Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Michael Ferrara is 46 and weighs 230 pounds. In 2014, after gradually gaining for many years, he was able to take control of his weight using a low-carb diet. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
My weight became an issue a few years after my family bought a pizzeria in 1983. Over the next few years, my weight started to balloon. After the store closed, I had a few low-activity jobs which compounded the problem. After being married in 1999, I continued to gain weight as fun times with my new wife led to “fun fat!”
There were a couple of different turning points that started my journey. The first was in 2014: I saw a picture of myself and was completely horrified about how I looked. I always took pride in my appearance and never noticed how terrible I looked because the weight gain was so gradual.
In addition, my brother lost around 75 pounds at the time that I was at my heaviest and he gave me a huge bag of his old clothes. I was always lighter than my brother all throughout our lives but I couldn’t even button those jeans he gave me! They were a size 40 and I was snug in a 48. The next day, I started my diet.
I tackled losing weight by being practical. I knew it wasn’t going to come off in five minutes, so I basically took it day by day. I decided to follow the Atkins diet, which is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat, and moderate-protein diet. One amazing thing about the Atkins diet is that you really don’t have to exercise, which was good because, at 300 pounds, there wasn’t much I could do. I chose Atkins in the first place because being a chauffeur, my schedule is pretty much all over the place. I do not have set hours, which makes it hard to plan meals ahead of time. Atkins afforded me the luxury of being able to eat on the road as long as I avoid carbs or sugars. In a pinch, I could still go to a fast food restaurant for burgers and eat them without the buns, or go to a pizzeria for a sausage and peppers platter—with mozzarella but no sauce. It really opened me up to many different opportunities so I wouldn’t get bored eating the same things over and over.
After the first month, I started to feel energized! I had never had so much energy before. I dropped around 12 pounds that first month. That made me feel incredible because I now wanted to go out for walks — something I had no interest in before. As the months progressed and people started to notice I was losing weight, it was another incredible motivator.
Plus, I’m a clothes horse and love to dress nicely. My “fat” clothes were literally hanging off my body and when I went to the bag with my brother’s smaller jeans, they fit! I don’t know if I can put into words how that felt. Seven months after starting Atkins, I went from a size 48 to a 40! At this point, giving up wasn’t an option.
After hitting 70 pounds lost, I felt unstoppable. Physically, I was walking more and doing more activities with my kids. Even on days where I am very active, nothing hurts anymore. When I was at my heaviest, if I went for a short walk, my knees and back would kill me. In April of 2015, I did a “Color Run” with my family at Citi Field and without realizing it, did a 5k! Never in my life would I have thought I could do that. Now we are planning more 5ks to do as a family.
Before starting my journey, there were days where I was unhappy because of my weight. In fact, I was giving more work to my drivers because I was embarrassed about how I looked. No one knew that except me. Today, I look forward to going to work because I don’t feel like I look terrible; my confidence is sky high.
I think the only surprise is how quickly the weight came off. My ritual would be to weigh myself once a week to track my progress. The first few weeks felt like hitting the lotto. Three pounds one week, five pounds the next — it was all happening so quickly. Once it stabilized, the weight came off slower, but I was still losing consistently.
I try to go for walks 3 to 4 times a week. I never would have done that before. I also park my car the farthest I can from a store or mall just so I can get in more walking. I take the stairs instead of the elevator. I’ve also become more cognizant of what I’m eating and listen to my body. There are plenty of times I’ll just have a salad or an Atkins meal bar for dinner because I’m not that hungry. I also drink at least 2 liters of water a day.
Today, I make sure to think about what I’m going to eat ahead of time. If I’m going to be in the car for 10-11 hours, I make sure to take a couple of meal bars in case there isn’t a healthy choice for meals where I’m going.
My progress really motivates me. Now when I step on the scale, it doesn’t shoot up to 300 pounds. To further motivate myself, I’ll go out and purposely buy a shirt that I like which is a size smaller, to give me a goal to aim for. I love when people compliment me on how much weight I’ve lost. It makes me extremely proud.
Even after two years, there are still days when I emotionally feel fat and want to eat. Being Italian, I really miss eating pizza, pasta, cannoli, and New York bagels. What motivates me not to eat an entire pizza is when I see pictures of myself from two plus years ago. I vow that I will never look like that again.
I’ve done numerous diets before, but since I wasn’t mentally ready, I always failed. Keep in mind that Babe Ruth struck out more than 1,300 times on the way to hitting 714 home runs. Never believe that you’re too old to lose weight or change your lifestyle. I was one of those people who always saw other people losing weight and never thought I could do it. But I found a diet that works for me and so can you!
Need more inspiration? Read about our other weight-loss winners!
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