(JEFFERSON CITY, TENN.) -- Justin Shelton, of Jefferson City, Tenn., was rushed to the emergency room in December 2011 with a kidney infection that would prove to be the least of his problems.
The 593 pounds that Shelton carried on his six-foot frame made him too large to fit onto any of the equipment in the emergency room. Doctors sent him home with just a high dosage of antibiotics and a hope that he would be okay.
"That was a wake-up call," Shelton, 27, told ABC News Monday. "We decided we were going to get healthy together."
We would be Shelton and his wife of five years, Lauren, 26, who, at the time, carried 341 pounds on her five-foot-five frame.
Nearly two years later, the couple is nearly unrecognizable after losing more than 500 pounds together.
"We were always there for each other," Shelton said. "If one of us was feeling like quitting, the other one would reach down and pull us up."
After Shelton's emergency room scare, he and Lauren met with a physician's assistant who gave them guidelines for a diet and exercise program that the couple then "ran with," Shelton said.
They took their usual breakfast of takeout food or frozen waffles with bacon and replaced it with either a healthy cereal or homemade sweet potato waffles and turkey bacon. Lunch, their biggest meal, became a lean meat and lots of fresh vegetables and dinner was a small portion of beef or chicken or turkey paired with fruit. If they found themselves hungry between meals, the couple picked snacks with protein that would keep them full.
Through it all, they relied on one another.
"It was always nice to have someone there who was going through the same things that you were," Shelton said. "Our relationship was strong but now it's at a whole new level."
Both Shelton and his wife have now reached their maintenance weights, he said, and use exercise and an active lifestyle to keep the scale on target.
"Every morning we wake up and have breakfast and head to the gym," he said. "Three days per week we lift weights and do cardio after -- elliptical or treadmill -- and the other three days we like to do 45 minutes or so of cardio and some outdoors activity together, like hiking."
"Sunday we usually rest but try to do something active that is fun," he said.
Fun includes being able to do things they could never do before because of their weight, like going on roller coaster rides at theme parks.
"Today is a special day because one of the rides here was the very first ride I was told I had to get off of because of my weight," Shelton said by phone from Islands of Adventure, an Orlando theme park where he and Lauren are vacationing. "Today I was able to ride it with no problems and with room to spare."
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