*People following the WeightWatchers weight-loss program can expect to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. Eric lost weight on a prior program and is continuing on WeightWatchers. Hear Eric discuss how the support of the WW community helped him through one of the most difficult times of his life.
As told to Katerina Savvides
In 2016, when went to see my doctor for an annual physical, the bad news kept coming: I had high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes. And I weighed more than 400 pounds.
It wasn’t the first time I’d struggled to manage my weight. Ten years earlier, while working at an amusement park in a guest services role, I was finding it difficult to spend so much time on my feet. I’d joined WW to lose the weight that made movement uncomfortable and it worked—at least at first. As soon as I made progress, I stopped going to WeightWatchers Workshops thinking I could maintain the results on my own. Boy, was I wrong.
It only took a few weeks to develop unhealthy habits again: Because I never ate breakfast and sometimes skipped lunch, I felt ravenous by the end of each day. For dinner, I’d max out dollar menu items at the drive-through: Sometimes I’d order two cheeseburgers, two chicken sandwiches, and chicken nuggets, and eat it all in one sitting. It was plain to see that I was on a self-destructive path, but it took declining health to convince me: My life depended on changing course.
When I left my doctor’s office, I was so mad at myself that I burst into tears in the parking lot. I knew I had to do something. Several days later, I walked into a WW Studio. During my Wellness Check-in, when I stepped on the scale, I smiled at the number I saw. I knew I’d never see it again.
From that point on, I was a regular at Monday evening Workshops where a WW Coach named Ericka motivated me every week. Outside of Studio visits, I started to make changes like avoiding drive-through fast food, cooking more often, and checking Points values of anything I wanted to eat before I ate it, which helped me find balance. I felt great—especially when I saw the number on the scale go down. It was more satisfying than any fast food.
What Eric ate then vs. now
|Coffee with light creamer and fruit like a banana or apple
|Fast-food pizza, burgers, fried chicken sandwiches, French fries, or burritos
|Sliced turkey with dill mustard or a black bean burger on a whole wheat English muffin
Pepperoni and sausage pizza pies, burritos, Chinese food like orange chicken, fried rice, and chow mein
|A homemade burrito bowl with black beans, Spanish rice, grilled chicken, and light pita bread; turkey meatloaf with roasted vegetables like broccoli and butternut squash; or vegetarian meatballs with zucchini noodles
|Chips, crackers, cookies, and cakes
|Fresh fruit, carrot sticks, hummus with veggies or pita chips
Over the next 14 months, my new habits delivered. Week by week, I started to feel better about myself and my journey: I was eating food I enjoyed and tracking daily. And it was working. I started to celebrate non-scale victories, like being able to ride a rollercoaster once the bar could be secured properly. Gradually, I lost 100 pounds.
A personal setback
Throughout my journey, I’d come to rely on WW App’s members-only social network, Connect. Every time I’d post there, about the foods I was eating, how much I was losing, or what I did over the weekend, I’d feel supported instead of judged.
Since day one, though, my biggest fan had been my father: I’d call or text him after every Workshop to tell him how much I’d lost. Around the time my weight loss reached triple digits, though, he was diagnosed with glioblastoma, a fast-growing brain cancer that’s almost always terminal. He had his brain tumor, which was as large as a baseball, removed—but his doctors said the surgery would only buy him three to six more months.
Determined to stand by my dad, I quit my new job to take care of him and posted what was meant to be a farewell to the friends I’d made on Connect. To conserve my savings, I’d decided to pause my WW membership and said as much in my post, wishing everyone good luck on the program.
Meanwhile, a member named Christine, who I’d never met in person, asked for my email address. She wrote, “We’re in this journey together. Please let us help you.” A few days later, I found out why she needed my email address: She and five other WW members from all across the country had gotten together to cover my membership.
I was floored by their generosity. The support of people I’d never met motivated me to go harder, go stronger, because they were behind me. I continued going to my Workshops, and I tried to stay strong during this challenging time.
Moving forward after mourning
My dad’s condition only worsened after surgery. He passed away four weeks after he was diagnosed.
Shock, then grief led me back to emotional eating for a few weeks. But then I remembered my Connect friends’ kindness—I couldn’t let them down.
Since that summer, I’ve lost 66 more pounds*.
My blood pressure has improved, my diabetes is resolved, and my energy levels have increased tenfold.
I’ve also become stronger emotionally along the journey. A few months before my father passed, I gained the courage to come out as gay to my stepmom. She spoke to my father about it, and he said, “I just want Eric to be happy.” When my stepmom recounted this to me, I was so grateful. It was something I’d needed to hear.
While it’s my choices that have made all the difference in my weight and my health, so many people, I now realize, believed in me since that first day I stepped into a Studio. Now, whenever I need encouragement, I remember how far I’ve come and listen to a voicemail I’ve saved from my dad: Part of it goes, “Hey, it’s Daddy...sounds like you’re getting pretty skinny, so good job on that and keep it going…Fight it off, baby, fight it off!”
I feel so grateful that with WW, I’ll never have to stay the course alone.