Tony Pipia
Guest Writer

For as long as I can remember, food has been an integral part of my life.

It’s been true from when I was a boy, to a young man, and right up until the present. Being part of and having an Italian family, food is a large part of the culture. It would seem that, aside from breathing, eating delicious home-cooked meals made by either your mother, grandmother, father or even an uncle was the next most common thing to do. It was great all the time.

There was never a bad meal and even the worst meal, if I could truly say that, was a 4.5 out of 5. We ate at all times of the day and night. It really didn’t matter. There was always food around, and if by chance there wasn’t, all you had to do is scream, “I’m hungry!!!” And if I was in an Italian home, that set off the alarm bells and a parade of aunts, mothers and grandmothers would come streaming out of every room at the ready to make you something to eat. I often wondered to myself how many people a house could hold.

I grew up in a time when video games were not as prevalent as they are now. If you wanted to play video games, you had to go to an arcade. Because my family and most of the rest of my family and friends couldn’t afford one and didn’t see the need for it, the games weren’t in our homes. And since going to an arcade cost money, which again wasn’t something that we had a lot of, we rarely went. So we entertained ourselves by playing street hockey, soccer, baseball, ice hockey or hide and seek. Growing up, I was always active doing something. As a child and young adult, I never thought about gaining weight or getting fat because I truly believed that it couldn’t happen to me. I don’t know why I thought that but I did. Perhaps unknowingly, I had youth, activity and the carefree existence of a child on my side.

As I made my way through life graduating from high school and then college, things started to change a little. Looking back, I could recall having to buy a bigger size of pants every couple of years. In high school I wore a size 30 and in college I was a 32. I was a big lad 6′-1″ 205 pounds. I lifted weights so my chest and legs were getting bigger every year.

I graduated college in the early 90’s. The economy really stunk, and I couldn’t find a job and that added stress and some depression to my life. The pressures of life were starting to make their way into my life. I wasn’t working out often. I had started smoking and going out on the weekends and drinking.

Before I knew it I was a mess. I was larger than I’d ever been. However, fortunately for me I could hide it with the fashion of that era. Because the 90’s fashion trend was all about loose fitting cloths, I could disguise my problem. Then it got to a point where even that couldn’t hide it.

I recognized that I needed to do something about it. And I did. I engaged in binge dieting where for weeks all I would do was eat broccoli and salad. Here, I could drop 12-14 pounds in two weeks. Being a creature of habit, I would go back to eating junk food and all that great family comfort food. I was constantly yo-yoing.

Youth was no longer on my side, and father time was knocking on the door and sounding the alarms.

It wasn’t until 2006 that I sought out professional help and worked with a nutritionist. A man in my men’s circle, who I now call a close personal friend, suggested I see his cousin who was just starting out in that field. I worked with her on and off for the better part of the last ten years.

Approximately five years ago I reconnected with her after a lengthy absence, and I made a commitment to her. I committed that I would be with her until I reached my goal weight. There would be no dropping off and no disappearing acts on my part.

I maxed my weight out at 292 pounds. Five years ago when I rejoined her, I weighed in at 272 pounds and unable to move beyond that. I was in size 44-45 pants and XXL Shirts. I was a pack-a-day smoker who hardly exercised. My son was getting bigger and I found that I couldn’t keep up with him. The weight and the smoking were all getting to me. At times it seemed like an impossible goal to attain. I took it one bite at a time and stayed focused on the prize.

My son was a source of inspiration. In the MDI Code of Honor, one of the tenants that rings loudest for me is “Be an example to children.” At the time he was going through his own challenges in school. He worked tirelessly at overcoming them. The amount of work and commitment he put into this was inspiring. Knowing that about him, I had to get to my goal. Now, It wasn’t a question of “if” but “when.”

In mid-July of this year I sent my nutritionist a text along with the picture at the top of this article. It said, “I’m not one for spreading rumors, but one of your clients bought and fit into a pair of size 36 pants. The last time that happened was 1999.”

I am now 214 pounds and four pounds away from my goal weight. My shirt size has gone from an XXL to a large. I am cigarette free, and at age 49 I can still outrun my 12-year-old son. On this journey I learned that food is an everyday conscious choice for me.

The only difference today is I am making the right choice.