regrets came in 2013 when he was supposed to be at a Mother's Day lunch. Instead, he got on an ATV that he was too heavy to ride. The ATV flipped, crushing his foot. Eventually, he lost his leg.
"Losing a leg is one of the hardest things I've had to go through," L.B. said. "And what made it even worse was choosing to have it done."
He chose to have his leg amputated below the knee after a failed surgery and a bone infection. He now uses a prosthesis. But as tough as the physical loss was, it was the loss of a piece of his heart that took L.B. to rock bottom. A phone call in 2016 brought him the news that his best friend of 14 years had passed away.
"Whenever I got the phone call that Bunky had passed, all I could remember was a really dull, numb feeling," he said. "It was like it was a bad dream that I couldn't wake up from. All I wanted to do was drink. I drank a lot."
But, the beauty of rock bottom is that its solid ground. L.B. hit it, and then he stood up.
"I was watching the show 'My 600-Pound Life" on TLC. I saw a guy's episode named "Doug Armstrong" and it really resonated with me because he wasn't immobile," L.B. said. "Yeah, he struggled to get around, but I saw a lot of myself in him."
At his lowest point, L.B. weighed the heaviest he had ever been as he started the show, weighing in at 642 pounds. He spent months in Texas filming his episode and transforming physically after getting gastric sleeve surgery, and emotionally through a renewed workout routine.
"Doing the show has been an amazing journey not only for me but for my family as well," he said. "It's changed my relationship with myself, my relationship with my family, my relationship with my friends, and it's giving me an outlet to motivate and inspire so many other people."
His friend, Haas Sims, agrees.
"I've seen this guy at the lowest of the low," Sims said. "He's made a believer out of me and a lot of people. He stopped surviving and started living."
We can't tell you exactly how much weight L.B. has d ropped so far because he's still working with TLC. But, it's safe to say he's shedding much more than pounds. The shame and the guilt continue to vanish, too.
"It just changes your whole perception of what life is," L.B. said.
He offers advice for anyone else taking on a weight loss journey – big or small.
"Keep on keeping on. Baby steps lead to huge results. You know, habits don't happen overnight. It's not going to change overnight. You just have to keep on with it."
For a guy who's done everything big, he's overcome some massive odds. With his new leg and a new outlook, you get the feeling that those huge results are all but guaranteed.