When Hayley and Bill told me we were interviewing someone who lost 200 lbs in ONE YEAR on Paleo, I thought I hadn’t heard correctly. 200 pounds in one year??? How was that even possible? He must have 1) been a contestant on “The Biggest Loser” 2) had the worst case of the flu known to man and 3) done several Crossfit WODS seven days a week. All at the same time. Actually, Anthony didn’t do any of those things. For diet, he ate Paleo without restricting calories. For exercise, he walked. Yes, you read that correctly: this man lost 200 lbs from walking, and without counting calories. If you think this sounds too good to be true, in a way it almost was. Anthony openly told us his biggest challenge wasn’t loosing the weight – it was keeping the weight off for the four years that followed. To change his life, he knew he had to change his habits; and habits are things that have to be continuously reinforced. If you have ever had a love-hate relationship with food, or felt trapped by addictive behaviors, I encourage you to read Anthony’s story. His understanding of continuous progress and commitment is something we can all benefit from when feeling frustrated or deflated. Thank you Anthony for sharing your story! -Kara
If you want to get the chills before reading the interview, check out these videos of Anthony performing… before and after style! What a VOICE this guy has! My goodness… -Bill
How long have you been Paleo?
I’ve just passed the five year mark. When I started, there wasn’t much happening in the Paleo world. I was trying to lose weight by following what I read on the internet. I knew sugar was my major addiction, so the first thing I wanted was to get rid of my sugar cravings. I wanted to do it in a natural way; I was turned off by artificial sweeteners or a huge list of ingredients. Once I started following a low-sugar, low-carb diet, I found Paleo through various blogs. It took awhile to figure everything out, but the more I read the more I GOT it. Paleo really made sense to me. It was really new back then, so it’s been cool watching how Paleo has grown in five years. It went from being something no one had heard of to something restaurants understand.
What was your life like before Paleo? Was there anything you were really looking to change?
Honestly? I just didn’t care. I really did. not. care. I ate whatever was in front of me at that point in time. Socially, I was always “down” for anything. If anyone asked me to something- even if it was to go hiking, I was down. I was as physical as I could be at my size. I come from a big Italian family, and in my family, food is a social thing. I’m a fan of food myself. Health wasn’t something at the forefront of our minds. I was always the funny fat guy, and being a musician meant there was always food and booze everywhere. Life was really one big party. But I knew that had to change.
So if life was “one big party,” what triggered your change? What set everything off?
I started in April 1st of 2009. In the weeks leading up to that, I was having panic attacks and other really unhealthy things occurring. I had previously been a size 48 waist and went up to a size 50-52 within a few weeks of drinking beer and partying after shows. I was always bloated, always in pain, and my digestion was a mess. At the time, I thought that was normal. I was actually scared for my life. At the same time, I was watching friends and family who were physically healthy, but didn’t have other aspects of their lives ‘put together’ like I did. I was successful as a musician, and in that regard I thought, “I should be focusing that same energy into this.” I knew more doors would open if I was in better physical shape. I was watching other people getting roles I was better suited for simply because they looked better.
All that aside, honestly I just wanted to live longer. I wanted to live as long as I possibly could. And I knew I was ready. People say that all the time: whether it be to quit smoking, stop using drugs, or ending a bad relationship; you just know when the end has come. So on the first of the month, I started Paleo.
Had you ever tried losing weight before? What made this time different?
This was the first time I ever really tried to lose weight. I once lost 40 pounds in a single month from cutting out soda, but that’s about it. The first two months I started, my body was completely detoxing. I had headaches, my body hurt, I would cry at night. I didn’t have those “friendly foods” to go hang out with. I had to evolve into the diet.
I ate more that year than I ever have before. I was eating throughout the day and would know when to stop. I definitely did some fasting, which surprisingly felt good. It did a lot of favors for me, almost like meditation. I found that I could eat, and then not eat, because I was so fulfilled by the things I was eating. I played around with carbs, and knew how to adjust my food intake based on my activity level. The easiest thing for me was to lose the weight. I was on a path, and had it down. I got up every morning and walked anywhere from 1-5 miles. By one year, I had lost 200 lbs. It’s shocking. I went from 375 to as low as 160 at 5’11.
Did you have any setbacks? Any times you wanted to give up? Any plateaus?
You know what? I should have had one of those moments. But I didn’t. I’m one of those people that if say I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it. Those moments didn’t come to me until I wanted to celebrate my weight loss. From the moment I started losing weight, people told me I should go into coaching. But I couldn’t. I just wasn’t ready yet; there were still so many things I needed to figure out. I didn’t even TELL my story for a long time because there was still so much I had to learn about how to maintain my weight. I would go to have ONE cookie as a “treat”, and it would turn into the entire row of cookies. Those habits brought me to some really dark places. I would…relapse? I guess that’s the word you would use. I would fall back into my old habits. A drug addict would never have a “cheat day,” do some drugs, and then just start over the next day.
In the past year I have come to understand how to maintain. I really zeroed in on those moments when I felt like I was losing control, and put all my focus into those moments. I talked to myself, internalizing everything that was happening. The problem was I was being SO STRICT for six days, then allowing a cheat on the seventh. And one small treat would trigger an entire bad day. I refer to this pattern as “80/20 the hardcore way.” Now, I’m able to make every day an 80/20 day. I have finally been able to come out and share my story, and now I’m coaching others through their weightless journeys as well.
How were you finally able to break from former habits? How did you talk yourself out of those moments?
I’ve learned how to take a bite, and then walk away. If I know I’ll eat the whole bag, I’ll just throw it out. If something is a trigger for me, I don’t bring it in the house. Most importantly, I’ve learned what can replace food. In social situations, I focus on the company and conversation. When I’m on my own, I’ll talk, walk, or listen to music; basically I’ll do anything that offers the same comfort that food once did.
I will make mistakes again. Yesterday was Easter, and my mom made a dessert I really like. So I ate it. I usually just say to myself, “This is today. This is just ONE day. I’m not going to have this tomorrow. Actually, I won’t have it again until next Easter. It’s just one moment. Eat a little bit, be fulfilled, and enjoy it.” That’s how I allow myself those treats. It’s when you have the “Eh…who cares, one thing won’t hurt” mindset that you’re setting yourself up to throw everything away. That’s the mindset that would have me sitting in front of an entire cake with a fork. By now I’ve trained myself to control those thoughts. I used to scoff at people who took a moment before they ate, and now I realize the value in that. If you are focused before you take the first bite, you will be focused after the bite.
For anyone just starting Paleo, what advice would you give them?
I usually get weird looks when I say this, but my biggest tip is to EAT MORE. Meaning, eat more of the things you CAN eat. People always comment about how diets leave them starving. I never felt that way with Paleo. I wasn’t counting calories or feeling deprived. My Italian mother once said to me, “Well how am I supposed to eat eggs without toast??” I just told her, “Well…eat another egg.” I’ve also found that when I tell myself I can eat more, I usually don’t.
When it comes to treats and social gatherings, I usually tell people to say to themselves, “You’re fulfilled. This is just a treat. You’ll have it again.” I understand the guilt and social pressure we feel to enjoy certain foods. My family didn’t have a lot of money growing up, so when a grand meal was served, you enjoyed that meal. If money was spent on an elaborate feast, you felt guilty if you didn’t eat it. I don’t want to be preachy toward my family or tell anyone to live a certain way; I just want to be real with myself. So being able to strike a balance between those emotions, and what my body is physically telling me, has definitely been a challenge.
I’m going into one-on-one weight loss coaching, and this will keep me inspired for the rest of my life. I want to work with as many people as I can. I have one client who is 71, and she tells me how she has tried every diet, and nothing has worked. I told her, “One day, I’m going to be 71 and I’m going to be struggling with the same things you’re struggling with now. I’m going to be staring at clothes that fit years ago, but don’t anymore.” I have another client who told me he’s actually afraid to lose weight, because he doesn’t want to have loose skin. I told him, “Well, I have loose skin too.” Struggles come at different times for different people-just how my biggest challenges came after the weight came off. There’s always another chapter we’re working on. My next chapter may be taking care of my loose skin; or maybe I’ll leave it to remind me of past mistakes.
Want to get in touch with Anthony?
He has graciously made himself available to anyone that wishes to chat further! He is also now offering his time and knowledge as a private, personal weight-loss coach! You can reach him at anthonydamatocoa[email protected]
Thanks for taking the time to chat with us Anthony! We’re so inspired by your story!
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