Weight-Loss Win is an original Yahoo series that shares the inspiring stories of people who have shed pounds healthfully.
Sal Paradiso is 35, 6 feet tall, and currently weighs 286 pounds. In 2014, with his weight climbing toward 700 pounds, he realized he needed to make a major change to save his life. This is the story of his weight-loss journey.
The Turning Point
My weight became an issue in my teenage years. During my senior year of high school, I lost my father suddenly to a heart attack right before Christmas. From then on, year after year until the end of 2013, the weight piled on. When I started my weight loss odyssey in 2014, I couldn’t find a scale to accurately weigh myself, but doctors estimated I was over 700 pounds. It wasn’t until a few months into my weight loss that I found a scale to weigh myself during an outpatient procedure. The scale showed I was 688 pounds.
I realized that if I didn’t change, I was headed down a road towards a certain death. I took a long hard look in the mirror late in 2013, and saw no future ahead. I knew that if I wanted to live, I had to make drastic and long-lasting changes. Everything I did was a struggle. I had finally reached my breaking point and wanted to live again, rather than just survive. I woke up one day, and I surrendered. It was that day I decided to focus on me and make the changes I needed so that I could live.
I started with a low-carb, high-protein diet on the advice of my doctor. I cut out all the junk food, sodas, and juices. I started tracking my calories, whereas before I was eating blindly. I incorporated more vegetables and fruit into my diet. I was eating more lean proteins as well. I lost 254 pounds on my own with this diet and have continued to lose with the help of weight-loss surgery that I had in July 2016. I’ve now lost 401 pounds to date.
Early on, exercise was extremely difficult since I was going from living a sedentary lifestyle. I was able to use my family swimming pool to start moving more and getting some form of exercise. Little by little, I increased the time I was able to spend in the pool. As things progressed, I added some free-weight exercises to my routine. I also now enjoy riding a bike to help continue building up my leg strength.
Making these changes was hard. There was a lot of pain physically and mentally. My body was moving more than it had in years, and that brought about a lot of soreness and joint pain. Obesity is very isolating. That made working out with friends more or less impossible. All of my close friends live out of my local area.
Mentally, my body was craving my old habits. Foods that I had enjoyed for years were no longer available for me. I tried my hardest to not cave into the cravings, because I was afraid of reverting back into old habits. For motivation, I turned to my family and friends. They pushed me week after week as I posted my weight-loss results online. Lots of them chimed in with motivational comments, and that helped lift my spirits.
I had made a promise to my family and myself that this time would be different for my weight loss. I promised them I would not give up and fail like I had so many times before. This was most likely my final shot at survival. I promised my deceased father that I would work as hard as I could to change my life and make him proud of me. He’s been my driving force in conquering my weight. While he will always be the reason I’ve continued to succeed, I now have an additional motivation: my 3-month-old nephew, Phillip. Another reason for not giving up: I want a family of my own and being 700 pounds made that impossible for me.
Losing the weight has made me feel freer. My obesity essentially forced me into house arrest, confined to the four walls of my home. Now I can walk about more freely. Physically, the pain is still there. The excess weight did a lot of damage to my knees, and I will eventually have them replaced.
Society also treats you very differently. People seem more likely to talk to me. I find myself enjoying life more now too. I look for things to do to stay busy, rather than just sitting around doing nothing, and I look forward to doing much, much more in the near future.
My eating continues to be low-carb, high-protein, and around 1,200 calories daily. As my body and excess skin allow, I continue to do as much exercise as I can. Ultimately, because the skin presents its issues, I can’t do as much as I would like. I still continue to make progress every day in getting healthier and stronger.
I take time to plan out my meals so that I stay on course and don’t regain. I also browse the Web to look for healthier alternatives to foods that I may crave and search for foods that fit my low-carb lifestyle. Doing this research allows me to make sure I am getting proper nutrition and staying within the guidelines the doctors and I have set for me.
My motivation comes from the people I interact with daily, both in person and through my social media accounts. People have found inspiration for themselves in seeing what I’ve accomplished, and their messages of gratitude are humbling and fuel me to keep going.
Life after weight loss has presented challenges. While I love the progress that I’ve made, the 65 to 80 pounds of excess skin I deal with daily is extremely difficult. I’ve been battling rashes and skin irritation from the excess skin. I have to be cautious to not overdo it so that the skin irritation doesn’t flare up. The skin makes me off-balance because of how it moves about. It’s a daily battle of keeping the skin dry, clean, and moisturized.
I’ve become more self-conscious than I’ve ever been. There’s so much loose skin to deal with, and with that I’m afraid of dating and how people will perceive me without a shirt on. Ultimately I’d like to have it removed, but my insurance carrier doesn’t cover it. I’ve turned to GoFundMe to help raise the funds needed. With so much skin, most of my skin removal procedures would need to be done in the hospital, therefore increasing the costs. Emotionally, the excess skin can be a drain. It’s hard at times to look in the mirror and see this deflated balloon looking back at you.
Surround yourself with people who truly care about you and want to see you succeed. Remember that this journey is about YOU! Remember that you didn’t get that way overnight, and that it will take time to lose. I’ve been at this for 39-plus months.
Look deep within you to see what ignites that fire inside you, and use that as your daily motivation. Look to people on social media and Facebook groups going through what you’re going through. For me it was my deceased father that got me started; now that smile my nephew gives me every day also keeps me going. Make small changes at first, remove sodas, juice, etc., and drink more water. I eat foods now that years ago I would’ve laughed at, but I’ve come to enjoy them now. You have it within you to succeed!
All images courtesy of Sal Paradiso.
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