Before: 245 pounds
After: 191 pounds
To say that John Fenyes, 41, ate unhealthy foods as a child would be a bit of an understatement. Raised by a single dad, he and his siblings would typically eat dinners of frozen burritos while standing up in the kitchen. “My dad could burn water, so freezer food was the crust of our existence,” says John. Feasting on packaged foods, ramen, and cheese, John didn’t learn how to cook well until he entered culinary school as an adult. But even then, he continued to gain weight from all the snacking he did while preparing meals. By the time he was 40 years old, John weighed 245 pounds.
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The Turning Point
Last April, John was watching TV with his three children when the subject of man boobs—“moobs” —came up on the show. “My kids turned to me and said, ‘Hey Dad, that’s just like you. You have moobs,” recalls John, now a stay-at-home dad. “It hit me that my kids saw me a certain way, and that I needed to do something.”
John had tried a number of diets throughout his life, but this time, instead of saying that he’d begin his diet “next month” and then gorging in anticipation of months of deprivation, he cleaned up his act immediately. He planned his meals and tracked how many calories he consumed every day. “I always know how much I’m putting into my body now,” he says. A typical breakfast consists of a Bagel Thin with egg white substitute, some Laughing Cow cheese, mustard and a slice of lunchmeat—which all clocks in at 300 calories. He has ditched the all-or-nothing attitude he had toward food. Instead of feeling the need to either cut out pizza entirely or indulge in the whole pie, he’ll nibble a few bites of his kids’ slices to satisfy a craving.
Video: The best food you're not eating
After John had lost about 15 pounds, he started doing some cardio. The elliptical machine in his bedroom used to serve as a nice clothes hanger, so John and his wife traded it in for something he’d actually use—a stationary bike. “I love it,” says John, who likes to pedal while watching TV. “I can be mindless on it. I’ll be sweating all over the place and later not even remember doing it.”
John’s kids helped him kick off his weight loss journey, and they still motivate him to stay fit. “Ninety percent of what I do for myself I do because of my kids. It sort of became my mantra: If it’s important enough to affect my kids, then it’s important enough for me.”
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It helped that John got compliments from other families, too. He had started making changes in his diet right before the school year ended, and when fall rolled around he was 40 pounds lighter. “We went on vacation and didn’t see anyone from school, and then when we went back, people were shocked. The accolades pushed me to want to do more,” says John, who’s now lost 54 pounds.
While his wife says she loves him no matter what his size, John knows that she enjoys the newer, fitter him. “For her, what’s really important is that I’m much happier about myself, but I can tell that her arms go around me more often.
“I feel like I’m 20 years old. When you look in the mirror, it’s a lot harder to swallow when you’re 40 and fat. In my mind, I would see myself as charismatic and 20 years old with a lot of friends, but then I’d look in the mirror and be disappointed. Now I’m not disappointed anymore,” John says.
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Don’t feel sorry for yourself. “It’s not a diet, it’s a life change.”
Don’t deprive yourself. “If you want cake, you can eat it. Just make it fit in your calorie range.”
Next up: We lost over 100 pounds—each!