Before: 285 pounds
After: 170 pounds
Occupation: Systems engineer
City: Washington, D.C.
Reached his goal in: 18 months
I immigrated to America in 2007 from Portugal, where overserving your family and friends at meals is a sign of hospitality. It's a delicious tradition—tons of breads, rice, wine, potatoes, and chorizo—but a dangerous one. I first saw trouble in my older brother; his excess weight led to bad blood circulation and severe varicose veins. Then I noticed the same veins showing up on my legs. My back was starting to ache. I was feeling more and more tired. Oh, no: I was becoming my brother!
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The Wake-Up Call
Although I was able to move to the United States, my wife had to stay in Portugal while her papers cleared. And as I set up a life here and waited for her, I thought about how she was coming here for me—and yet I was unhealthy and inactive. That's not what she deserved. To take care of her, I first needed to take care of myself. (Search: How do I get started losing weight?)
Changing my diet all at once seemed too intimidating, so I decided to do it in small steps. Soda was the first to go. After 2 months of drinking water instead, I lost more than 10 pounds. Next up: no carbs in the evening. Finally I changed my meals. Instead of rice and cheese, I ate lean protein and vegetables. After a dinner of protein like salmon or tuna with a huge side of steamed vegetables, my body told me it was happy. I felt full without having to eat a ton. No more gorging.
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I started doing cardio on the elliptical machine so I wouldn't have to pound my aching knees. I felt out of place at the gym, sure, but I powered through until I could go 45 minutes straight, 3 days a week.
Eventually I had enough confidence to lift weights, but I came to prefer bodyweight exercises like pull-ups, dips, pushups, and squats. Whether I'm in a gym or not, I'm at least able to do these moves—so I do them regularly. (Video: Get ripped at home with this living room workout.)
My wife still hasn't been allowed to immigrate to America. Although that's killing me, it has one upside: I've had the time to fully transform my body. I'm proud that she'll arrive to a new man, one whose extra weight will not jeopardize our future. And in the meantime, I traveled to Portugal and surprised all my loved ones. They had no idea I was losing weight.
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