A type 2 diabetes diagnosis motivates Eric Gonzales to lose 160 pounds

By joining WW and working toward achievable goals, Eric Gonzales lost 160 pounds and reversed his high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Image: Eric Gonzales
After being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure, Gonzales has lost 160 pounds and he now has a clean bill of health.Courtesy Eric Gonzales
Get the Better newsletter.
SUBSCRIBE
By Stephanie Thurrott

Name: Eric Gonzales

Age: 34

Residence: Los Alamitos, Calif.

Job: Residential certified nursing assistant

Family status: Single, no kids

Peak weight: 431 pounds

Current weight: 271 pounds

When Eric Gonzales was diagnosed with hypertension and type 2 diabetes at age 32, he says it felt like a slap in the face. “My doctor said I was going to be on pills for the rest of my life. He even suggested weight-loss surgery,” he says.

After hearing that news, Gonzales broke down. “I went to my car and cried. I was heartbroken to get to that point. I was ashamed and saddened about the fact that I was in denial about my health. I didn’t really pay attention to what was in the mirror. I chose to ignore it, but you can’t deny when the doctor tells you these facts about yourself,” he says.

The health scares motivated him to make changes. “I knew I wasn’t a kid anymore and it was time to get myself in gear. I had to handle this or pay the consequences down the road,” he says.

A RETURN TO WHAT WORKED

A decade earlier, Gonzales lost 50 pounds with WW (formerly Weight Watchers) and then stopped the program. He thought he would continue losing weight on his own. “That clearly didn’t work. Over 10 years I put the 50 pounds back on, plus another 100,” he says. He decided to try WW again.

“Looking back, I see I needed the support of the group and the accountability of seeing my peers each week. Without the accountability factor there’s nobody to show up to except myself,” he says.

He rejoined WW in April 2016. “When I went in the first time and I stepped on the scale I weighed 431 pounds. I knew I was never going to see that number again. My mindset shifted, and I knew I was ready.”

Gonzales wanted to lose over 100 pounds. But that seemed overwhelming. He set easier, attainable goals to help him move in that direction, like:

  • Lose 20 pounds
  • Go down a shirt size
  • Walk a mile without his feet hurting

“As I checked those off it was time to set new goals,” he says. “The end goal sometimes seems unattainable, but you accomplish each little goal. I didn’t think I would lose 160 pounds but here I am. It’s doable.”

Gonzales likes how with the WW plan, no food is off limits. “You work the plan with how you want to live. With a diet, you’re usually restricted from having things. I knew that was something I couldn’t do long-term,” he says.

WW allots you a number of points per day, based on your weight and gender. Every food has a point value. “It’s up to you how you go ahead and use those points. Nothing is off limits. If you want a slice of pizza you can have a slice of pizza. Whatever you’re in the mood for is doable,” he says. “I never feel deprived. If I want to go out and have a glass of wine I can. If I want to have a burger I can.”

Get the better newsletter.

WW also includes in-person wellness workshops where members can share ideas and struggles. Gonzales likes how each week’s meeting has a different topic. “They aren’t always weight-related, they’re life-related. That’s something I really like — it’s not about the scale, it’s about every factor in your life,” he says.

VIRTUAL SUPPORT AFTER A DEVASTATING SETBACK

In July 2017, though, Gonzales nearly quit the program. His grandmother passed away, and the loss hit him hard. Then, soon after, his father was diagnosed with brain cancer, and Gonzales quit his job to be by his father’s side.

Without an income finances were tight, and Gonzales decided to quit WW. He shared his decision on Connect, a part of the WW app where members can interact. He had lost more than 100 pounds at that point, and people in the group encouraged him not to quit.

Six members of the group, all people Gonzales had never met in person, contributed money to cover the cost of his WW membership for six months. “I’m so grateful to all of them,” he says. “I could have quit and undone everything.”

Gonzales has lost 160 pounds and he now has a clean bill of health. “I went from type 2 diabetes to prediabetes, and now I’m in the healthy range. My blood pressure is normal and I’m no longer on medication. I’m pill-free and healthy,” he says.

And he doesn’t have any plans to end his WW membership. “I say now I will be a Weight Watchers member for life, because I know that once you hit your goal it’s not over. You have life after that. It’s something I will always be doing,” he says.

I went from type 2 diabetes to prediabetes, and now I’m in the healthy range. My blood pressure is normal and I’m no longer on medication. I’m pill-free and healthy.

A MORE ACTIVE LIFESTYLE

Gonzales says he doesn’t have a formal exercise regimen, but he stays busy. “In my former life I was sitting in front of the TV if I wasn’t working. Now I’m not comfortable just sitting in the house. In my free time I’m doing something out somewhere. I’m not so much looking to burn calories as moving in some way,” he says. That movement is more than just a casual stroll around the block—he has run two 5K races in the past year.

Your brain on a diet

March 16, 201802:32

FREEDOM FROM THE STRUGGLES OF OBESITY

Health struggles weren’t the only problems Gonzales faced because of his weight. He says, “Sitting in a booth in a restaurant was something I was terrified of. ‘Am I going to fit? Should I just ask for a table?’”

On rollercoasters he faced the same problem. “My biggest fear was being rejected and having to get off in front of everybody. I came close to that happening and I stopped riding for a long time. I was afraid. After losing over 100 pounds I gave it a shot,” he says. He could fit, no problem.

He says, “I felt fantastic — I felt like a kid again. It’s little things like that — being able to live life again.”

ERIC’S TYPICAL DAY

Breakfast: A couple of pieces of fruit, like a banana and an apple, and coffee

Lunch: Eric tends to graze throughout the day. He might have a turkey and Swiss cheese sandwich on an English muffin, strawberries, WW snacks, hard-boiled eggs, or three-point bags of Cheez-Its.

Dinner: Chili made with lean turkey, all kids of vegetables, and spices. WW has zero point “freestyle foods” you can eat until you feel satisfied, and Eric uses those foods to create his chili.

Snacks: He might have a scoop of ice cream if he has points left at the end of the day.

Eric drinks a gallon of water a day and tracks his intake with the Water Minder app.

A DIETITIAN’S TAKE

“I’m so supportive of anybody who loses weight in a healthy way,” says Samantha Cassetty, R.D., a New York City-based nutritionist.

She says she likes how all foods fit in the WW program. “I admire and appreciate and respect that it’s not overly restrictive. Learning how to treat yourself and enjoy your splurges is a huge part of figuring out your own balance,” she says.

Learning how to treat yourself and enjoy your splurges is a huge part of figuring out your own balance.

And she thinks accountability and support play a big part in why people do well maintaining their weight loss on WW. “That’s a really big deal — that’s where people often go astray. They get a little out of control and they throw in the towel,” she says.

She does note that, from a nutrition point of view, not all foods fit equally. “Points always serve you better when they come from quality, whole-food sources. That’s one piece that often gets overlooked. People often save and reserve points for their favorite foods instead of learning how to replace those foods and eat them less often,” she says. “You can get an equal number of calories from Twizzlers or from salmon, but they are going to serve you differently.”

She also notes that sometimes people use up all their points at the end of the day, whether they are hungry or not. “That doesn’t always teach you how to listen to your body. There will be days your appetite is heavier and days it is lighter,” she says.

Still, she supports tools that help people feel better in their bodies and lose weight when they need to. “Eric clearly fell into that camp. If this tool is working, I celebrate that huge success for him,” she says.

MORE WEIGHT-LOSS SUCCESS STORIES

Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.