Change isn’t easy. Whether it’s moving across the country, changing careers or creating a new healthy habit, sometimes it takes a little (or big) nudge in the right direction to get started.
For 53-year-old Rick Monita from St. Paul, Minnesota, this nudge came in the form of a pivotal doctor’s appointment, where he was diagnosed with several health issues directly correlated to his weight. Unfortunately, the diagnosis made sense to him; he would get winded and have trouble breathing just walking up a flight of stairs or walking short distances.
“At the doctor, I learned my weight was at 389. They did tests, and my blood pressure was through the roof,” says Monita. “I was prediabetic; I had a slightly enlarged heart and severe sleep apnea — that finally was the trigger. I said I have to do something or else I probably will die soon.”
Monita had battled weight issues his entire life, and when his sister died in July 2011, he turned to alcohol and food as a coping mechanism to deal with his severe depression. Eating fast food for lunch and dinner daily, he quickly put on an additional 100 pounds.
“To be honest, I didn’t really care about life, and I probably had thoughts of suicide,” he says. “There were a lot of things going through my mind, but after a while, I finally started thinking, ‘is this what I really want?’ After that doctor’s appointment … that’s when I decided to try to do something and to be around for my young nieces and nephews and my family.”
Although he qualified for gastric bypass surgery and weight-loss medication, Monita set out to try to lose weight naturally. His doctor referred him to a local dietitian, who started by recommending certain healthy protein, carbs and fats. For someone unfamiliar with healthy eating, this meant Monita had to break old habits and give up his favorite sugary drinks and processed foods.
“She gave me meal prep ideas, and I did that religiously on Sundays,” he recalls. “I tried to cut out as many carbs as possible — breads and butters were a real downfall for me. I was also big on soda pop; I drank a lot of sugar. I started reading nutritional facts on food and realized how much sugar was in stuff. I pretty much quit eating processed food. Two years later, I don’t even crave pop, and I can’t remember the last time I had it.”
Accountability was a significant driving force in Monita’s journey. He had weekly check-ins with his dietitian, which drove him to show up to each appointment having hit certain goals. To further this accountability and make it easier to make healthy choices, his dietitian recommended he start using MyFitnessPal.
“Initially, I started using MyFitnessPal to punch in my lunches, but then I started using it for my meal planning,” he says. “I’d plan my week’s meals, and that became my healthy shopping list for the grocery store. It helps that everything is in there for you. You type something in, and it saves so much work.“
With a solid dietary foundation for the first time in his life, the pounds started falling off. And, surprisingly, Monita didn’t visit a gym one single time during his journey — most of his exercise came from walking. Every day, like clockwork, he’d walk before work, squeeze in a walk during lunch and even walk in the evenings after he got home.
It wasn’t all smooth sailing, though. After a bad back injury and the challenge of transitioning to a home office during the COVID-19 pandemic, his habits were thrown off and he saw his weight begin to creep back up. This was another pivotal moment for him. He refocused and set new goals to stay motivated and on track.
Today, Monita has reached his goal of losing 215 pounds, weighing in at 174 pounds, and has a better self body image and outlook on life than ever before. He now wears a size large shirt and has a 34-inch waist, which is a huge departure from the 4XL shirts and 54-inch waist he once owned. Seeing his transformation in the mirror is motivation to not become complacent and slide backward, but to continue working hard to stay where he is.
“My life is so different now, and it’s not something I’m ashamed of, it’s part of the story,” he says. “I don’t use my CPAP machine, my blood pressure is excellent and I’m not prediabetic. Everything is good.”
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