"Honey, you shrunk my pants!"
That's what Peter Georgopolous wanted to yell at his wife in the weeks after a back injury left him unable to exercise. Not that he had been that big on exercise before, but that injury sent him spiraling down a path to major pain—and major weight gain. Later, he would watch in disbelief as his son seemed to be following the same path. Only then did Peter make up his mind to change.
What was life like before you started your transformation?
I was in a pretty bad place. I was overweight and not doing much to slim down. The heavier I became, the less I could do even simple exercises. I grew angrier and angrier about my weight, and I took out my frustration on my kids. I didn't like myself. I didn't like who I was becoming. And I didn't know why I was being this way. Somehow, I didn't realize my weight was the cause of my negative self-image.
How did you hurt your back?
In the early 2000s, I was walking down some wet stairs outside of work and lost my footing. I tried to catch myself but ended up just throwing out my lower back. After a few days of rest, I was reassigned to light duty at work. Then, I had another work accident and hurt my upper back. From that point on, I became nearly incapacitated. If something fell to the ground, I had to just leave it there. I couldn't even bend over.
When did it hit home that you needed to change the way you were living?
I remember one time I complained to my wife that she was shrinking my pants. That's when it really hit me how heavy I had become. I felt bad about my weight, but I would comfort myself by eating, which of course added more weight and put more pressure on my back. It got to the point where my doctor told me my vertebrae were fusing naturally to support my weight. At the time, my weight fluctuated between 300-410 pounds.
My doctor told me that I had to start losing weight if I was ever going to get rid of the back pain. He gave me this picture of the food pyramid and told me to plan my meals around it. I didn't want to hear about pyramids or food rations or portions: I wanted to eat. I started feeling resentful—because I couldn't eat what I wanted, but more because I couldn't be the man that I was supposed to be. I wasn't a good father or husband. I wasn't the all-around good person I was supposed to be.
My negative self-image began taking its toll on me mentally. As the years went on, I continually carried around too much weight, felt a lot of physical pain, and was constantly angry at life, taking it all out on my family. I knew I needed to change, but didn't know how.
What was the spark that made you want to transform?
It started on the day my son was severely injured in a school bus accident. Up until that moment, he had been a very athletic kid. His games and practices were the center of our lives. He would go to school, come home, do his homework, eat dinner, and then we were off to the gym for him.
When he was hurt, our lives turned upside-down overnight.
I had already been suffering from depression for years. Now my son was depressed, too—and started gaining weight. My lowest point was when I saw my son tip the scales at 305. He was 15 years old at the time. That's when reality hit me, and I realized I had to do something, not for myself but for my son. I never wanted him to end up overweight, angry, and depressed like me, but here he was, my spitting image, but only a child. That was a very low time in my life, thinking that I'd failed my son—and my entire family.
How did you begin your transformation?
I didn't have a plan. I just came home one day and literally threw out all our food. I mean it. I opened the pantry, the cupboards, and the refrigerator, tossed everything into plastic bags and stuffed them all in the trash. My son watched me go on this rampage and was scared because he thought I was mad at him. In my mind, though, I was trying to save him.
Looking back, I can see how crazy this must have seemed, but I felt like it just had to be done. At that time, I weighed 410 pounds, and my son was at 305. We were two big boys.
The first "workout" of my transformation consisted of walking to my apartment complex gym. I was so out of shape that I'd get winded just going up this little hill, so I started driving there instead.
I started going to the gym every day, but only when no one else was around. I was still self-conscious. I didn't want anybody to see me because I didn't feel strong. It was just a little ego deflating to be a grown man who could only put 100 pounds on a bench press machine. I spent months using the machines by myself—all by myself with no guidance—trying to get stronger and lose weight. I decided I didn't want to even touch free weights until I was under 300 pounds.
What was it like seeing your body change?
It took a long time to see changes. Looking back, that makes sense. It took me two decades to put on the weight, so I felt pretty good about losing most of it within 18 months. It's cool because when people look at me now, I know they're doing it for different reasons. Before, they'd laugh at me behind my back because of my weight. Now, they look at me and wonder how I could transform myself so much, so quickly.
Do you follow a meal program now?
I don't think there's any such thing as a diet. When people say they're going to go on a diet, what they usually mean is, "I'm going to start today, and then stop when I lose 10 pounds" or, "I'll do it for two months and then go back to the food I like to eat." That's not the way it works.
If you want to lose weight or get fit, you must change that way of thinking. It takes a change in your lifestyle.
What advice do you have for other people who want to transform?
I don't believe in setting a certain date for when you'll start changing the way you eat or how you exercise. People say things like, "I'll start February 1" or "Let's make a New Year's resolution." I mean, if you're going do it, do it today. Do it now. Don't wait to start your change. Don't make excuses. Don't give yourself reasons to wait. Just do it. You're doing it for you. You don't need to plan it. Just start it. And let me tell you, if I can do it, anybody can do it.