Being overweight and obese and then morbidly obese has meant a lot of humiliation and heartache for weatherman Al Roker.
In his new book, "Never Goin' Back: Winning the Weight-loss Battle for Good," the NBC "Today" show personality reveals the taunts he endured growing up in the New York borough of Queens. Schoolmates labeled him "Fat Albert."
He writes about the mortification he felt when the flight attendant announced to the entire plane that he needed a seat belt extender. He tells about the shame he felt when he regained weight after yet another diet or when he hid his food binging from others. He lays out the embarrassment of having his 6-year-old daughter tell him that his breasts were bigger than his wife's. He admits to the impact his weight had on his career and marriages.
He doesn't even hold back about the time he couldn't control his bowels at the White House.
It happened in 2002. In March of that year, he decided to have gastric bypass surgery — after years of unsuccessfully fighting to lose weight and keep it off. Ten days after surgery, he went back to work without telling anyone he had the procedure. By Easter, he was at the White House for the President's annual Easter Egg Roll.
That's when he experienced one side effect — loose stools — of a gastric bypass. It happens if you eat food higher in fat or sugar than is recommended and the body can't break it down. He sneaked off to a restroom and cleaned up as best as he could.
In an interview, Roker notes that he's not a doctor or an authority on weight loss. But he felt he needed to write about his most cringe-worthy experiences to establish his credentials on one thing he's an expert on: what it's like to be a fat man.
"I felt like if you're not honest about it, where is my credibility in writing about this?" Roker says.
And not just a fat man, but a fat man on national television, under the scrutiny of millions of viewers.
As successful as he's been as a TV weatherman, Roker says he's often wondered if his weight held him back from accomplishing even more — like hosting a daytime talk show.
"How many morbidly obese people do you see on television?" Roker says. "I think we always wonder ‘What if?'"
Roker writes that he got the gastric bypass operation after his father, while lying on his deathbed with lung cancer, made Roker promise to lose weight.
Roker underwent a gastric bypass, which is one of four main types of bariatric surgery. Bariatric surgery restricts food intake, which leads to weight loss. The other types are an adjustable gastric band, biliopancreatic diversion with a duodenal switch and vertical sleeve gastrectomy. Each procedure has different side effects. Consult with your doctor about which might be best for you.
After initially losing 140 pounds after his bypass operation, Roker regained some of the weight. He said he only truly changed his lifestyle to become fit and eat healthier after his mother died. He decided that he needed to be the one who wanted to lose weight and keep it off.
"You have to be ready to do it for yourself," Roker says. "Because if you don't want to do it, you're not going to make it stick."
That's the one message he hopes readers will get from his book.
No matter how much a spouse, parent or child wants a loved one to lose weight, "they're not going to able to change until they're ready to do it," Roker says.
Besides the surgery, Roker says he changed his diet to stress "clean" eating — meaning foods like whole grains, fruits, vegetables and lean proteins.
He also took up a weight training program that emphasizes slow, extended movements.
Roker stresses that a gastric bypass operation has risks and it isn't for everyone.
"I want to be clear that I have never publicly recommended bypass surgery and I am not doing that now," he writes.
He also says there's no magic bullet or diet or exercise secret to be found in his book.
"At the end of the day, it all boils down to eat less and exercise more," Roker says.
The 5-foot-7, 58-year-old Roker once weighed 340 pounds. Today, he travels with his own scale and weighs himself twice a day. During an interview, he said that day's number was 202 pounds.
He writes, "My weight will continue to be a lifelong battle, but at least I'm prepared to face it head-on and slay the dragon."
Created on 06/13/2013
Updated on 06/13/2013
- Weight-control Information Network. Bariatric surgery for severe obesity.
- UpToDate. Patient information: weight loss surgery (beyond the basics).