At 25 years old, Peter Perez was a college graduate with his whole life ahead of him. But one thing kept getting in the way: his weight. In the prime of his life, Perez was 342 pounds-the product of stress, work, and an inability to regulate his emotions without food.
But he did have one person on his side: a dad who was willing not only to call him out about his health, but also to help him lose 142 pounds over the next few years.
“When I was in junior college, and about 20 years old, I was 230 pounds and very strong,” Perez told Men’s Health. “I transferred to a four-year college to study engineering while working full time. I was stressing myself out with workloads and only eating fast food. As my emotions would get out of check, so would my eating. I didn’t know how to comfort myself without food.”
All this led to Perez’s weight gain. And because he couldn’t see the problem himself, nothing could be done. So his dad stepped in.
“My light bulb moment came in 2015 when my dad sat me down to talk about my weight,” he said. “This was a shock because throughout my life, [my] dad was never less than 300 pounds himself.”
When his father approached him and shared his concerns about his weight, Perez broke down in tears. When he asked his son how much he weighed, Perez couldn’t answer because he hadn’t been on a scale in quite some time.
“I was too afraid to look in the mirror or step on the scale,” Perez said. “After that conversation, I forced myself to get on the scale and look in the mirror. I felt contempt toward myself. I was angry and I was frustrated. I knew there was only one person to blame and I was looking at him.”
It was time to make a change. Perez told himself, “I am sorry I let it get to this. I will be different.”
Kickstarting His Weight Loss
Rather than rushing to the gym, Perez took a pragmatic approach. He asked: “What have I done when I tried to lose weight in the past? Why didn’t it work? What can I do differently?”
After reflecting on these questions, he realized he tried to do too much too fast by attempting to change his diet overnight or attempting a hard gym routine right out of the gate, which only led to disappointment.
This time, his solution was to keep his diet steady and cut out one thing at a time. During the first month of his journey, Perez only eliminated soda and kept everything else the same. He lost 12 pounds. The next month he eliminated desserts, and another 10 pounds fell off. He continued with this process for a year, and lost 51 pounds along the way.
“This cemented in my head that these foods were poison to my body,” he said. “It allowed the message to sink in.” (Here’s everything you need to know about an elimination diet before you try it for yourself.)
After that, Perez continued to eat healthier and finally worked in a fitness routine that included cardio and weight training. It all helped him drop down to 200 pounds, marking a 142-pound weight loss by the time he turned 29.
In addition to losing weight, Perez explained that he felt more mentally sharp within weeks of eliminating junk food.
“I also started to feel like I was taking care of myself instead of punishing myself,” he added. “I felt like, ‘This isn’t a diet-this is just how I live now.’”
Along the way, there were plenty of hurdles for Perez to overcome. Perhaps the biggest for Perez was overcoming his sugar addiction. ("There’s sugar in everything,” he pointed out.) That meant he had to re-learn how to eat, read labels, and conquer intense cravings.
He also had to battle the nagging voice in his head telling him he couldn’t do it.
“The biggest hurdle is always the internal battle,” Perez said. “My internal dialog was not supportive for a very long time. I got into therapy to help with this, and weight began falling off again. I think getting clear on the emotions that drive weight up can be very impactful on keeping the weight off. Once my mentality changed, everything else shifted with it.”
As for what other guys can learn from his story, Perez implores people to figure out their own “why.”
“Difficult things are easier to do when I understand why I am doing them,” he said. “If your why is good enough, it will propel you forward.”
“Lastly I’d say, remember to compare yourself to who you were yesterday, and not who someone else is today,” he added. “It’s a very easy mental trap to fall into, yet it is utterly avoidable. Onward and upward.”
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