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Jeff Levinson, 23, was in Florida celebrating his graduation from Mizzou last year when, “I felt this discomfort in my chest. It wasn’t chest pains, but it made me think, I want to live longer than this.”
Levinson stood 6 feet and weighed 350 pounds. He returned from his trip and his mom told him about a weight loss coach she’d heard about from a friend.
The coach, Charles D’Angelo, specializes in fast but healthful weight loss. He recently published a book: “Think and Grow Thin.”
D’Angelo said Levinson was attracted to his program “because I started at 360 pounds.”
There was some empathy there, Levinson agreed.
“I started gaining at 14 years old,” Levinson said. “My parents were going through a divorce, and I took it hard.”
He started stress eating, mostly junk food, for eight years — pizza, fried foods, chicken fingers, toasted ravioli, fries, onion rings.
“I didn’t eat vegetables or fruit,” he said. “I couldn’t walk up stairs without getting winded.” He was 300 pounds when he graduated from high school.
Levinson jumped on the rigid eating plan in August of last year, and the pounds dropped quickly. The plan also included exercise up to an hour a day, he said.
“Now I eat vegetables with every meal,” he said. “I love eating that stuff. I’m still getting used to fruit.”
“When I first lost 50 pounds, I went to the gym and picked up a 50-pound weight,” Levinson said. “I couldn’t believe I was carrying that much weight.”
He also walked on a treadmill or elliptical machine 30 to 45 minutes a day three to five times a week.
He hit his goal weight of about 205 in April.
He also had set two other goals:
• “I wanted to get on an airplane and not get the looks, like ‘Please don’t sit next to me.” Recently, he flew to Denver to visit relatives for a weekend. “I can sit in the seat; buckle my belt,” he said.
• “My other goal was to go back to Six Flags. Last time I was there, three or four years ago, I couldn’t fit in most of the rides. That was embarrassing.”
Overall, “I just wanted to live a healthy life,” Levinson said.
Levinson said the program, “was pricey, but it was worth 20 times what I paid,” he said. “The changes are priceless.”
His meals are no longer fast-food buffets.
Breakfast is a protein shake, lunch is a chicken sandwich with a bag of baked chips and dinner is lean meat with vegetables. He eats healthy snacks during the day and no sugary drinks anytime.
That took some getting used to, he said.
“The toughest thing had to have been the mindset of changing the way I was going to live,” Levinson said. “I really went from eating everything bad to everything good for me overnight.
“I had to get through the mental obstacles of why I needed to eat the bad things,” Levinson said.
It was almost like withdrawal, he said. “The urge to eat bad foods was there for months,” he said. But, “I never slipped, not once.”
When he hit his goal weight, friends and coworkers invited him to go out and celebrate — at a pizza parlor.
“I said no. I never want to go back to where I’d been,” he said.
Now, his focus is on losing fat rather than simply losing weight.
“We’re going to start doing weight exercise to put more muscle on,” he said.
Fast weight loss can lead to dieters regaining weight quickly, but Levinson said that won’t happen to him. “I have a picture of what I was like in the background on my phone,” he said. “So looking at what I used to look like, there’s no food that’s worth that.”
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