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Peter’s success story

Peter Tarantino was never what you would call “skinny.” Standing only 5 foot 4 inches tall, he was solid and sturdy, with a low center of gravity – the perfect build for a wrestler.

His high school coach agreed, putting Peter on the team and having him switch between two weight classes to compete in matches. Peter weighed 205 lbs, but much of it was muscle.

“The wrestling coach gave us great discipline,” recalls Peter. “We worked hard at practice and ran 2 – 5 miles a day. Two or three times a week, we also worked out with weights, so I was in good shape.”

All that exercise, and the molten metabolism it brought, meant Peter could survive eating in his large Italian family. “My grandmother is a great cook,” he says. “She made delicious meatballs, sausages and mountains of pasta. I was happy to eat everything she put in front of me.”

So were Peter’s brothers and dad. “They are all slightly overweight,” Peter says. “My dad has a beer-gut, but it’s not from beer. He loves going out to eat.”

Peter’s mom, a former registered nurse, was always the lone voice in the wilderness when it came to eating healthy food. “She’s always been on a health kick,” he says, “and she kept trying to get me to eat right.”

Peter admits now that he should have listened to his mother.

When he left home to attend Niagara University, up near the Canadian border, Peter found himself on his own for the first time and at a bit of a loss what to do next.

“I didn’t know what to major in, so I joined a program called Academic Explorations that let you take lots of different subjects for the first two years,” he says. “I was taking History and Business and all types of classes and, to tell the truth , the stress was getting to me.”

His first experience of independence didn’t help either.

“There was so much freedom,” Peter remembers. “I was hanging out with my friends till all hours, eating pizza at midnight, not taking care of myself.”

Then he joined the Rugby Team.

“The Rugby team was very into drinking beer,” says Peter. “I drank a lot of beer with those guys.”

Between the late night hours, the lack of exercise, the pizza and the beer, Peter started to pack on the pounds.

“I gained ‘The Freshman 15’ and then some,” he says. “I started noticing I had to really suck air during the rugby games, but the adrenaline rush of playing kept me going.”

Peter also kept going to the school cafeteria – an all-you-can-eat establishment – open till midnight.

“I went for chicken fingers, hamburgers and fries, and pizza and pasta, of course. I totally ignored the salad bar.”

Whenever he went home for a visit, his mom would mention that he seemed to be gaining weight. Peter paid no attention to her and just bought bigger clothes. “I said I didn’t have time to worry about it – I was a college kid. I had a term paper due. I used the notion that ignorance was bliss.”

By the time Peter graduated four years later (with a degree in Communications), he had gained 66 more pounds than he had weighed in his wrestling days. At 271 pounds, Peter was concerned.

“I thought that it was time to get a job and who would hire someone who had so little respect for themselves.”

His parents provided him with an opportunity to do something about the weight.

“For graduation, they gave me a summer at Shane Diet Resorts,” says Peter. His mom described the resort as “like The Biggest Loser camp” with trainers and guests of many ages, including a group near Peter’s age. Peter Googled the resort, liked what he read, and started emailing back and forth with the owners, David Ettenberg and Ziporah Janowski. They described the program of nutrition, exercise, education and just plain fun that made up the summer sessions.

“I said, sign me up. I knew I didn’t have the discipline to lose the weight myself. I needed a boost to get started.”

Though he thought going to Shane Diet Resorts was a good plan, he admits to being nervous when he first arrived.

“I thought I was going to be the fattest guy there,” he says, “and I expected the weigh-in would show I was over 300 pounds. I had been avoiding scales and mirrors for months.”

His starting weight of 271 wasn’t the only relief – so was the fact that everybody he met was in the same boat. “I had no trouble making friends there right away,” says Peter, who admits he did encounter an unexpected curveball.

“I always socialized with girls in school and had some dates, but mostly I was always the guy that was the girl’s best friend and would have described myself as unfortunate and lonely. At SDR I considered dating one of the girls, since we shared some strong common ground.”

But determined to stick to his goal to work hard at the program, Peter let the romantic possibilities pass him by. “It was great for my self-confidence, but I couldn’t afford any distractions,” he says.

Peter was a man on a mission.

“My parents were paying money for this, I had to take full advantage of their gift,” he says. “I kept that mindset all the time.”

Take advantage he did, according to Shane behavior coach and fitness trainer  Jackie Poplaski.

“Peter was just a beast,” she says. “He came to every class. He worked harder than everyone else. He powered up hillsides on hikes and did all the exercises picture perfectly. He brought the whole group together. Peter was a rock star.”

He started the day with the morning walks, before breakfast, attended Ready-Set-Go cardio class (involving sprints and shuffles and “suicides” to burn calories), and found that the Boot Camp Fitness and Spin classes were his favorite.

“They were very intense classes,” says Peter. “They pushed us hard, but I liked that better.”

“Peter just had to rediscover his inner athlete,” says Poplaski. “He needed to be encouraged to challenge himself. He fought through the ‘blood, sweat and tears’ and his self-confidence soared. It was great to see.”

“After the first week, it wasn’t about just exercise to me,” Peter recalls, “It was about my lifestyle and how I functioned in my body. I wanted to learn.”

Learn he did, not only in the many classes offered (from Yoga to Pilates to Body Sculpting and Circuit Training), but also in the classes taught by the program’s nutritionist, Maria, where he learned about the importance of healthy diet and nutrition’s part in keeping his body performing at peak efficiency.

“I ate everything they gave me – except for quinoa, a grain I hated – and they substituted for me,” he says, “I even ate the salads they served before lunch and dinner.”

When not at classes, Peter and his fellow guests would catch a movie in town, hit the hot tub, or go on an excursion – like a hike or visit to a nearby cave. He made friends he is sure will last a lifetime. “We still hang out on Facebook together,” he says.

Old friends at home couldn’t believe the change in him. Peter had lost 38 pounds.

His own parents said “Oh my God, where is the rest of you?” And at Christmas his extended family said he looked as though he had lost a person.

Peter could see the difference when he looked in the mirror, but joined a local gym, got a trainer and stuck to his plan to eat healthy (no more beer for him) and exercise.

“I still feel a little self conscious at the gym with all those bodybuilders around,” he ways. “But my self-confidence is building. I run before breakfast and in the evening,” he says. “I do weight-lifting and cardio three times a week, just cardio two days and run the treadmill.”

It’s working. Peter has lost an additional 33 pounds since he left Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts and his clothes tell the tale.

“I went from wearing size XX to X and now to L.” he says, “But I still plan on losing more.”

To that end, Peter is also learning to cook. He and his mom are making those healthy meals she tried to sell him on throughout his childhood, to the benefit of them both.

“I want to make healthy meals that taste great and eat the right way,” he says, “I feel better physically than ever and have more stamina and muscle. Even my social life is picking up.”

He got his job (wearing an ever-smaller size suit) as a paid internship with Union Bank of Switzerland, working for a financial planner. He’s hoping soon to parlay it into a full-time position as a Client Service Associate.

“My future looks bright now,” he says, “I’m keeping up with my weight loss and fitness at a steady pace. My job could turn full time. I want to get a car and an apartment and start to live my life like a real adult.”

He credits Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts with helping to make that all possible.

“I was off-track, with no discipline or self-esteem. I was unhealthy and had a negative attitude towards other people,” he says. “Now that is all turned around. I smile more, my attitude is positive – it’s all different. SDR really did change my life.”