Big Brothers No More

If David and Eliot Spiegel had a theme song, it sure wouldn’t be “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.” Not till lately, anyway. 

Ten years apart in age, these Paramus residents share a hefty history, having tipped the scales with peak weights of 368 and 345, respectively. That might be a cue to point a fat finger at the culprit of heredity and simply have another slice of pie. But that’s not what they did. They took action. Without surgery and with a heavy reliance on exercising and eating right, each one reduced his weight dramatically; David, roughly by half, Eliot by 150 pounds. 

From his early days, the now 63-year-old David says, he was “the chubby kid who shopped in the husky section.” Eliot didn’t develop his weight problem until adulthood. But both ended up buying from the XXXL rack. 

Because of his weight, says David, “I had an inner voice holding me back. I was a pretty successful guy, but I know I could have achieved more if my weight hadn’t been hanging over my head all the time.” Even for this high-achieving salesman and family man, being extremely overweight was a social and psychological problem as well as a physical one. It made him too self-conscious to even start talking to someone in a grocery line. 

Eliot believes his weight got him fired from a job. Also a salesman, he found himself similarly limited—until he decided something. “I was tired of being the biggest thing in the room and yet invisible to everyone,” he says. “I had the choice to be part of life or to sit in the stands watching life go by.”

He chose the big challenge of getting smaller. And he shared that challenge with his big bro. 

David was ready. “I’d tried every diet and failed,” he says— his weight would yo-yo, down 30 and back up 20. He reached a tipping point in 2013, writing a friend: “I’ve got to do something about my weight. I’m not going to live if I keep this up.” He had considered weight-loss surgery, but his daughter fervently opposed it. 

Meanwhile, Eliot had found a new diet and weight-loss philosophy, and he implored David, then in his 50s, to join him in embracing it.

 

At one point, David Spiegel, right, could barely walk around the block—but today, he and his brother Eliot are addicted to gym workouts, biking, yoga and more. 

 

"It’s all about choices, and my choices today are completely different than they once were.” —David Spiegel

Finding a Solution 

The brothers’ initial weight-loss efforts had featured diet bars and shakes. “We had some success with it, but it wasn’t sustainable,” David says. “You have to learn how to live and eat in the real world.” 

Then, just as they were getting discouraged, Eliot came across the new diet, which was based on the work of British endocrinologist A.T.W. Simeons. It featured cycles of a highly restrictive calorie intake. 

“I tried it, and it began to work,” says David. “I would lose 20 to 30 lbs. in a cycle and then do another cycle down the road.” 

They continued to drop weight in inspiring amounts, refining the new diet as they did so and making it their own. During 40-day weight-loss cycles, adherents are limited to a stringent 550–650 calories a day. But David says the story is “more about what I eat than how much I eat.” While many diets push protein and make carbs the bad guy, their approach limits protein’s role. “I keep my proteins low and load up on veggies,”  he adds.

When not on the weight-loss cycle, the brothers don’t count calories but are still conscious of their food choices and portion sizes. They may increase their protein intake with a hard-boiled egg, grilled chicken or tuna, in addition to lots of vegetables, both cooked and raw. 

“It’s all about choices, and my choices today are completely different than they once were,” says David.

It Takes Work

David took out a membership at Retro Fitness in Paramus and started exercising, slowly at first. “In the first six months, I was 
lucky to get to the point where I would walk around the block occasionally,” he says. By month seven, he started walking on the treadmill—first once a week, then increasing that gradually. At about the 10-month mark, he embarked on a more ambitious program: working out five times a week, including three with a personal trainer. He remembers the first exercise the trainer instructed him to do: “He gave me an exercise ball and told me to sit down at the end of the bench and stand up, and I could barely do that.” 

He increased his workload to about 30 minutes of weights and machines and 20–30 minutes of cardio. By the 12-month mark, he was in the gym six days a week and signed up to walk 5K races once a month for six months. His wife bought him a gift certificate for personal training to extend his sessions. 

These days, David devises his own workout sessions, basically mimicking the trainer’s routines: His workouts generally consist of six stations (exercises), three sets each, with 12–20 reps in good form.

While David and Eliot don’t exercise together, they do cheer each other on. For his part, Eliot is extremely active—he does lots of biking. And he’s a yoga practitioner who’s training to be an instructor.

David’s results have gone beyond weight. “When I started this journey in June of 2013, I was on medications for hypertension, Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol,” he says. “Eighteen months later, after almost 20 years of being on meds, I was told by my doctor to toss them all. I have not had a problem since.” 

Having started out at a high point of 368 lbs., David slimmed down to 182 lbs. in about 18 months. Eliot, meanwhile, was so
inspired by his newfound health and the effectiveness of their program that he decided he and David should start a company: Why Weight? Transformation Centers. Both brothers now serve as “life coaches” for Why Weight?, helping others to lose weight and live healthier. For them, the goal is a whole new lifestyle, not just a lower weight.

Their program emphasizes periods of extreme calorie restriction and a focus on “real” foods rather than processed ones or special “diet” dishes. “Your body wants to store fat, but our program helps turn your body into a furnace to burn fat,” says Eliot. It also employs “bioresonance” technology that allows the life coaches to measure biomarkers, which indicate any physical levels that are out of the appropriate range, such as hydration level or metabolic age. And a solid support network is critical; clients are asked to be in daily contact with their coaches. 

“Our golden rule is ‘Staying connected and support,’” says Eliot. “After you reach your goal, if you stay connected, you can and will sustain your weight loss.” 

David relishes the opportunity to help transform the lives of others. “The high point for me is knowing that other people have looked at my progress and said, ‘I can do this too,’” he says.

For his part, Eliot fancies a quote he attributes to another motivator, life coach Tony Robbins: “Nothing tastes as good as feeling healthy feels.”

Note: BERGEN magazine does not endorse Why Weight? or any other diet or lifestyle program

Categories: Bergen Health & Life