Charlie Alfonso Jr., 54, Tampa
Starting weight: 287
Current weight: 237
Why I did it: My high blood pressure was my main concern. When they weighed me and I was 287, I said to myself, "How did I let myself go like this?" My wife, she encouraged me. She started a no-carbohydrate and protein diet and I started with her, about eight months ago. I started, but kept slipping. I didn't get serious. Then I decided to go two weeks and eat only small portions of food. It allowed my stomach to shrink somewhat. So when I eat now, it wouldn't take that much to fulfill my needs.
How I did it: I decided that after I started eating the small portions, I would start cutting things, like not eating dairy or white bread. I also don't eat after 7 p.m. and I stay away from bread because it has a lot of carbs. I'll have my meat portion, about 6 oz. a day. I kept doing this until I started noticing a difference.
Every two weeks, I'll have just one combination meal of all the things that are "bad" for you because your body does need it. You can't starve yourself. You need balanced nutrition. I keep repeating the same program. It keeps me going. I've seen the progress I made. It makes me want to keep doing it.
I now use a lot of my knowledge as a butcher (at Whaley's Market in South Tampa) to do this. You want to eliminate all the bad fat, although it eliminates a lot of the flavor. But you can flavor it, and it still can be good for you. The fatty tissues, you want to cut away.
Before, I wasn't paying attention to nutrition for myself. I loved the full flavor of food; I'm in the meat business. I just enjoy a good steak. Now I eat about 6 ounces of meat. Before, I would eat 12 ounces to 16 ounces of meat. It's a big difference.
But a lot of my customers want a lean meat, so I said to myself, "Why not? I'm serving them lean meat, why don't I pay attention to what I'm doing for them?" I should take that advice. I appreciate the meat in a different way. I know it's healthier for me now. I miss that flavor but you can spice it up in a safe way.
Also, a no-carb diet was easier for me because I really love meats, and it's got a lot of protein.
Hurdles: The biggest hurdle was getting started. That's the hardest part. About every two weeks I check the scale to keep up with my progress. The hardest thing is that you're older and it's harder to do things. I used to be an athlete in high school and hurt my knee. When you get older and you have that excess weight, the injuries hurt. I can't stand the pain in my knee. I'm not completely there yet. And I'm still on blood pressure medication.
Oh, and I quit drinking beer. I drink a lot of wine now. I choose wine more than beer now because beer is high in carbs. That's how I probably lost most of my weight because I used to love my beer on weekends and on my day off. Now I have a couple of nice glasses of wine instead of the high-carb beers. I'll still have one occasionally.
Going the distance: My wife and I ride our bicycles a lot. It's really good for you. I love it. I try to exercise as much as I can. I do arm curls at work. I have a free-weight bench. I'm trying to tighten up a bit in all the areas.
My mother-in-law, I don't see her too often, so when she comes over and says, "Charlie, you're still losing weight," I say, "Yeah, I'm trying." It's a major boost because it gives you the encouragement and the confidence to keep going. My wife who also has lost 60 lbs. is a nice support for me. She's not that hard on me, she sees that I want to do it for myself.
And my doctor says my progress is helping my blood pressure. He says when I'm down to 185 pounds, I can stop taking the blood pressure medication. That's a goal I want to complete. I don't like taking pills.
Best advice: Keep on taking care of yourself. It's discipline you need. Losing weight is one of the hardest things you can do. And stay on your schedule. If you say, "I'll do it tomorrow," it's not going to happen.