Our goal in creating the Lifespan Fitness blog was to interact with both current and future customers, as well as the fitness community at large providing information to help inspire, inform and transform your health and well-being! Whilst we frequently update the blog with healthy recipes, nutrition recommendations and exercise regimes we have an incredibly inspirational, exclusive interview with firefighter ‘Sal Fucito’, whom has lost 100 pounds in 16 weeks. ‘Impossible’ is not a word you’ll find in his dictionary.
How much did you weigh and what instigated change?
I’d been over 300 pounds for more years than I’d dare remember. At 400 pounds, I definitely felt hopeless. I was now classified, ‘morbidly obese’ and in my mind, nothing could be done to resurrect that title. After many years of not being able to live a normal life, unable to care for myself and frequently becoming sick I’d had enough.
At 41 years old, with three children aged 16, 10 and under 1, I was 390 pounds and a professional firefighter. Frustrated and embarrassed unable to complete basic tasks: shower all the important parts, including my feet, clipping my toenails, tying my shoes and I even broke the household toilet seat. I faced numerous potential dangers including strokes, heart attacks, kidney disease and diabetes. I felt uncomfortable coaching my son in football, running and throwing to help my eldest daughter practice softball. I was a slob.
Had you tried to lose weight in the past?
I needed to lose weight. I knew that was the one certainty. Believe me I’d tried it in the past, numerous times! And guess how many times what I tried actually worked? NONE! So what was I going to do different this time? All the questions we ask ourselves to convince ourselves it’s too hard, it’s not worth it, it will not work were circulating in my mind. Losing masses of weight isn’t easy work, it isn’t for the fainthearted – but I wasn’t going to break a promise I’d made to myself this time.
What didn’t work?
I’d tried the eat-less, exercise-more philosophy. I’d tried training like I did when I was a high school wrestler, college football player or powerlifter. I grew up in shape, and I was sure I’d be able to do it on my own. And that very thought process, folks, was A RECIPE FOR FAILURE! I had to do something different this time if I truly wanted to lose weight.
What was the key to your success?
I sought professional help from a metabolic weight loss doctor. Someone that could teach me the ins and outs of weight loss of this magnitude. Everything I knew about nutrition was a myth.
“The majority of the nutrition advice we receive is wrong or incomplete”
The whole eat-less, exercise more notion does not work for the obese. Tell us not to eat and we quit before we even begin. We love our food, that’s one of the reasons we gain so much weight.
What I learned was that diet is 80% of fat burning process; in saying that it IS the most important part of losing weight. Not exercise. One pound roughly equates to 3500 calories. A friend of mine once told me, in theory if you eliminate just one Snickers bar and one Diet Coke a day from your diet you would drop one pound in a week.
Obviously the weight loss journey is more than simply eliminating one snickers bar and one diet coke a day, but that’s as simple as the weight loss equation gets. I had to learn how to burn through fat. Upon eating more healthily I immediately felt better, I was fueling my body for optimum performance.
What about the exercising portion of the equation?
Considering diet is 80% that leaves the remaining 20% exercise. This wasn’t particularly great news, sitting on the couch at near 400 pounds, the bare thought of exercising led to a strained back or hamstring tear. What I quickly learned, is that I was not as limited by my fatness as I thought I was. That same friend that told me about the Snickers and Diet Coke, also told me that all I needed to do was to begin walking at a pace which did not require me to pant. If I started to, slow down. I didn’t get fat overnight, and losing that weight wasn’t going to happen over night – consistent effort = big change!
My first 50 pounds were lost simply walking 30-60 minutes a day for 4-6 days a week. I began slow, avoiding panting at all costs. When I initially started, it took me an hour to walk less than a mile and a half. 5 months down the track, I’d participated with my daughter in a 5k able to complete it in 43 minutes. With time and steady application, you will get better, as will your intensity as you lose more weight. Once I’d passed 50 pounds, I hired a personal trainer to teach me functional resistance training; showing me how to use my body more effectively.
How did you correct the mindset which previously led to your failure?
The change I was making in my eating and exercising habits needed to become a habit. If I saw them as a chore, I’d eventually revert to what I’d previously done and continue to gain weight. They needed to become as important as life itself, as important as waking in the morning, that was how I maintained my enthusiasm. Don’t be mistaken, each meal and training session definitely wasn’t a walk in the park – but once you want to achieve your goal bad enough, it makes it a lot easier to get back on track after a hurdle. My transformation has become a way of life now, if I alter my routine I just don’t feel right.
Was there anything else you attribute your weight loss to?
Finally, the last step to successful weight loss is sleep. As most of us that are obese know, our sleep is terrible. Many of us have sleep apnea, and keep our partners awake with snoring or fear that we may stop breathing. Whilst we lay in bed 6-8 hours a night, we awake entirely exhausted. Once I committed to living a healthier lifestyle, I knew I had to improve my sleep quality. When I am not at the firehouse, I get 6-8 quality hours of sleep each night. Even on bad nights at the firehouse, I still have more energy than I ever did when I awake. I start my day anywhere between 4:30am on work days and 8:00am on my off days. I’m in bed most nights between 9:30pm-10:30pm and feel more awake, alert and energized than ever.
What changes did you make to your diet?
With the new “diet” (a term I used loosely) I eat foods I enjoy. I’ve learned what foods my body best responds to. The basic guidelines I follow from my doctors advice:
Once the weight loss has begun:
I avoided all grains, oats, wheats, rice and starchy carbs as they will limit your progress. I have added those back into my diet now, after losing 120 pounds, and I do it in moderation, maybe 2-3 times a month. The grains I do have are whole wheat or gluten free.
I swear by 3 meals a day. I limit my snacks to a maximum of once a day, closer to lunch. Whilst many recommended six meals a day, when you are obese eating more meals each day causes you to overeat and become more hungry. We aren’t bodybuilders. I have a protein shake after my training and in conjunction with a meal.
Through my research, what works best for me is a large breakfast, decent size lunch and smaller dinner. Contrary to popular opinion, I try to get most of my carbs in during dinner as I train early in the morning. You need to experiment here to find what works best for your body. Just because it works for me does not mean it will work for you.
The last dietary guideline I’d like to suggest had to do with sugar. Personally, I view sugar as a poison to my body and try to avoid added sugars, with the majority of my intake from fruit and vegetables. A rule of thumb my dietician gave me is: If it has less than 23g sugar in a 100g serving it is fine.
This is helpful in that it maintains your motivation and ensures you don’t limit yourself to broccoli and chicken each day.
Thanks for the insight Sal, any closing words?
I followed these guidelines religiously for 6 straight weeks and lost 100 pounds. Since then, I have allowed myself to have “cheat” meals. I am down about 120 pounds in just over 6 months and feel healthier than ever, even more so than when I was a college football player. If you relapse, it’s okay – everyone does and it’s not the end of the world. Tomorrow is a new day, a new chance to make progress. Remember, we didn’t become unhealthy in one day, so one poor day will not effect your results drastically.
I highly recommend seeking advice from a dietician to help locate your specific needs right away. My body is entirely different from yours, it’s all about testing what works. They will be able to tell you how many calories, as well as grams of protein and carbohydrates to eat each day. I’m no dietician, I know what works for my body, however.
Thank you for taking the time to read what worked for me. Remember that there are no failures, just quitters. Give yourself a break, you will get there one step, one meal, one day at a time.
To follow Sal’s progress, check out his Facebook