Welcome to back for another Transformation Tuesday series! Today we’re hearing from Rob!
Q: When did you realize that you had a weight problem?
A: I’ve always had one, but in 2010 and 2011, I realized it was becoming serious and turning into a larger health problem. I gained nearly 60 pounds when my youngest daughter, Emily, was arriving. It was a rough pregnancy for my wife and my habits were out of control: fast food, big meals, and big late night snacks that became big late night meals. By August/September 2011, I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, asthma, and the potential of developing diabetes.
Q: What made you decide to do something about it?
A: In August/September of 2011, I took a hard look at my life. In the self-evaluation as a person, husband, father, and professional, I realized I had to make changes. I said to myself that I had to regain control of parts of my life that were out of control. I knew my mind was set and that when I got going, I knew I would do it. I started to formulate a plan/system for permanent success. I just had to figure out the system I would put in place to achieve my goal.
Q: When did you start?
A: In October 2011, I went to Weight Watchers. I remembered on their Steps for Success that Step 1 was “Ask for Help.” Something clicked and I realized my mind was open to accepting change. I went to the meetings the first few times and said nothing, but I listened very intently to the things people would say that triggered or caused the habits they wanted to change or improve. When I had some early success on the scale, it grew into more success. Concurrently, I became more determined to improve my habits further and to continue to make more gains in exercising, which developed as well.
Q: How much weight have you lost?
A: From my heaviest weight of 319 pounds, I am staying at the 210-215 range. So my weight loss is around 104-109 pounds.
Q: What is/was your goal?
A: My goal was not about numbers. It was and still is about regaining control of my life that I thought was lost. It’s about continuing to having options, choices, and opportunities. It’s about proving to myself that I can start and finish something when I set my mind to it. I can buy clothes in any store I want because they fit and make me look as good as I feel. I can be active with my children. I can show them that by setting goals, creating a system to accomplish them, and putting out proper effort, anything is possible.
Q: What weight loss program or eating modifications do you follow?
A: I follow many of the principles that I learned at Weight Watchers: I don’t believe in the word “diet”; I believe in a program for the lifetime success. I use the app myfitnesspal to keep track of the quality of what I’m eating. I usually eat 5-6 times a day. On a daily basis, I usually have very little sugar or processed foods. I just don’t have the taste or interest in them anymore.
Q: Can you explain your basic program?
A: I’m very concerned with nutrients and the balance between protein, fats, and carbohydrates. I try to eat my body weight in protein – at least 200 grams of protein for about 40-50% of a daily total. Fats and carbohydrates are not the enemy unless they’ve been highly processed or have high amounts of added sugar to them. I drink about a gallon of water a day. I drink about a half-gallon during my lunch and about a half in the afternoon and try to finish by dinner time.
For breakfast, I usually have a fat-free Greek yogurt and a cup of Kashi High Protein or Kashi High Fiber cereal and an XL Dunkin Donuts coffee (skim milk and four packets of Splenda). For lunch, I have either a turkey or chicken breast sandwich on light soft rye with broccoli/vegetable slaw. For snacks, I have either a low-sugar cereal bar or apple slices or a banana. For dinner, I have a pre-packaged bag of salad with either vinaigrette or fat free Italian dressing, a good sized piece of fish, chicken, or turkey, and a bag of microwaved vegetables and/or a small sweet potato.
Q: Do you exercise?
Q: How often and how much?
A: I try to work out 6 days a week. I run on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I lift weights on Tuesdays (back/triceps/abs), Thursdays (chest/biceps/abs), and Sundays (shoulders/biceps/abs).
Q: Where and when do you exercise?
A: I go to Planet Fitness to run before I go to work as a high school social studies teacher. Since I have to be in around 7:30, I go running on a treadmill a little after 5 a.m. for about an hour- sometimes it’s a bit less than an hour, sometimes a bit more. Depending on my training, I might have to run an additional session in the afternoon. In the summer, I run less and ride my bicycle for a good distance or for a certain time a couple of times a week. I do weights on Tuesday and Thursday afternoon and Sunday morning. I like to work quickly and I’m not usually there for more than an hour.
Q: What exercises work for you?
A: The foundation of my workouts center around the basics. Basic compound strength – bench press, pull ups, pull downs, squats, shoulder press, rows, etc. – and shaping exercises have served me well. As I became 40 (I’m now 43), I realized I had to shift from lifting heavy weights for fewer repetitions to going lighter with more repetitions and less time in between sets to achieve results.
Q: What are your trigger foods?
A: Four years later, I don’t think there is such a thing as a “trigger food” as much as I believe there is more of a “trigger”- the causal event or behavior that results in eating. Losing weight was a mental struggle and involved a great deal of sometimes painful self-examination: What was triggering the eating? What emotions was I going through to use food as a relief? Why am I doing something self-destructive? Why am I reaching for food if I’m bored? Etc.
Q. How do you cope with temptation?
A: As far as food goes, I don’t believe in saying “no” or “you can’t have….” I have desserts or treats on occasion. For example, my kids make cookies and I’ll have one. As a parent, you can’t say “no” or a “yes” to all of them. You can have everything and anything in moderation and by applying balance. You have “too much” or an off day, but the next day you balance it out. At this point in my life, I don’t feel especially tempted by anything. I’ve also substituted other things for the emotional benefits of food – being “selfish” and doing things for myself, reinforcing my efforts with a sense of accomplishment, indulging in fun activities that I enjoy, and shopping.
Q: Have you ever gotten discouraged? What do you do about it?
A: Everyone has hit a wall before, but I use the tools and the foundation I’ve created and developed and use it today to stay on track. I believe in “reframing – Instead of the glass being half-empty, it’s half full. I think about what my short-term goals are and how I’m going to accomplish them. I think about my long-term accomplishments and goals and how I’m going to accomplish those. I think of all the work I’ve done over the last four years and how I’m a different person than I was when I first started this journey.
I feel a sense of confidence and respect that I’ve gained for myself that is a part of my inherent being now. I think about things that positively reaffirm what I’ve done – the feeling of trying on clothes that fit, instead of just buying them because they’re available. I think about running with my daughters at a fun run; I think about the feeling of being the only person at a gym at 5 a.m. when the sun hasn’t risen. I think about running down the streets of Manhattan with thousands of people cheering as I’m running a half-marathon of 13.1 miles in 1:52:27. I visualize the personal exercise and personal achievements I’m going to get.
Q: How did you feel about looking at photos of yourself? Has that changed?
A: I don’t have any negative thoughts about any old pictures from before my journey. I do look at more recent pictures of myself and reflect on how far I’ve come – not in terms of weight, but from the person I was before I began. I have a sense of personal pride and accomplishment that I reflect on positively.
Q: What is the best benefit of losing weight for you?
A: Using what I’ve learning during my weight loss journey and using those tools in my everyday life: Looking at things as half-full instead of half-empty. You have a “bad” day, make a small victory to have something positive to reflect on. If you have a bad day, make the next day a good one. Create your own luck.
My mindset is very different from the person I was four years ago. I can look back at how I’ve overcome struggles and have the confidence in myself that has taken me to where I am now.
Q: Do people ask you for advice? What do you tell them?
A: All the time, but I don’t like to preach. I don’t like to say “do this” or “do that. I try to be respectful because I’ve been in the place they are in when asking for advice so I try to help by speaking in generalities and offering people choices. I don’t want to offend anyone instead of helping – It’s a fine line. As far as changing habits, I think hydration is very important to feeling better, being careful with sugar, and setting up the proper system to create the changes being sought. I suggest thinking about “the big picture”— What do you want? And how will you get there? I think the system used by the individual is important: What will work for me may not work for you and what works for you may not work for me.
I’ve come to realize it’s important to be “selfish” – Put you first in your plan and before everyone else if your mind is made up that a person wants to create long-lasting permanent change. If people call you “obsessed,” they’re right because you are obsessed with doing positive things for yourself (exercise, eating nutritionally, having balance).
Q: What have you been able to do that you couldn’t have done before?
A: I have opportunities. When my younger daughter, Emily, got stuck at the top of a playground structure at the Crayola Factory, I was able to duck, climb, pull, and crawl to get myself to her and help her out, and bring her down. If she rides her bike and is falling off, I can run to her, grab her and the bike as she starts to fall to protect her. I can run with my kids. I can do somersaults at my child’s gymnastics class. I can teach them to ice skate by being on the ice. I can go to a water park and take off my shirt without feeling self-conscious. At amusement parks, I can go on rides and not worry that I won’t fit or I’m too heavy. These days, I’m the parent that goes through the ride with all the kids to make sure my child and theirs are safe. Out of all the parents I know with young children, I think I am easily the most actively involved in physical activities and I want more.
Four years ago at 39 years old, I remember the pain I felt in my knees and legs when I ran for just a minute. It was a horrible feeling of helplessness that I mentally decided I would overcome in those early days. Now at 43, I complete 5ks, 10ks, half-marathons, and marathons and I look at the medals I gain with pride and accomplishment: My car is covered in race magnets. I know that I won’t quit, that I’ll work to complete and achieve my goals, and have the sense of accomplishment to carry with me that can’t be taken away.
Thank you, Rob, and congratulations on your success! We’re glad you were willing to be be a part of our Transformation Tuesdays, and hope your story inspires others! Just like us, now you’re another person who’s been there. 🙂