130 Pounds Down- and Counting
In 2012, this Allendale deli owner lost more than a third of his body weight without drugs or surgery- or feeling deprived. Here's his story.
I’VE BEEN HEAVY SINCE I WAS IN SECOND GRADE. When I graduated from high school, at 5´11˝, I weighed 246 pounds. But by the end of 2011, at age 52, I weighed 350 pounds— and I was scared.
My business, Bernie’s Bagels and Allendale Gourmet Delicatessen, keeps me busy, and in my free time I’m a drag racer. After the end of every drag-racing season, I’d let everything go because I no longer had to make weight and didn’t have to feel comfortable in the car. I’d gotten used to gaining 20 or so pounds after the season, but for some reason in 2011 I gained 40 pounds in November and December.
My blood work was fine—I didn’t have high cholesterol or diabetes. But my knees began to hurt constantly, excruciatingly. Also, my kids are older now—they’re 19 and 21—and we’re more like friends; I wanted to be able to do things with them. I saw the writing on the wall—I was not going to be around if I continued as I was.
I’ve tried all kinds of ways to lose weight—Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers, you name it. I started the process for gastric band surgery four times, but because of issues with insurance and bad timing, it never worked out. Last fall, I noticed my neighbor had slimmed down considerably. He gave me the business card of weight-loss management specialist Gladys DiTroia in Wyckoff, and after a couple of months I finally called her. Our first appointment was on January 14, and I’ve never looked back. I do believe that she saved my life.
The way I used to eat was, I’d go to work at 4 a.m. and be there for 12 hours or so. I didn’t eat all day, just drank coffee. When I got home I’d have dinner, usually around 9 at night, then I’d go to bed. Gladys explained that I was starving my metabolism all day, then overloading it at night and going to sleep. I’m on a schedule now: An hour after I wake up, I have breakfast—that was a little rough for me at the beginning because I’m not hungry then. Then every three hours or so for the rest of the day, I’m having either a snack or a meal.
A typical breakfast is one-third of a piece of American cheese and egg whites on an English muffin. For lunch, I eat turkey with lettuce, onions and mayo on reduced-calorie rye bread or a reduced-calorie wrap, with a serving of fruit. At dinner, I have chicken, salmon or bison, with a baked potato and vegetable. Also, In Motion Meals (inmotionmeals.com) helped me keep on track because they have a full line of prepared meals that are awesome. A snack is a piece of fruit and one of those 100-calorie bags of smoked almonds or some pistachios. And that’s my day. I never feel deprived, not a bit. In fact, I’d be fine with 900 calories a day, not the 1,500 Gladys insists I have. But I’ve learned that if I don’t eat enough calories, I won’t lose because my body will go into starvation mode and hold onto fat.
Look, I was a chef—I know what good nutrition is. I just chose not to live that way. Now I preplan my meals and keep a calorie journal. Gladys says “Fail to plan, plan to fail,” and it’s really true. I’m on my feet 12 hours a day at work, and I used to be so exhausted afterward I’d collapse on the couch. Now I ride my bike up to 10 miles a day and plan to keep increasing that. I haven’t been much of a gym person, but Gladys wants me to do weight training.
I used to wear size 50 pants; now I’m between size 36 and 38. From the way I used to snore, my wife was sure I had sleep apnea—but now I sleep soundly, without snoring, through the night. My knees don’t hurt anymore. And my kids and I are closer now because we do more things together. I would probably like to lose at least 20 more pounds. That would be cool. I’m not focused on a particular number; I just want to look normal. And though I know it’s common for people to gain back the weight they lost, I don’t think that will happen for me. I was fat for so long. I don’t want to be fat again.
THE SECRET TO WEIGHT-LOSS SUCCESS?
Weight management specialist Gladys DiTroia (gladysditroia.com) focuses on “small changes” for her clients—like eating within one hour of waking and drinking plenty of water. She also customizes meal plans and has weekly meetings to review the past week and strategize for the upcoming one. In between there are calls, texts and emails. Says DiTroia: “You can find plans in a lot of places. People give you a piece of paper and send you away. I help clients implement the plan. The hardest thing is doing it alone.”
Related Read: The Best and Worst Foods for Weight Loss