From Fear to Ferrari: A Journey of Radical Transformation
John Renaldo had just about everything. Happily married to his high school sweetheart and a father of three, the MBA graduate has worked as an account director responsible for website design and development in Manhattan for the past 11 years.
But the 36-year-old Port Chester, New York, resident didn’t have the one thing that ultimately mattered: a clean bill of health. That’s because a life of being overweight resulted in fear for his longevity.
“I was always overweight, even as a child,” he says. One of two siblings (his sister also used to be overweight), Renaldo feels that having two working parents and being physically inactive combined with a particular cultural heritage contributed to his condition.
“I’m from an Italian family, the kind where grandma is always trying to stuff you,” Renaldo says. “We were served a platter of food and told to eat as much as we wanted. It’s a cliché about Italian families, but it’s true.”
Having that foundation, he entered college, a landmine of food freedom. Renaldo said he then went “beyond being chubby.” As a college freshman, he went up to 220 pounds, and by the time he finished graduate school seven years later, he weighed in at 272.
He began going for physicals, and his numbers had climbed off the charts. His blood pressure was very high, his glucose was borderline and his kidneys were compromised. “These were all things you shouldn’t normally have to deal with at this age,” he points out. By his mid-20s, he had consulted a kidney specialist and was on three blood pressure medications in an effort to bring his numbers down.
His motivation to change was born with his first child. By now weighing in at 308 pounds, he recalls, “Comfortably holding my son was difficult; it was taxing for me physically. And he was only going to get more active.”
Renaldo began to worry that due to his health, he might not be around for his son long-term. That worry triply escalated when his son was joined by twin brothers.
The twins were five months old when, on Christmas eve of 2016, says Renaldo, “God’s honest truth, I saw the light.”
“Approaching New Year of 2017, I thought about how everyone talks about resolutions for diet and exercise,” he says. But his wife, who he says “has always been my biggest advocate and knows me better than anyone,” felt what he really needed was bariatric surgery.
New Year, New Man
It was the new year of 2017 when John Renaldo began his quest for better health. He began researching bariatric surgeons. He discovered that Dr. Ashutosh Kaul, an award-winning surgeon at Advanced Surgeons, not only has stellar credentials and surgical experience, but trains other surgeons as a professor. In consultation, Dr. Kaul and, Renaldo decided on sleeve gastrectomy.
“I was nervous,” admits Renaldo. “I wasn’t really completely comfortable with surgery. Subconsciously, I was looking for a red flag in order to justify not doing it. ‘This really starts the process; there’s no turning back,’ I realized.”
But with Dr. Kaul’s help, Renaldo came to a realization. “We only can fear what we see in front of us, the surgery. Dr. Kaul detailed what I was looking at down the road, with and without the surgery. If I didn’t go through with it, the long-term implications are what I feared the most,” he says.
Dr. Kaul’s bedside manner was crucial in helping Renaldo feel more comfortable about his upcoming surgery. “He was calming, soft-spoken, and even though he’d seen hundreds of others, he didn’t make me feel like just another patient,” Renaldo says. “He spent a lot of time talking with me about my family and continually asking me if there was anything about the surgery I wanted to discuss. I trusted him with this significant task, and he exceeded my expectations from the very beginning.”
“Where Did Daddy’s Belly Go?”
As Renaldo began to lose weight, life changed in ways large and small. His clothes got smaller as he did. Prior to his procedure, he says “It was embarrassing to be falling out of my suit. At one point, in a business meeting, I had to use the restroom. I bent over and split my pants.”
He used to have to turn sideways to maneuver, but as the weight dropped off, he could walk straight down the aisles on the commuter train and through the subway turnstiles. He could sit on the couch and finally see his kneecaps. And he was free from public scrutiny. “All these looks I no longer got,” he says with relief.
A photo array of his progress shows his journey, at the end of which his young son was motivated to asked, “Where did daddy’s belly go?”
A Ferrari Kind of Life
Today, John Renaldo celebrates better health and his newfound “comfort and confidence.” Despite his 14-hour days of working and commuting, he walks the 28 city blocks to and from the train station. He is at his goal weight, 185 pounds, which he has steadily maintained. His doctors stopped his three blood pressure medications over time.
“At 36 years old, I’m able to do things with this body that I never thought existed,” Renaldo says. “How fast can I move, jump, run? I haven’t experienced these things since I was a child. I feel like I’m test driving a Ferrari.”