The Buzz

@benboukarijr featured on @cnn and @weeklyweighin

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According to one CNN iReporter editor, the story of Ben Boukari Jr.'s drastic weight loss posted on CNN.con on Aug. 4 has received more than 5.8k shares on Facebook and has remained the #1 story on CNN mobile as of Thursdasy.

ALACHUA – The story went live on Monday, Aug. 4 at 8 a.m. Facebook “likes” and comments and twitter notices were getting stirred up by CNN iReport editors.

“I knew Friday from Talia Day, CNN iReporter,” local realtor and Alachua City Commissioner Ben Boukari Jr., said.

“When they posted it, they requested I post it on my social media,” Boukari Jr. said. “And people started sharing it. I got 20 shares just from me putting it out there and 178 people liked it.”

Boukari Jr., now 30, became the youngest City of Alachua commissioner in 2010 at the age of 26.

That win is the reason he Boukari Jr. decided take on another challenge – weight loss. At 379 pounds, Boukari Jr. was unable to run or take part in excercise.

“When you’re 379 pounds, I don’t care how you get to where you can lose weight to be healthier,” Boukari Jr. said. “I couldn’t run. I couldn’t do pushups. The diet set the platform for me.”

“Low carb dieting got me to eat healthier. It cut my appetite, got me to eat less, got me interested in eating green beans, salads.”

Boukari Jr.’s official diet start date was Sept. 28, 2010 and he said he worked on weight loss until June 1, 2011 before he “weighed myself again. The scale read 294 to be exact,” Boukari Jr. said.

“I started doing exercise after that.”

By April of 2013, Boukari reached his goal weight and has maintained a healthy at 250 pounds for his 6 feet 3 inches tall frame.

Last month, Boukari Jr. found a way to celebrate his success.

He turned to CNN and a feature the news program showcases in its health section called “Weighin.”

People who have succeeded at drastic weight loss are encouraged to submit their story by the following prompt:

Do you have a weight-loss success story to share? Tell us how you did it and you could be featured in our weekly weight-loss story on”

Out of thousands of responses, Boukari Jr. was notified weeks later that his story was going to be featured.

“To me, food was like a best friend after a long day at work,”Boukari Jr.wrote in hisCNNiReport.

I submitted mine and they liked it a lot,” Boukari Jr. said. “They vetted me a lot. I got called twice for an interview and to confirm the facts.”

He said he spent most of Monday fielding and monitoring the social media buzz created by CNN’s post which showed a before and after image of Boukari Jr.

“People asked ‘How do you stay motivated,’ ” he said. “Or commented ‘Congrats!’”

“I know that CNN is very active. They’ve got a twitter page @cnnireport, another @cnn, @cnnhealth,” Boukari Jr. said. “All three of those listed the article. They’ve been tweeting to different entities. “It said @alachuacounty make sure you see @benboukarijr featured @cnn @weeklyweighin.

“There’s a hashtag “weeklyweighin” I haven’t even looked at that,” he said.

Some discoveries he made in the first 24 hours of CNN’s aggressive social media strategy?

“It went to CNN Mexico, now it’s in Spanish,” Boukari Jr. said. “It’s been to La Crosse, Wisconson, Bayou Buzz, Louisianna, WGN, Chicago, WPIX New York, New York, Norfolk, Virgina, Portland, Maine. They picked it off the wire.”

Some of the comments have been sarcastic, funny or mean, but Boukari takes it in stride since he noticed the good responses far outweigh the negative.

“There have been thousands of comments on CNN’s main page. There’s been more than 3,500 likes and more than 400 shares,” he said at just 24 hours after the posting was launched.

By Tuesday, his story was moved off the front web page but remained on the health page.

“One guy thought the article had to do with Big Ben (the iconic clock tower built in 1859) in London being taken down,” Boukari Jr. said about the headline “No more ‘Big Ben’: City leader loses 145 pounds.”

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