Just a few months ago, Mike Lamb experienced both the most gratifying and surreal moments of his life at the same time: the Conyers local shaved 50 pounds off his 300-pound frame and won $1 million dollars in the process as part of TV personality Dr. Oz's "Transformation Nation: Million Dollar Challenge."
He and his family were whisked off to New York for a show taping and a big prize announcement that seemed like something out of a movie, he said recently.
"You have that surreal moment - he couldn't have said my name," Lamb said, recalling the moment Dr. Mehmet Oz, a surgeon who hosts a syndicated daytime TV show, chose him from among 10 possible winners. "It took about a day for it to sink in."
Two months later, Lamb is back to his regular life - and now the real challenge begins. The former couch potato is still in the gym, hoping to drop another 50 pounds as he tries to get in good enough shape to donate his kidney to his wife, who has lupus and could soon need a transplant.
Helping her survive the potentially fatal autoimmune condition is his ultimate prize.
It was his wife Jody, who actually encouraged him to enter the Transformation Nation program.
Until then, Lamb said, he had mostly watched his wife try to keep up with her own health, with little interest in his own.
"I still kind of sat on the couch and ate donuts and said ‘Yes dear, you're doing a great job,'" Lamb said.
The sedate lifestyle combined with his love of big seafood meals had caused Lamb's weight to fluctuate for years until the 5-foot-11-inch Rockdale Career Academy teacher finally reached his top weight of 300 pounds.
The turning point came last fall, when his wife saw the Dr. Oz episode announcing the start of the fitness challenge.
The million dollars should be a good incentive, his wife told him - before adding another quip.
"She said you're keeping my kidney and you're not keeping it in very good shape," said Lamb, whose wife signed him up before he had a chance to say no.
The program was a partnership between Dr. Oz and Sharecare, an Atlanta-based web platform that connects people with experts on health and wellness. It encouraged participants to follow a multi-step regimen that involved everything from getting more sleep to connecting with the family doctor to help calculate your body mass index and general health.
The contest also involved another element Lamb didn't care for much - Weight Watchers meetings.
"My first reaction was no I'm not gonna do it," he said. "Weight Watchers is for women!"
But motivated by his desire to help his wife, Lamb pushed through his embarrassment and began using the popular weight loss program's website and point tracking system.
Before long, the man who had consistently put on weight as an adult was seeing results.
Lamb reinforced his Weight Watchers efforts by joining a gym and finding other ways to be physical.
He even began doing fitness boot camps with his daughter.
"I started out as saying I'm going to do this for my wife I need to be in better physical condition and healthier to be a potential donor," he said. "But what I discovered maybe three months into this journey was I was feeling better."
Lamb represents many Americans who think working out is intimidating - until they try it, explained Anne Krueger an SVP and editorial director with Sharecare. She said Lamb has continued working out with a Sharecare trainer, keeping track of his weight loss in a weekly blog at the site.
"He's the perfect inspiration for the millions of people who come to Sharecare in search of better health," she said in an email. "He's real, he's one of us and he keeps trying to be his own health advocate."
Lamb's story apparently touched voters across America. Some 1.2 million people participated in the Transformation Nation contest, a number later whittled down by a celebrity judge panel.
Ultimately, Lamb was voted the winner by Dr. Oz fans who chose their favorite of 10 final contestants online.
"My kids got really enthusiastic about voting," he said.
Now back home in Georgia, Lamb is enjoying the fruits of his effort. Those include having more energy to tackle basic tasks like hanging sheet rock in his home or walking his dog Maggie, twice a day.
And there's also the benefit of having $1 million in his bank account.
"The most exciting moment was the realization that what was gonna happen in our future financially was secure - that medical bills will not be a problem," he said.