Mark Cuatt is half the man he used to be – less than half, in fact! At the age of 19, Mark weighed 465 pounds. Today, at age 22, he’s a solid 225.
How do you lose 240 pounds? “The same way you lose 5 or 10 pounds,” says Mark. “You learn to eat smart and you start to get some exercise. If it worked for me, it’ll work for anyone.”
Mark woke up one day and felt a sense of determination to change his life that he likened to a religious experience. “I’d been on diets before. But somehow, I knew it would work this time. It was a strange feeling how certain I was that I wouldn’t cheat anymore.
“I’m not sure what triggered it. All I knew was that all my friends were either getting married or going to school, and I was being left alone. Good friends are hard to come by when you weigh 465 pounds. I didn’t make new friends easily. I definitely felt discriminated against because of my size, both socially and in the workplace. But through it all, I was determined to change.
“After seeing a doctor to rule out thyroid or other physical problems, the first thing I did was cut out snacks. As a kid, our refrigerator worked on the open-door policy. I could eat whenever and whatever I wanted. So I decided to change that and eat three balanced meals a day. No snacks.
“Then I started to read everything I could get my hands on about nutrition. I concentrated on cutting fats rather than calories. Today, I eat six small meals a day with a total of about 30 grams of fat, and I easily maintain my weight.”
The second part of Mark’s program was exercise. Walking was the most convenient – literally the only – exercise Mark felt comfortable doing. “I walked the first day until I felt tired. That was about a half mile. Gradually I worked up to a mile, then two, then three. Six miles a day was my maximum. By the time I was doing that, I’d lost a lot of weight and I felt comfortable riding my exercise bike.
“Finally, I joined a gym and began to lift weights. I’d gotten so thin, I felt I needed to build up my body a little. Today I’m a competitive bodybuilder. I work in a gym, and I’m looking forward to getting my master’s in nutrition. What a change!”
Mark encountered lots of emotional ups and downs on his road to a healthy lifestyle. “And I still do. When I weighed 465 pounds, people used to stare and laugh at me when I went to the mall. Now I get stares because I look good, because I’m a bodybuilder. But at times I still feel like people are staring at a fat guy, and I feel all the old emotions. I have my weight under control, but sometimes my self-image is scrambling to catch up. The first two weeks were the hardest. I craved everything. I was going through withdrawal. How did I cope? Whenever I got a craving, I went for a walk or hopped on my exercise bike.”
Now, says Mark, staying trim is a snap. “I don’t have any food cravings or feel any frustration or deprivation. The old junk foods just don’t appeal to me anymore. And exercise is a permanent part of my life.”
Getting Over “Heartbreak Hill”
When the Reverend St. George Crosse weighed 419 pounds, a parishioner explained to him, “Some people are Chihuahuas, Rev. Crosse, and some are St. Bernards. You happen to be a St. Bernard.”
“My parishioners didn’t seem put off by my girth,” says Rev. Crosse. “I thought people liked you to be big. They associate it with authority. And so many church functions involve food. Everyone is always trying to feed the minister.”
But preaching in the enthusiastic style his parishioners were accustomed to left Crosse exhausted and fearing a heart attack. “I had to sit down immediately after my sermons,” says Crosse. “I would get so tired and out of breath.
“Then one day, at a reception following a funeral, I overheard a woman saying, “How can he teach us to control our spirits when he can’t control his appetite?’ I figured a lot of other people might be saying the same thing. Then, when two of my close friends had heart attacks and strokes, I decided it was time to do something about my weight.”
The first thing Rev. Crosse needed was to find determination and self-control. For that, he turned to God. “I had been abusing my body. I prayed for forgiveness and for self-control, as an addict might. “His search for an appropriate weight-loss program led him to his dog, Bronco. “He eats when he’s hungry, stops when he’s full and never stops exercising,” says Crosse. “I decided the same thing should work for me.
“I soon learned that this was a good place to start but wouldn’t work by itself.” Rev. Crosse began cutting out fried foods, salt and sugar. “I learned to eat lots of fruit and salads during the day. I would eat my main meal with my wife in the evening. But that was also low in fat and well balanced. To attain my 200-pound weight-loss goal, I began a protein-sparing modified-fasting program under the supervision of my physician.” In addition, Rev. Crosse began to walk.
“At first, I’d just walk around my multilevel house. A few steps here and there kept me huffing and puffing. I could walk for only 10 minutes or so.
“Then my wife and I started walking together outside. The biggest challenge was a hill by our house we nick-named ‘Heartbreak Hill.’ On the way back up the hill to our house I’d have to stop halfway because my back ached so terribly.”
Gradually, Rev. Crosse worked up to 4 miles every weekday, with a 12-mile walk on Saturday. And Heartbreak Hill stopped hurting.
“My weekday walks are often on a treadmill because my job in Washington doesn’t allow me the time to walk in my neighborhood. But on Saturday mornings, I walk six miles out and six miles back. I like to walk alone because I practice my sermons. Sometimes my wife joins me for a while, but my pace has gotten a little too brisk for her.”
The rewards for his pilgrimage? Today, at 53, Rev. Crosse is a healthy 234 pounds. “At 6’2″, I’ll always be a big man,” says Crosse. “But now I’m healthy. I have energy. My blood pressure and cholesterol levels are healthy. And my daughters are willing to dance with me!”
In fact, his two daughters help keep him on track. “They care enough about me to let me know if I’m putting on a little weight,” says Crosse, “and I appreciate that. I’ve reconciled myself to the fact that keeping my weight down is a lifetime journey for me. As part of my modified-fasting program, if I regain more than 10 percent of my goal weight I return to my meal-replacement program and, with the help of my physician, eat healthy foods and increase my daily walking.
“That’s the great thing about walking. On Saturdays, I pass a tiny, old woman. She must be in her 90s. She’s going slow, but she’s going. Walking is something I’m sure I can do for a very, very long time.”