Editor's note: This is the fourth in an occasional series on Dan Hawthorne, who after topping 600 pounds has been on a journey to lose weight through diet and exercise.
Not all gifts come in a brightly wrapped package neatly tied with a bow.
Looking for something to do this weekend? Find what you need in our Weekend Entertainment Guide newsletter.
Some are the product of hard work and determination.
Since last April, Dan Hawthorne has been on a journey to lose weight and lead a healthier lifestyle.
Working with Hagerstown Community College fitness trainer Thomas Burge for the past nine months, he has taken about 250 pounds off his once 600-pound frame.
It was an end of the year goal he had hoped to achieve.
And he did it.
"It was the best Christmas present I could have given myself and Thomas," Hawthorne said.
Weight loss comes one step at a time
One year ago, it would have been impossible for the Hagerstown man to imagine how his life would turn around.
"I really thought my life was over," he said. "I was a ton of different emotions. I was afraid of dying or having a heart attack. I was afraid of never being able to fully enjoy life again. And I was very mad. I was mad at God, work, friends, life in general. I was very mad with Dan and often looked in the mirror and apologized to the man looking back at me who had hurt and sadness in his eyes."
Physically, Hawthorne said: "I was a horrible mess. My ankle was terrible. I could barely walk from the house to my car without severe pain. Just simple things were a major struggle."
And he was embarrassed at what he had become.
"When I went to the grocery store, it was always late at night so people wouldn't see me," he said. "I didn't think I could ever escape this dark lonely place I had fallen into."
Today, Hawthorne calls himself "a totally different man. I love life, and I love sharing my story and helping people."
Since losing weight is one of the top New Year's resolutions, Hawthorne said his biggest advice to those wishing to shed some pounds would be to start by making simple changes.
"I think people often want that big, fast result, so they set unrealistic goals," he said. "When they don't reach them, they give up and end up gaining more weight. I always tell people not to use the D word — diet. Diets are quick fixes. All we have to do is make good, sensible choices and make little changes — which lead to bigger changes. It's not as hard as we might think. If you have the desire, you can do it."
Hawthorne said Burge started him out taking small steps — both in his eating habits and his workouts.
"Something Thomas did with me — and it worked very well — was reinforcing that small, simple changes work — like more water and less soda, whole wheat rather than white, cashews and almonds rather than M&M's and Snickers."