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Losing 50 pounds at 50

This article originally appeared in the Honolulu Advertiser in July 2006
Losing 50 pounds at 50 (The Honolulu Advertiser) - July 2006

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

People say you can't motivate someone else to lose weight; it has to come from within. But there may be an exception: when the person trying to motivate you is your boss.

That's what happened to Tom Teson, vice president and CFO of Tori Richard. His boss, the late Mort Feldman, founder and former CEO of Tori Richard, got in on the act.

"I was resigned to the fact that I was 'big' and there was nothing I could do about that," Teson said. "Every time Mort said something to me, I just laughed it off with, 'You should see my two brothers; they're bigger than me.' " Teson weighed 253 pounds at the time.

Feldman was firm, saying: "You are important to this company, and you need to get healthier," Teson recalled. "Just before he passed away, he arranged for me to meet Eric (Yamashita, a personal trainer). I started on Oct. 12, 2004, and got down to 203 pounds by July or August 2005."

It was a daunting task at first. "Now imagine the two of us; Eric being asked to work with this middle-aged, overweight business executive by his boss, and me walking into a gym for the first time in 30 years," Teson said.

Despite all odds, it worked, leading to a bit of numerical synchronicity: Teson lost 50 pounds in his 50th year, just as Tori Richard celebrates its 50th year in business.

Since reaching his lowest weight of 203, Teson has relaxed his vigilance about his diet "a little," and gained back a few pounds. "But I've been very stable for the past year," he said.

He now weighs 210. His pants size has gone from 44 to 36; his shirt size from XXL to L.

Mort Feldman's son, Josh Feldman, the CEO of Tori Richard, continues what his father started, encouraging Teson to stay fit. "Healthier and happier employees make for more productive employees," Feldman said.

This week, Teson faces another challenge, Mom's cooking. As he goes to Reading, Pa., for a family reunion, he looks forward to the first time his family will see him 50 pounds lighter. The eldest of nine children, Teson said two of his brothers weigh more than 300 pounds.

Teson is not overly concerned about gaining weight under Mom's roof because he believes he has changed his habits permanently.

The first stop he plans to make is a little sandwich shop where he worked as a teen. "They make the best Philly cheese steaks in the world — Reading style," Teson said, with a dreamy look in his eyes.

The second stop on his trip, however, will be a gym. Teson has learned that he can "cheat" for one day a week as long as he gets back into his cardio and strength training the next day.

EARNING THAT BEER

When he first arrived at Gold's Gym, Teson asked Yamashita, "Do I have to give up beer?"

The answer was no, but Teson was told he would have to drink it in moderation. He would also need to increase his cardio exercise in order to earn his beers.

Having reached his weight-loss goal, Teson now has one or two beers in the evening. "Since I lost the weight, I can't drink as much beer as before. I usually have two or three after work and then switch to water," he said. "My extra refrigerator used to be filled with beer. Now it's filled with bottled water."

The other thing Teson had to cut back on, and nearly eliminate from his diet, is rice. "I don't eat much rice at all and avoid carbs in the evening. I prefer fish and chicken to red meat and avoid breaded and fried foods," he said.

His pupu of choice? Poke or sashimi, both high in protein and carb- and fat-free.

Sweets are still a temptation. "I gave them up completely while I was losing weight, but have been enjoying them more often lately. If I gave up the sweets and the beer, I could probably lose another 20 pounds, and I may just do that one of these days," Teson said with a broad grin. But not while he's home in Pennsylvania.

Yamashita advised Teson to try to eat five small meals a day and nothing after 7:30 p.m. Teson's strategy for success is to plan ahead. To tackle his 4 p.m. sugar cravings, he takes a protein shake or hard-boiled egg with him to work.

GOTTA QUIT SMOKING

Cigarettes are the next frontier Teson must tackle. A lifelong smoker, he did succeed in giving up tobacco for three years once. However, he promptly gained 30 pounds. Yamashita and Feldman are both encouraging him to quit smoking.

"I can probably do it now that I've changed my lifestyle," Teson said, seemingly trying to convince himself.

Yamashita gives him an added incentive: "He could do cardio at the level of a 25-year-old now, but his lungs are still only at 70 percent of potential, so it's limiting him."

The cardio didn't come easily at first. "I lost all of my weight using the stationary bike," Teson said. "I tried the elliptical but couldn't stay on it very long. I just kept at it until I could."

Yamashita gave Teson a heart- rate monitor so that he could check his heart rate as he tries to work out at the target rate of 125 to 135 beats per minute. "I can only do that on the elliptical," Teson said. "I have tried running on the treadmill. I can get my heart rate up, but I have problems with my calves tightening up.

"I want to get to the point where I can run with ease. I think that will also help me quit smoking, but I gotta get past the leg bit. I'll get there."

We're betting on it.

Reach Paula Rath at prath@honoluluadvertiser.com.