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How a doctor’s warning inspired one man to lose 236 pounds: 'I knew I had to take drastic action'

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Wellness Wins is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.

Salvador Rios is 5’10” tall and currently weighs 164 pounds. In 2018, after his doctor warned him about health issues he would suffer if he didn’t lose weight, he made lifestyle changes and then had weight loss surgery in order to live a healthier life. This is his story, as told to Yahoo Lifestyle.

The Turning Point

For as long as I can remember, I was the chubby guy. I had the same issues as most overweight kids: teasing and body shaming by others my age and by adults, who thought they were being funny. I got used to it, so over the years it didn’t bother me too much. But I remember one moment where my weight really became an issue, and it crushed my soul. I went to a theme park and I was too large to fit in the seat. The attendants tried hard to shove me into the restraints, pushing my stomach, using their body weight to bring down the bar, but the bar wouldn’t lock. I was in pain both physically and emotionally, and ultimately, I had to stand up, gather my things and walk off the ride in shame.

Over the years, I tried almost every diet program I could get my hands on. Some worked, but every time I lost weight it would only stay off for a few months before returning and increasing more than when I had started. I yo-yoed for many years and, along with the weight gain, came depression. I had horrible sleep apnea. I was on several medications for cholesterol and depression, and I started to notice that all of it was affecting my job.

In early 2018, my doctor told me I was pre-diabetic and was on the verge of even worse health issues if I didn’t do something major to course-correct. I knew I had to take drastic action. Enough was enough. After having researched weight-loss surgery in the past, I knew it was my only lifeline.

Salvador Rios before his weight-loss journey. (Photo: Salvador Rios)
Salvador Rios before his weight-loss journey. (Photo: Salvador Rios)

The Changes

One thing I learned was that you don’t just walk into a weight-loss surgery clinic and are done with it. There’s a process that needs to happen months before to be mentally, emotionally, and physically prepared for the surgery and for what’s to come post-op.

I was told I needed to drop some weight before the surgery to minimize complications. So I shifted my eating habits by jumping on the keto diet bandwagon again. I ate low carb foods, roasted veggies, and proteins — delicious steak, chicken, turkey, fish — and didn’t have to worry about counting calories. I cut out all sugar and starches and only drank water or unsweetened tea.

On the third week, I shifted over to intermittent fasting. I ate within an 8-hour window and fasted for 16 hours (except for water or bone broth). To stay motivated, I kept an old, full body photo of myself as a reminder that I never wanted to be that person again. Any time I felt a craving or a temptation to cheat, I pulled up that photo. It helped more than I realized it would.

For exercise, I first started by walking one block, and then each day after I increased the distance. By the end of the first month, I averaged 4 miles a day.

With the combination of keto, intermittent fasting and daily walks, I lost 40 pounds in one month. These changes allowed me to have gastric bypass surgery, which helped me continue my weight-loss journey.

Rios before and after losing 236 pounds through the keto diet, intermittent fasting, and gastric bypass surgery. (Photo: Salvador Rios)
Rios before and after losing 236 pounds through the keto diet, intermittent fasting, and gastric bypass surgery. (Photo: Salvador Rios)

The After

Losing the weight has been life-changing. The fact that I don’t have anxiety about going to restaurants or sitting on folding chairs or flimsy furniture have made a huge impact on my confidence. I don’t have to look for specialty “Big and Tall” clothing stores to find things in my size. I can walk into any clothing store and pick things off the rack — something most everyone takes for granted. I’m noticing that my style has changed, too. I’m not just buying standard flannel patterned button-down shirts. I’m more confident wearing brighter, solid colors and form-fitting clothes.

My weight loss has also given me such a huge boost in confidence that I’ve decided to pursue other passions in my life, such as improv and acting.

The Maintenance

I have to be mindful as to what I eat [after gastric bypass surgery]. My portions have to be very small and there are certain things that my body doesn’t agree with anymore, like steak or some processed meats. When I’m eating out with people I try to stick with soups, which are almost always a safe bet for me. My exercise still consists of walking most days.

I begin every morning with a little meditation to stay focused and in a positive state of mind. Then I have a healthy protein shake and coffee for breakfast, along with a daily multivitamin that is made specifically for bariatric patients.

Rios, after his weight-loss journey, says it's been "life-changing." (Photo: Salvador Rios)
Rios, after his weight-loss journey, says it's been "life-changing." (Photo: Salvador Rios)

The Struggles

There are two big things I struggle with today. One is the fear of telling people I’ve had gastric bypass surgery. It’s tough to be open and honest about my journey and have someone say, “But you had surgery for weight loss.” It makes you feel judged as “less than” someone who lost weight without surgery. It’s almost as if, in other people’s eyes, surgery discounts the struggle or effort put in to lose weight in general. It’s usually said by people who have never been on the extreme end of weight gain or weight loss, and it’s hurtful. These people have no idea that, regardless of the method, losing major amounts of weight takes a major toll on you emotionally and physically. Having surgery is not an easy way out. For some, it’s the last resort and the only way out for life-long results.

I also struggle with moments of low self-esteem. Sometimes I still feel like I’m not good enough to be successful in my pursuits. It’s how I felt when I weighed 400+ pounds, and even though the weight is no longer a roadblock, the old mentality is tough to shake sometimes. The great thing is that my morning meditations have helped steer me back on track when I need it.


My best advice for anyone wanting to lose weight is to do your research: Look at all your options and educate yourself as much as possible along the way. Talk to your doctor, pick up a few books, seek out weight loss forums and don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you’ve tried it all and feel surgery is right for you, then do your research on procedures and doctors. Regardless of the method, weight loss has a heck of a lot to do with mental fortitude. You might stumble along the way, but don’t let a stumble derail you.

When you feel you’re on the verge of giving up, know that you are stronger than you think and you are worthy of success. Be kind to yourself, love yourself, get back up and keep going.

Follow more of Sal’s journey on Instagram and Twitter @TheSalvadorRios.

Need more inspiration? Read about our other wellness winners!

Wellness Wins is authored by Andie Mitchell, who underwent a transformative, 135-pound weight loss of her own.

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