Michael Raimondi was fed up with being the funny fat guy. Throughout his life, he had followed a frustrating pattern: finding the drive to get in shape, dropping weight, and then losing momentum and winding up right back where he started — or heavier.
This time, though, he had a new source of motivation: his toddler daughter, Kristina, for whom he wanted to be a good role model and active dad. In January 2010, Raimondi made a New Year’s resolution to slim down and get in shape once and for all. He turned that goal into action by enlisting the support of a personal trainer.
“I was sick of being fat. I wanted to feel good about myself, and I wanted to be there for my daughter,” says Raimondi, 29. And so began his quest to change his body, and life, for the long haul.
On Again, Off Again
Raimondi, who grew up overweight, had gotten used to playing the role of the lovable teddy bear. Despite playing basketball, baseball and soccer as a youth in suburban Chicago, his penchant for fast food packed the pounds onto his 5-foot-7-inch frame. In high school, he eventually tipped the scales at 275 pounds.
Raimondi managed to shed 30 pounds before graduation, and he succeeded in keeping that weight off through much of his 20s, but he knew he had more work to do. As happy and confident as he may have appeared to others, he didn’t feel good about himself or the way he looked. And in his work as a member engagement adviser at the Life Time Fitness in Tempe, Ariz., it made him uncomfortable that he didn’t have a better handle on his own health and fitness habits.
Raimondi would be disciplined for a few months, losing 10 to 20 pounds, but then something would invariably throw him off his game: a vacation, a few unhealthy meals, a couple of missed workouts. And then his drive would ebb.
“I’d stop watching what I was eating, and I’d put the weight right back on,” he says. “I’d get mad at myself because I’d do so well and then stop.” He was stalled out around 250 pounds.
In 2007, Raimondi was working at the Life Time Fitness club in Tempe when he met his future wife, Lindsay. Their courtship provided a new motivation for him to get into shape. He hired a coworker, Matt Kasel, as his personal trainer, embracing his personalized strength-building and cardio workouts. By switching to a diet centered on vegetables, protein and whole grains, Raimondi got his weight down to 220. Feeling and looking fit enough to walk down the aisle, he and Lindsay got married.
But when Lindsay got pregnant in early 2008, Raimondi began eating whatever she craved, and his weight inched back closer to 250.
Because life with Lindsay and Kristina was busy, Raimondi stopped making time to exercise. Besides feeling terrible about carrying 240 pounds at 39.5 percent body fat, he knew he wasn’t setting a good example for his toddler. Vowing on New Year’s 2010 to make lasting changes, Raimondi started doing cardio workouts three to five times a week and eating healthier. He lost 25 pounds.
When he and Lindsay decided to move to Indiana to be near her family, he made a decision to not let the change derail his progress. Instead, Raimondi built on his momentum. Lindsay and Kristina left in May 2010; Raimondi would follow in July. During those two months away from his family, he pressed the accelerator.
For a personal trainer, he rehired Kasel, who was eager to boost his friend’s and former client’s intensity. “He needed someone to push him even harder,” says Kasel. “So that’s what I did.”
Kasel ran Raimondi through intense cardio circuits and strength-training sessions three times a week. In addition to adding several other cardio workouts to Raimondi’s routine, Kasel encouraged him to clean up his diet. Although that proved to be the most daunting challenge, it was the step that made the biggest difference. Raimondi got rid of all the junk and processed food in his cupboards and fridge at home, ate several small meals throughout the day, and watched portion sizes. By the time Raimondi reunited with his family, he had lost another 29 pounds, bringing him to 186 pounds and 17.7 percent body fat.
“When he moved here he looked completely different — lighter and more fit,” says Lindsay. “I’m so proud of him.”
A New Man
Now a member engagement adviser at the Indianapolis Life Time, Raimondi continues to work out three to four days a week. His goal: to lose a final 20 pounds. “I’m not quite where I want to be,” he says. “But I just keep at it, and I tell myself that I’m not going back to where I was before.”
In the meantime, Raimondi takes great satisfaction in having stuck not just with his fitness routine, but also with his healthy eating habits. And he’s enjoying teaching Kristina how to eat healthfully, too.
It’s all part of the long-term shift Raimondi has made to his identity. No longer the funny fat guy, he’s now a healthy, happy, fit guy — one who takes care of himself for all the right reasons.
Once a reluctant runner, Raimondi is proud to have recently completed a 5K race. Now he has new goals, including completing a half or full marathon with Lindsay this summer.
“I feel so much better,” he says. “I have more energy, more confidence. I’m healthier, and I feel good about myself.”
Suzy Frisch is a regular contributor to Experience Life and a triathlete in training.