"Bob Sierra YMCA, this is Ryan."
It's early afternoon at the YMCA in Northdale, where Ryan Lynge works as a welcome center representative. As the phone continues to ring off the hook, the New Tampa resident rushes to field calls wearing a red and white polo shirt with a nametag and a pair of khaki shorts.
At first glance, he looks like the average YMCA employee: jovial and ready to help patrons find lost personal items or sign up for memberships. But those who frequent the YMCA or who work with him quietly marvel at a feat he's accomplished over the past year.
Lynge, 23, lost 100 pounds.
Fueled by a desire to get healthy and put an end to joint pain and high blood pressure, he set out on a journey that led him a short walk from the front desk of his workplace through a set of glass doors and into a gym that would save his life.
"I think he's done a great job," said Shannon Carlton, who works behind the YMCA's counter with Lynge. "We always have junk food back here, and he does a good job of composing himself. He has an amazing story to tell for people who come here."
Lynge grew up in Ft. Myers an only child. He recalled his Southern home as one where food was always present.
"We surrounded ourselves with food, and would have big family gatherings on the weekend," he said. "There was never a time when food was not around."
Lynge was athletic but husky, playing baseball and basketball as a kid. He was teased about his size - he was 300 pounds in high school - but used his own sense of humor to avoid feeling down.
"I was tons of fun," he joked.
After high school, Lynge studied at University of South Florida, and later landed a job as a resident services manager for a homeowners association in Tampa. After he was laid off, he talked to his fiancee, who used to be a lifeguard at the YMCA. She suggested he go check out job opportunities there.
After Lynge started working at the YMCA last year, he came to a conclusion about his health. At the time, he had ballooned to 356 pounds.
"A couple months after I started, I realized I had this great opportunity many people don't have," he said. "A membership for employees is free. So, this is kind of a waste if I don't use it."
Lynge leaned on the support he had from co-workers and members of the YMCA who would see him on a daily basis and hold him accountable for losing weight.
Then came the hard part: dropping the pounds.
Lynge started with small goals, like losing 10 pounds. He watched what he ate and the proportions on his plate, and hit the YMCA's gym to walk on a treadmill after his shift ended.
Soon, he dropped down to 300 pounds.
He hit a plateau during the holidays, but rebounded after starting a diet plan his fiancee's weight loss clinic had provided for her earlier this year. He also hit the gym harder, with the goal of getting down to 200 pounds for his May 2013 wedding in New Port Richey. Now, he goes to the gym five days a week, mixing up his routine to include walking, shooting a basketball or running.
Now, he weighs 247 pounds.
His cravings range from pizza to Oreo cookies to cheesburgers. He doesn't buy those foods, or eats them in moderation in social settings.
Lynge calls his new body the result of a "lifestyle change," which has allowed him to kick high blood pressure and joint pain.
He credits the YMCA for his stunning progress.
"It's been an absolute blessing - the blessing this job has given me," he said. "I would love to have a career at the YMCA. Without it, I'd be where I was a year ago."