‘People went out of their way to ignore me, as if being fat was contagious. Others used me as a lesson for their kids. ‘Look! This is what happens when you don’t eat right!’ I couldn’t find happiness, so food was my escape.’

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“I was overweight all of my life. As a kid, I remember shopping for school clothes in the husky section and trying to bulk up some muscles under my fat to make the sports teams. When the sports became more competitive, I could no longer qualify for them because of my weight.

Courtesy of Robert Treglia

As I got older, my eating habits never changed. In fact, they actually got worse. There was always a new item being spewed from fast food places that I wanted to try or some amazing new meal at my favorite restaurants.

I used food as a way to make me happy. I couldn’t find happiness in myself so food was my escape; it always made me feel better. Whenever I felt depressed about my appearance or felt ugly, that plate of pasta with meatballs and a side of garlic bread never judged me.

When I got married, I moved to a part of Pittsburg a mile off from several fast food chains. It became easy to make excuses for why I was eating the way I was. I’d say it was because I had a bad day and just wanted to eat and relax. Other times it was because I didn’t feel like cooking. To make matters worse, my desk job never required any movement. I would sit for hours on end, only getting up to eat and use the bathroom.

Courtesy of Robert Treglia

My weight got to the point where standing or walking short distances became painful. I couldn’t walk more than a few hundred feet without feeling like my lower back was on fire and being stabbed with a knife. The pain got so bad that even walking from my desk at work to the bathroom would severely hurt my back. I resorted to limiting my fluid intake so I didn’t have to urinate as frequently. I also began making excuses for why I couldn’t do certain things. My wife got used to my answer being no for everything.

When I went out in public, I stuck out like a sore thumb. I was over 600 pounds. People would go out of their way to avoid me, as if being overweight was a contagious disease. Those who stuck around would stare, which made me self-conscious about my body and clothing. I was the center of many jokes and the cause of roaring laughter. When kids would make brutally honest comments, their parents would chastise them in front of me. Others would use me to teach their kids a lesson. ‘Look at him. This is what happens when you don’t eat right.’ It was all very disparaging.

Courtesy of Robert Treglia

When I went out to eat, everyone paid close attention to what I ordered. If I ordered something healthy, I heard comments like, ‘Well I know he didn’t get the fat from that.’ If I ordered a burger and fries, I would hear, ‘Well no wonder he’s fat. Look what he’s ordering.’ It was a lose-lose situation. I developed anxiety due to the heap of comments about my weight and no longer felt comfortable in public. I became a closet eater.

I tried losing weight all the time. I used Weightwatchers, Atkins, and many low-fat diets, but they never worked out for me. I did lose 80 pounds on Weighwatchers, but it became too expensive to keep up with. I had already been paying extra for most things in life, including plus-size clothing and special furniture to hold my weight.

My next tactic was the internet. I read many stories online about people who had lost 100, sometimes 200, pounds. They were using a free app on their phone called MyFitnessPal. I decided to download it myself.

I’ll never forget driving home from work one day and realizing how badly I wanted fast food. I opened up MyFitnessPal and saw I only had enough calories for a healthy dinner. The entire trip home, I went back and forth in my mind about whether or not to get it. But my brain went on autopilot and I cruised right into the fast food parking lot. I sat there talking to myself about whether or not I wanted to do this. I sat there and cried because I wanted that burger and fries so badly. I felt like an addict who couldn’t get their fix.

Courtesy of Robert Treglia

Soon after, I started suffering from sleep apnea. I would wake up, irritable, with headaches due to the lack of sleep. When I got home from work, I would be tired and nap immediately. Then I would wake up and be too tired to cook, which resulted in me buying more fast food. It was a vicious circle.

I always sat at home and felt sorry for myself. I didn’t understand how I let myself get this way. I wanted to know why no one pulled me aside and said, ‘Rob, you really need to do something.’ I thought back to all of the times where I let my weight limit what I could do. My wife and I used to love going camping, but we never went anywhere anymore. The only time we explored was by car. Then the panic set in. Was I letting my weight ruin her life? Was I trapping her? Did she resent me for that? Did she still find me attractive or fun to be around?

Berating myself in my mind became a daily occurrence. I would tell myself that I was worthless or lazy. If I couldn’t love myself, then I couldn’t love others. And if I couldn’t love others, then why should I still exist? I knew I needed to do something. I had to get busy living or get busy dying. I was an addict with two choices: do something or do nothing. If I did nothing, I was going to die because of my health. I feared that my wife would find me dead of a heart attack in bed one morning. I didn’t want her to feel guilt. I wanted to get healthy so I could give her the life that she deserved.

I started my weight loss journey at the beginning of lent so I had an excuse for why I failed if I couldn’t make any progress beyond 40 days. But by the time those 40 days passed, however, I had already lost 50 pounds. During that time, I had to reteach myself what was and wasn’t healthy. I began tracking my meals daily. Every day, I continued to learn new things.

The first thing I learned was that you don’t have to be perfect at this. You just have to be consistent. I realized if I didn’t gain all of the weight overnight, then I wasn’t going to lose it all overnight either. You do not have to make extreme changes at once. Set small goals and let them snowball into larger ones. You can’t go from being completely sedentary to going to the gym five times a week. I started going twice a week, then three times a week. The harder I worked, the more days I committed to working out. Slowly but surely, the pounds started coming off.

I prepped healthy meals for myself everyday so I wouldn’t go out to eat.

Courtesy of Robert Treglia
Courtesy of Robert Treglia

If I wanted to eat out, I planned for it in advance. But sometimes life throws you a curveball you can’t meal prep for. When my colleagues spontaneously planned to go out for lunch, I had to learn to control myself. In the end, I realized that I didn’t just change my diet; I changed my lifestyle. I learned how to make healthy choices.

There is so much my wife and I can do now. We recently went to New Orleans, which was the best vacation I ever took. I bought a bike and am looking forward to bringing it with us when we go camping. We’ve walked around the city and tried all different kinds of foods. We went to Disneyland, where I walked over 35,000 steps in a single day. I fit into every single ride. None of this would have been possible if I hadn’t lost weight.

I even found old clothes with the tags still on that I had purchased when my wife and I first got married. When I tried them on, they were too big! It was the first time in my life I was glad for wasting money on something I couldn’t use.

Courtesy of Robert Treglia

At a work meeting, I noticed that my peers were all leaned back in their chairs with their legs crossed. I thought to myself, they all look comfortable. Let me try it. So I kicked my leg up and sat like everyone else. It was the first time in 20 years that I was able to cross my legs.

Today, I have lost nearly 400 pounds.

Courtesy of Robert Treglia

Through it all, my wife has been my biggest supporter. She often showed me videos of what other people were doing to lose weight to help me along my journey. She always commented about my weight loss and cheered me on for how well I was doing. She never judged me by what the scale said. She knew deep down that I was capable. Each day, she would help me prep healthy meals. She would even leave me little notes in my lunch bag to tell me how proud she was and how much she loved me. With her by my side, there was no way I couldn’t succeed.”

Courtesy of Robert Treglia

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Robert Treglia of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. You can follow his journey on Instagram here and Facebook here. Do you have a similar experience? Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories. 

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