The Powerful Mindset Shift That Put Tony Back On Track

Creating a healthy life is more than just a numbers game.

*People following the WW program can expect to lose 1-2 pounds/week. Tony, WW Coach, lost weight on a prior program and is continuing on PersonalPoints™.

As told to Katerina Gkionis

Growing up, I was always the heavy kid—the one eating candy from the corner store and shopping for clothes in the “husky” section. I had a fun personality and lots of friends, but I was treated differently because of my size. Once, when I was 12 years old, a girl told me she thought my friend was cute. Then looked me up and down and said, “You’d be cute, too, if you weren’t so big.” I laughed it off, but that comment crushed me. It made me feel self-conscious and invisible—a feeling I carried for years.

As I got older and started working as a rail engineer, my eating habits worsened. I’d sit all day operating the train, traveling hours to our destination stops. Then I’d check into a hotel, lay around watching movies in my room, sleep for a few hours, and wake up the next morning for the trip back. Most of my meals were from drive-throughs and vending machines before and after my shifts.

It was during this era that my weight climbed by about 80 pounds. At first, I was in denial. “Maybe my clothes are just shrinking in the laundry,” I told myself. Eventually I had to face facts: I was constantly out of breath and in a lot of physical pain. The dryer wasn’t shrinking my clothes; my habits were restricting my life.

When I made an appointment for an annual physical with a new doctor in late 2008, I had a pretty good idea of what she’d tell me. Sure enough, the doctor’s assessment was blunt when she reviewed my numbers for cholesterol and blood sugar: “You’re OK now, but if you stay on this path, you might not make it to age 50.”

I took the doctor’s warning seriously. A friend of mine who had dealt with similar weight issues passed away at age 28. Still, I didn’t act right away. I had tried dieting in the past, usually by cutting out carbs, and was never able to sustain the results. My confidence was shaken; I didn’t believe in myself.

RELATED: Invite your friends to WW—for each one who joins, you’ll both get a free month on us!*

The first step

I didn’t have an “a-ha” moment that made me join WW. It was in January 2009, after weeks of thinking about what I could do to turn my life around. One day, I simply came home from a work trip and told my wife, “I’m going to join WW tomorrow.” Maybe the structure would help me.

Our local WW Workshop took place in the basement of a church near our home. After that first Workshop, I said to myself, “What if I just tried?” So I read through the WW Program guide. I stocked up on whole foods and made a decision to ditch fast food, fried food, and takeout completely. I started preparing meals at home because food just felt easier to track that way.

I had two sizable losses the first two weeks. This got me all fired up. “Wow, in six months I’m going to lose all the weight!” I thought.

A bumpy transition

I became hyper-focused on my weight-loss goal and really threw myself into the program. Soon, I was an expert at working the plan. I adopted a super active lifestyle, building up to regular 20-mile bike rides. It took about a year for me to reach my goal of losing 120 pounds*.

My transition to maintenance brought a much-needed reality check. I had restricted myself so much over the previous year—no pizza for months!—that when I reached my goal, I sort of acted like I was “done” and started returning to my old ways.

The weight started creeping back within weeks. This set off a four-year yo-yo act: I’d attend Workshops and track my meals sporadically, then give myself a “cheat day” that turned into a “cheat week.”

When my clothes started feeling uncomfortably tight again in early 2015, I knew I needed a fresh start. I decided to return to Workshops regularly. That’s the thing about this journey—it’s about creating a healthier life, not one healthier year.

Day 1 do-over

When I first joined WW in 2009, I didn’t realize I was treating the program like a diet. I lost weight quickly and didn’t think about whether I could sustain my habits. This time around, I decided to approach WW as a new way of living. I wanted healthy eating, physical activity, and a positive outlook to come more naturally to me. I ditched my all-or-nothing mindset and stopped trying to be perfect. 

What Tony ate then vs. now



Five scrambled eggs with cheese, rolled breakfast sausage, and a side of home fries

Two scrambled eggs with bacon and two slices of cream cheese-topped sourdough toast


Three fast-food stuffed burritos; fast-food double cheeseburger with a large serving of fries; 30 boneless wings

Smoked pork chops, mashed potatoes, and broccoli; Buffalo chicken on a white corn tortilla with spinach, cheese, and relish


Fried chicken strips; Salisbury steak with mashed potatoes

Air-fried smoked sausage on a hot dog bun with a side of broccoli and WW Salt and Vinegar Potato Crisps


Bag of potato chips or pork rinds

Hummus with veggies; “unfancy charcuterie” plate of cold cuts and cheeses

Though I definitely had a goal in mind, I focused on building good habits to get myself there. At work, I had transferred from being a road engineer to a yard engineer, so I didn’t have to travel anymore. This made meal planning a bit easier.

I also started tracking more often. I filled up on more whole foods, not because they were low in PersonalPoints, but because they tasted good and were good for me. Between February and May 2015, I was able to lose the 30 pounds* I had gained. I was back at my goal—and better equipped with tools to help me stay there.

Living the maintenance life

I’m shocked to find myself saying this, but maintenance has been a breeze these past four years. I think it’s because all my healthy habits are connected to each other now. My activity—whether it’s running, biking, or strength training—allows me to move with ease, which makes me want to refuel so I can get the energy to continue, which makes me want to eat nutritious, healthy foods. And this all leads to better sleep each night, so I wake up rested and ready to roll.

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Proving my resilience

That’s not to say I never slip up; I’ve just learned the value in forgiving myself and getting back on track. Being able to pass on these lessons as a WW Coach has been a blessing. I like to tell my members, “There’s no perfect effort.” It’s about waking up each day and giving it your best try.

I don’t feel invisible anymore; I feel noticed. This bothered me a little when I first lost weight—I’m the same person, after all! So whether I’m following others on social media or connecting directly with members in my Workshops, I always look for the light inside of people as they grow and transform. That deserves to be celebrated at every step.

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