A chiropractor and author who has twice fought his way back from obesity, Dr. Joseph Leonardi of Pittston doesn’t pull any punches.
“I screwed up,” he said, explaining he can’t blame anyone else for the times he looked to food for comfort and the way he became “disgustingly, morbidly obese.”
At his heaviest, Leonardi couldn’t climb a flight of stairs without stopping to catch his breath, and he had to wear loafers or pre-tie his shoes because he couldn’t bend over to reach the laces if they were on his feet.
It was his own fault, he said, using the words “glutton” and “sloth” to define his old patterns of overeating and avoiding exercise, which he describes as “deadly sins.”
Starting from a numerically high/emotionally low point of 340 pounds in March 2008, Leonardi, now 49, took responsibility for working his way back to fitness. He’s written two books, “Obesity Undone” and “Sometimes The Bastard Returns, A True Life Account of Obesity Relapse” to encourage other people to get in shape as well.
He expects some readers may be angered by his opinion that, with the exception of a few individuals who have underlying medical conditions, most obese people are in that state because they haven’t worked hard enough to be fit.
“Ouch. I just felt a stabbing pain in my right arm. OK, which one of you has had a voodoo doll of me made up already?” he wrote in the second book.
But it’s important to be “not only candid but brutally forthright” because, he said, “Let’s face it. Obesity is killing us.”
To anyone facing the same battle he faces, Leonardi offers hope. He says it’s not inevitable that people will gain weight as they get older, that fitness is attainable and that weight loss is a result of fitness, along with increased mental clarity and physical energy.
Losing excess fat reduces strain on the body, he said, and even benefits the wallet. After he lost 100 pounds, he noted, the gas tank in his car needed less frequent refills.
Eager to share the getting-in-shape strategies that helped him, Leonardi advises:
• Exercise seven days a week. It doesn’t have to be “fun.”
• Get on the scale every day, too, to hold yourself accountable.
• Keep your diet “as simple as possible. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store, eat plenty of good proteins, get your fiber and carbs from Mother Nature in the form of seasonal fruits and veggies and shop local farms. If you can, try to get organic and animal products that are fed healthy diets, and eat grass-fed beef when you can find it. Avoid processed foods as much as possible and keep any refined carbohydrates away from your reach.”
• Have a set of clothing in your ideal size and work toward fitting into it.
• Take pictures of yourself from the front and side and when you get the urge to eat something you know you’d be better off without, stare at those photos.
• Set interval goals and when you meet each one, take a new photo and compare it to the first one. This will encourage you as you notice your progress.
• Reduce negative influences in your life, Leonardi said, whether it is an acquaintance who discourages you or a talk-radio show filled with complaints.
• When encouraging children to develop healthy habits, stress how they will “feel better” rather than “look good,” and remember they will learn from your example of exercising and eating well.