Rich Vittoria’s weight scared him—and his family. Now he’s 120 pounds lighter and teaching others how to take control of their weight
Vitals: Rich Vittoria, 32, Buffalo, New York
Occupation: Fourth-grade Teacher
Time to Goal: 13 months
The Setback My fourth-grade students never gave me apples. They knew what I liked: cupcakes, brownies, and cookies. Those snacks were a great perk to the job, but then I met a better one: my future wife, Sarah, whose classroom was across the hall. She’s an apple-loving girl, and when I asked her to marry me, I resolved to be a good-looking groom. So I dropped nearly 50 pounds. But I slipped up after our wedding, and my bingeing grew worse after our sons were born. With virtually no free time (and a lazy attitude), I ate things like pizza and peanut butter candy, and ballooned to nearly 300 pounds.
The Wake-Up Call Forget being able to play with my sons—I was afraid I wouldn’t even see them grow up. My blood pressure skyrocketed to 157/100, and my doctor put me on medication. Then I was diagnosed with sleep apnea, which forced me to sleep with a mask connected to a machine that blew air into my windpipe to keep it open. The first time I wore it, my 3-year-old son was afraid to say good night to me. That’s when I realized it was time to lose the weight for good. Labor Day 2008 was the first day of my new life.
The Food I started by paring down my plate. I measured my food and learned that my “normal” portions (like a half pound of pasta) were anything but. I don’t eat out as much anymore, but when I do, I look at nutrition info online and decide beforehand what I’ll eat. I’m also the family cook, and I load our meals with vegetable sides. Instead of buying lunch at work, I pack one, like tuna on a wrap plus some celery and peanut butter. I still have my sweet tooth, but that’s okay: If you deprive yourself of desserts entirely, you’ll go insane. I just keep the portion sizes small.
The Fitness The day I started exercising, I set out to run a mile—and made it past about six houses. But I wasn’t discouraged. I just tried to run a little farther each time. Now I run 3 miles a day. As my stamina increased, I started weight training, doing exercises like forward lunges and squats. I also work my core by doing side planks for as long as I can hold them. Most important, I never skip a workout. Since I don’t play hooky from work, I figure there’s no reason to play hooky from exercising.
The Reward My sleep apnea and snoring have disappeared, and I no longer need the machine. In a little over a year, I shed 14 inches from my waist. Finally, I look and feel like the professional teacher I am. But even better than that, I’m instilling healthy values in those around me. Every day after my workout, my 4-year-old asks about my run. And now my students bring carrots and other healthful food for their snacks. As these kids grow up, I know they’ll think fitness and healthy eating are as essential to their school day as doing homework or attending class. It’s the best lesson I’ve ever taught them.