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Name: Albert Rivera
Before Weight: 254 pounds
How I Gained It: I've had a fortunate career as a jazz musician, a good family, good friends yet I was so close to losing it all if I didn't get my health in order. I think the main problem was poor eating habits, like always going for the "bad" choice and never being happy with a decent-sized meal, but instead going for the second or even third serving. I think having an upbringing in a traditional Spanish household played a role. As long as I could remember, our meals were full of white rice, pasta, lots of meat and desserts. At the time, it never even crossed my mind that it was probably a little too much.
As a kid, I was always active: running around, playing sports, just generally being busy. But as I got older, home-cooked meals turned into fast food binges, with a limited amount of activity (other than performing at shows) and little or no time to consider my options. Pizza and Chinese food, my two favorite types of food at the time, were a normal occurrence.
Breaking Point: I could no longer deal with the shortness of breath, the pains throughout my body, the restless nights fighting sleep apnea, worrying about my blood pressure, wondering if I would make my 30th birthday. It was the thought of having a heart attack before I was 30 or getting diabetes that made me want to change. It was the moment of needing to catch my breath because I went up a flight of stairs or went on a nice walk. I decided it was up to me to change, I didn't want to be just another statistic.
How I Lost It: I walked in the gym on March 14, 2011. I made it my goal to go to the gym for 30 days straight, no matter if I wanted to quit. If I didn't do it for real this time, I wasn't sure there would be a next time.
Those first 30 days were some of the most difficult days of my life. I kept it simple: weight training on major body parts (chest, back, legs) and daily cardio. I had never run before in my life, so I started with the stationary bike. I pushed through the pain at first, but then pain became a welcome companion that reminded me of success.
I stopped drinking any type of soda and juice cold turkey, and substituted water, tea or seltzer. I eventually gave up all beer and liquor about a year ago. Fast food became a non-option. I started blending my own vegetable smoothies and eventually switched to green juice. I started reading exactly what was on food labels. I learned to cook more at home and when I ate out, I wasn't afraid to request the meal made a certain way (less butter, more veggies, etc.). Lean poultry and fresh-water fish make up a decent part of my food, topped off with tons of veggies, complex carbs, mixed nuts and Greek yogurt.
Two years later, I was down 100 pounds. Little did I know, my exercise "habit" had become a lifestyle. No matter how tiring my days are, I always make it a point to work out. The way I feel now, both physically and mentally, makes me want to continue to see where my body can go.
I got the running "bug" and joined the New York Road Runners. I ran every race with a great friend. If we ever had any doubts, we would push each other and remind each other to keep going. In 2012, I ran 17 road races, including the Brooklyn half-marathon. In November, I will be running the 2013 ING NYC Marathon.
I was given a second chance at life. I won't throw it away. My hope is to get others on their own journey.
After Weight: 155 pounds
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