By Sarah Klein
Name: Steven Wishnoff
Height: 6′ 1.5″
Before Weight: 405 pounds
How I Gained It: I was always a big kid. I wasn’t necessarily fat, but by the time I was 13 years old, I was 6 feet tall and wore a size 12 shoe. I grew an additional 1.5 inches in height from then, and thankfully my feet stopped growing at size 14. I had grown up with the nickname Hulk, partly for my size and partly for my freakish strength, but had we known of such things, I think I would have been called body dysmorphic. No matter what I weighed — even in college with a 30-inch waist — I thought I was fat.
My weight was up and down over the years until, at one point, having just come off a five-year stint playing a prisoner in the HBO series “Oz” and moving up in my day job as a senior producer for Nick at Nite and TV Land, I found myself at a whopping 405 pounds. I had severe sleep apnea and pre-diabetes, and felt so bad physically that I rarely felt good emotionally. I was miserable and managed to go from life of the party to the person you just didn’t want to be around.
Breaking Point: I was at my desk at work and had the oddest feeling, like my arms were swelling in my skin. It became very painful, and I ran to the doctor. After tons of tests, he told me to lose weight or I’d risk an early death. He was that blunt. And I thank him for it. Too often people don’t say what they mean, and in this case it put my health and life back on track.
How I Lost It: My first changes were cutting soda (I was drinking at least four diet sodas daily), all processed food and especially white sugar from my diet. My cravings were rough.
Once I was off sugar, flour and diet soda, I began exercising. Walking was first, and it hurt like hell. First, I could only make it halfway around the block. Once I could make it two or three times around, I joined a gym and walked on the treadmill. Then I started resistance training, forcing myself to build some muscle to raise my metabolism. When I started working with a trainer, I felt accountable to someone other than myself — and I pushed harder.
I still deal with body dysmorphia. I don’t believe it’s something you can cure, I believe it’s a voice you can quiet and keep in the background. I view it in the same way as I view addiction: You can be in recovery, but you have to be aware. Every so often, someone will snap a picture of me and I don’t see me as I am at all. It took a lot of work and a lot of support, but despite several setbacks, I’m stronger and more active than I’ve been since college.
Now, I run between 3.5 and 5.5 miles four times a week and do resistance training as often as possible. Endorphin highs beat sugar rushes, hands down. These days, if it comes in a can or a box, chances are I won’t eat it. I do allow myself treats every now and then, but I’m careful because it’s so easy to backslide. The key for me is being aware that I eat to live, I don’t live to eat.
After Weight: 240 pounds
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As told to Sarah Klein
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