He left himself at the YMCA

Published 1:58 am Friday, May 20, 2005

By By RANDI K. PICKLEY / Niles Daily Star
NILES - Stephen Roberts is only half of himself, so to speak. Jared Fogle of Subway sandwich weight-loss fame has nothing on this Niles native and '82 graduate of Niles High School.
Roberts, originally a truck driver with Kenneth Smith, then later an over-the-road driver for a number of years, found himself obesely overweight, complicating his already disabling rheumatoid arthritis which had plagued him for 12 years.
Before going on the diet, Roberts' health visibly deteriorated. "My knees were the worst. I was looking at total knee replacements. I started looking on the internet for a wheel chair," he said.
When he decided to change his life around, he had to address several issues. One was the pain.
But he kept going, sticking with his plan to get regular exercise at least three days a week for 20 or 30 minutes, reducing the amount of food he ate, and monitoring the kinds of food he consumed.
Roberts said he often uses a George Foreman grill to keep the fat levels in his cooking down. "I eat everything else I used to, but practice portion control. I eat smaller meals now," he said.
When Roberts decided to get serious about weight loss, he applied to the local YMCA for a "sponsor scholarship," a combination of funds from both the Y and the United Way, which helped defray the cost of his Y membership. It was a major factor in his success, according to Roberts.
He added, "I decided that whatever happened, I would try my best. If the results were good, I'd continue. If they weren't, well …"
The results were even better than he had hoped, however. "I lost 28 pounds in the first two months," he said. That was enough to spur him on.
When losing the weight, Roberts had to confront several issues. One was the reason he used to eat unhealthy foods, whether it was a food addiction or simply a matter of convenience. But he told himself, "No one made me put the food in my mouth."
Another issue was the cost in clothing. Roberts used a practical approach, however, as his clothing size continued to shrink. "I wore sloppy clothes for a long time. I'd buy a couple of pairs of pants every three or four months, then cinch up the belt until they were just too big. Then I'd buy a couple more pair. The same with shirts," he said.
Back when he started, he had to shop at the Big and Tall clothing store. "I go to Sears or Wal-Mart now," he said. "When I started out, I was wearing size 50 pants and bulging at the seams. Now I wear size 38 pants. And yesterday I bought my first size medium shirt at Wal-Mart."
He remembers walking by a store window and seeing his image in the glass. "I looked around to see who the skinny guy was," he said.
When buying clothes, Roberts said it was sometimes hard to judge sizes just by looking at the garments. "They looked like they were too small, but they weren't," he said.
Roberts said that when he visited his mother's house a few weeks ago, she wanted to give him a shirt marked "Large." "It fit fine," he said. "She wanted me to keep it. It turned out it was my younger brother's shirt. I was really surprised that we were the same size."
One of the best benefits, according to Roberts, however, was the change in his looks. He said, "People I hadn't seen in a while didn't know me. They would walk right past. It was a little weird." Then he smiled and said, "And I'm just now getting women to pay attention to me."
At the age of 41, Roberts can be seen these days on the treadmill or the stairstep machine working up a good sweat and looking dapper in a pair of sweats as he goes through his paces. He has more energy now than he did when he was overweight and he feels better than ever.
Of course, one of the biggest issues in any weight loss program is staying with it. Roberts said, "You have to have faith in the system. Give it a month or so and don't look at the scales. Keep up with the exercising three days a week, and use portion control. Especially pay attention to the portion control."