Dateline   |  January 07, 2013

Staying healthy in 2013 with Al Roker

NBC News' Al Roker and his family open up about his new passion for fitness and their plans to stay healthy in 2013. 

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LESTER HOLT: If there's a poster boy for the new you, it may be our own Al Roker , who dropped more than a hundred pounds and twenty suit sizes after gastric bypass surgery ten years ago. But as Al and many others know, losing weight can be the easy part. The hard part is keeping it off. Al shared his secrets and one of his most embarrassing moments with NBC 's chief medical correspondent Doctor Nancy Snyderman .

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: It's four thirty AM on a soggy Monday. And Al Roker is already getting in his first workout of the day.

AL ROKER: Worst part a pedestrian, they can be no attention.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: A two-mile bike ride to the office.

AL ROKER: I'm biking here.

And welcome to Wake Up With Al .

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: Before he even starts his job at the TODAY show , Al is hosting Wake Up With Al on The Weather Channel . But if it's a job you wouldn't know it, he's moving nonstop.


So I -- I did this the commercial?

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: It's hard to believe when you see him today, but this is what Al Roker used to look like -- the fat, jolly weatherman. He weighed over three hundred pounds and admits he once ate Krispy Kreme doughnuts by the dozen. But after years of battling with his weight --

AL ROKER: All right.


DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: -- and ten years after undergoing gastric bypass surgery --


DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: -- Al Roker has finally shed the fat guy image.

AL ROKER: Thank you for seeing.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You have so much more handsome in person.

AL ROKER: Wow, stop it, some more.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: In his new book Never Goin ' Back --

AL ROKER: Frozen berries.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: -- he reveals how he manages to keep the weight off and his new passion for health and fitness.

How much do you weigh today?

AL ROKER: Today I think I'm two-o-eight.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: And what's your highest?

AL ROKER: Highest? Three forty.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: What's your lowest?

AL ROKER: About one eighty-eight.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: Do you feel good?

AL ROKER: I feel great.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: Al says it was a conversation with his father, Al Roker Senior that inspired him to lose the weight . Back in 2001 , his father was dying of lung cancer. Sitting by his hospital bed, Al made his dad a promise.

AL ROKER: He said, look, I'm not going to be here for your kids. And you've got to be here for your kids. So I want you to promise me you're going to lose weight .

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Take a deep breath for me.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: After years of failing at diets, Al underwent gastric bypass surgery to reduce the size of his stomach. He made a video diary of his experience.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Here you go, Al .

AL ROKER: I was expecting to be a lot -- I mean really a lot worse. But I'm not -- not in a lot of pain.

DEBORAH ROBERTS: Are you sitting in the building?

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: Gastric bypass is major surgery that reroutes the digestive system. With a smaller stomach, you feel full sooner and the path for food to travel is shorter so you absorb fewer calories. Eat too much or eat the wrong foods and there can be consequences. Al says he learned that lesson the hard way one month after the surgery while visiting the White House .

AL ROKER: When you have a bypass, and you -- you know your bowel's been reconstructed. You think you're pretty safe. And I probably went off and eat something I wasn't supposed to. And as I'm walking to the Press Room , I don't know, I'm going to get, you know, pass a little gas here so I'm kind of walking by myself, who's going to know. Only a little something extra came out. And --

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: You pooped in your pants.

AL ROKER: I -- I pooped in my pants, not horribly, but enough that I knew.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: Which is a common side effect of this surgery?

AL ROKER: Exactly. And so, you know, I was panicking. So I got to the rest room in the Press Room , threw out the underwear, you know, and just went commando.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: And what did that tell you?

AL ROKER: It told me that I've got to be very vigilant as to what I eat.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: One year after the surgery, Al had lost over one hundred pounds and dropped twenty suit sizes. But five years ago, when his mother was sick in the hospital, his old habits came creeping back. Al turned to junk food to cope with the pain. He gained forty pounds.

One thing you really drive home is that surgery is not the be-all and end-all?

AL ROKER: No, it's -- it's -- it is a means. It is just another tool in the tool box to lose weight . You can eat through a bypass.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: And you have?

AL ROKER: And I 've done it, you know, I'm -- I'm living proof. I mean, look, I -- I was -- I was lucky. I was able to put on the brakes and found something that helped me get back on track. But, yeah, you can eat through it.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: And when that happened, were you embarrassed to go back and see the doctor? Were you fearful?

AL ROKER: I was -- I was disgusted. I was angry with myself. That I had -- it's like, I -- I've been given this opportunity and I had taken it and now I've squandered it in my mind.

Here's what's happening in your neck of the woods.


DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: It was from that moment on that Al changed his diet for good. He went on a twenty-eight-day detox plan cutting out caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy, and gluten. He lost twenty -eight pounds in the first twenty-eight days.

AL ROKER: I think the problem for most people is not the losing of the weight , I think most people can lose the weight . It's the keeping the weight off. And maintaining was -- was a killer.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: So how does he do it? Al began a workout routine called the slow method. Exercise for thirty minutes, three times a week. Strength training creates more lean body mass, which in turn burns more calories.

AL ROKER: She's always so happy.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: Al changed his diet to only whole, unprocessed foods, high in protein and low in carbs. Protein shakes made with almond milk and berries for breakfast and lunch.

It sounds basically you needed discipline --


DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: -- and rules around a very specific part of your life.

AL ROKER: That's when I do best. I don't want to do points. I don't want to do this. I don't want to do that. I don't know -- so just tell me what I've got to eat.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: Now he's burning calories any way he can. At his production company office, he uses a treadmill desk. He's stuck to his new routine for the past four years and says he's never going back.

AL ROKER: I was there. And I went back. And I -- I hated it. I didn't like the way I felt. And I know what I have to do now to keep that from happening again.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: He has another reason to keep his promise -- his family. But Al 's wife, ABC News correspondent Deborah Roberts says she still worries.

DEBORAH ROBERTS: I worry that he's going to slide off and, you know, fall into this routine again of eating whatever is fast, whatever is quick, because I know he still does notice the quarter-pounders and the, you know, fren -- French fries at McDonald's . I know it's still something that just -- it -- it's out there.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: But it's clear that while the battle was Al 's to fight, Deborah did play a role in motivating her husband. In his book, Al writes that after losing the weight , quote, "I no longer had to beg my wife for sex...."

DEBORAH ROBERTS: I just wanted to feel more attracted to him. And as he would put on weight , and then there were times when he lost weight , when he -- early on in our marriage. And I was so much more attracted to him physically because let's be honest, there is a physical attraction for all of us when there's somebody that you're interested in.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: Did you feel sexier when you're skinnier?

AL ROKER: Sure, oh gosh, yes. I mean, you know, I mean --

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: Were you better in bed?

AL ROKER: Well, that -- that -- better is a relative term.

AL ROKER: You know. I mean --

DEBORAH ROBERTS: You're always good, honey.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: The new, slimmer Al has enjoyed experiences the heavier version could never have imagined, like completing the New York City Marathon in 2010 . And on the air alongside Matt Lauer , he's tried some unusual Olympic sports , made his way down a zip line.


DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: And even this famous lift with Ryan Gosling on the plaza. But back at home is where Al gets his real motivation -- his children.

LEILA ROKER: I think he sees himself as the same person just slimmer.

Daddy, daddy.

AL ROKER: Hey, beautiful.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: Al 's daughter Leila was just three years old when he underwent the weight loss surgery . Now fourteen, she doesn't really remember the heavier version of her father.

LEILA ROKER: I think it just show as lot of determination if anything.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: Is fat a pejorative term?

AL ROKER: I don't think so. I think it's -- it's an adjective. I think you're fat, you know. And -- and, you know, look, there's -- there's all of these movements, people say I'm fat but I'm in -- I'm in -- I'm in good shape. I'm healthy. No, not really, you're not.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: For Americans who are out there and are fat --

AL ROKER: Right.

DR. NANCY SNYDERMAN: -- and they frankly have been on every diet and they're looking to you for an answer, what do they need to know?

AL ROKER: They need to know that it's their journey. They can't do this because of somebody on TV . They can't do this because their wife or their mother wants them to lose weight . They have to get to a point where something clicks and they say, I want this for me. I want to get my life together.