By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
When I returned from maternity leave in August, I barely recognized my coworker, Tony Forlini.
Our webmaster and videographer had reached his goal weight after about nine months of strict dieting. For the first time since I met him two-and-a-half years ago, he was light on his feet. He’d shed over 100 pounds. It seemed as if two of him could probably fit into the well-worn rust-colored sweater that he frequently wore to work during the winter months.
Weight has always been a struggle for Tony, so I was naturally very proud and happy for him for achieving his goal of better health. I don’t think I could have had the willpower to resist dessert and all the delicious entrees the cooks serve us here at the Chancery, day in and day out.
And neither did Tony, until about a year ago.
His beloved mother, Joanne, passed away after a brave battle with pancreatic cancer. While she did not struggle with weight, she constantly worried about her son’s health. One of her last requests was that he start taking better care of himself.
The day after her death, Tony had a routine doctor’s appointment, and received some more grim news. He had high blood pressure and sleep apnea, both due to his obesity. This was in addition to an ongoing ankle problem that made walking difficult. The doctor said if Tony could get on a weight loss program and stick with it, these problems would likely go away.
Facing the thought of his own mortality, the 39-year-old chose to work with a nutrition counselor and nurse practitioner, who recommended the Ideal Protein plan for his specific situation. The diet is very restrictive and intended for people who need to lose a lot of weight quickly. It isn’t ideal for everyone, Tony said. He was monitored throughout this journey through weight checks, nutrition counseling and routine lab work. “Always check with a doctor before starting a plan,” he said.
In the nine-month journey that followed, he prayed for strength, both in general prayer and by praying to saints he believes were overweight, including St. Thomas Aquinas. Friends at his parish, St. Pius X in Rock Island, Ill., and Chancery coworkers offered constant encouragement. His parish directory photograph also served as motivation to keep going. The Star Wars fan described his overweight physique as being like “Jabba the Hut.”
His mantra was, “as they say in Star Wars, ‘Stay on target! Stay on target!’”
Now that he’s reached his goal weight of just under 200 pounds, his health problems have improved and he worries less about dying young from obesity-related causes.
“I’ve had people tell me my mother would be proud of me,” he said.
His new challenge will be maintaining his weight, which he admits might be just as difficult as losing the weight in the first place. He hopes his healthier lifestyle will open more doors in the dating world so that he can marry and start a family. He hopes to be a beacon of hope to others who are struggling with their weight as well.
(Editor’s note: Lindsay Steele is a reporter for The Catholic Messenger. Contact her at email@example.com or by phone at (563) 888-4248.)