Throughout Charcarus’ life, his weight was always a concern for him and his family. After numerous failed attempts at trying to lose weight, he felt hopeless. It wasn’t until his Senior year in college that he decided to really dedicate himself and commit to real change. Read below to learn about his journey towards a healthier lifestyle.
How would you describe your current health status?
I would describe my current health status as in the refining stages of being healthy and fit. For the last year and a half, I focused strategically on weight loss — coming from my highest weight of 320 pounds, now down to 170 pounds. Of course, two years before, my health status was poor — obese, just really not where it needed to be. I was definitely at high risk for a lot of different health issues that are prevalent in African American communities, especially in my family. But now, with the changes that I’ve made, I’d definitely say that I’m on the right track to being healthy and fit.
Tell me about your specific journey and challenges with taking control of your weight and overall health.
I’ve been dealing with obesity from a very young age. I found comfort in food, especially in my younger years of development. When I was happy, sad, bored…whether I was hungry or not, food was that thing I found that little bit of happiness in. I never was the type to lash out or get super angry when things did bother me, I was more of the type to stick to myself and let the emotions build up on the inside and food was the thing that would take it off my mind. That’s when I really started to notice my addiction to food. I didn’t realize it was an addiction until I really took a hard look in the mirror and really reevaluated my life before I started the last journey with really fixing my weight problem.
From an early stage, eating was the thing I found comfort in and it led to not being able to find school clothes, that led to the bullying and exclusion when I moved up to middle school and that didn’t help either. [Bullying] had a tremendous impact on my confidence and it really led to my first of numerous attempts to lose weight. With my family’s medical history with hypertension, diabetes, kidney failures, stroke, heart attack, everything like that, I was right there at the edge of being diabetic. My blood pressure was out of control — at pre-hypertension levels — it was just a lot at that time. Mentally and emotionally, I was exhausted and I felt broken. Right now, I’m just thankful that I stuck to it and that I finally found something that would work to be able to have the success that I have today.
Dropping 150 lbs
It really started during my freshman year [of college]. When I finally got there, I made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t graduate and finish the same way I started. Unfortunately, my freshman 15 turned into the freshman 40, which quickly spiraled out of control, gaining over 60 pounds in my time at [college]. During my final semester, I was like, ‘Okay, 3 and a half years ago I told myself that I needed to make a change. I have one semester left, so I really need to do something about it.’ It was January — Monday right before classes started — I stepped on a scale and it said 320 pounds. It was like I got sucker punched straight to the gut I just never imagined I would be over 300 pounds; I would say that was the first ring to the wake-up call that it was time to do something.
I was a Work-Study student and my manager’s husband was an engineer, but he did fitness and things on the side, so I reached out to him. He brought me out and showed me the right way to prepare my meals, the right way to exercise, the wrong things that I was doing, and how to do things properly. Every Saturday, I would get up and drive to his gym and we would workout together — he took initial measurements and everything. He brought me around a group of guys that were big in weight loss and trying to get people on the right track. In that last semester, I lost 30 pounds right before graduation. That’s where it initially struck that this is actually something that I can do.
After graduation, I relocated to Boston. I called my parents and let them know, ‘I’m out here by myself, I have the financial means, I’m really gonna take this next step.’ I did my research, and I discovered the Tufts Weight and Wellness Center in Boston. That’s where I learned more in-depth about the options for weight loss. I determined that the Vertical Sleeve Gastrectomy was the right choice for me because it gave me the right amount of restrictions where I could find a balance in what I needed after my recovery. I went in there, got the surgery, and it was done.
My highest recorded weight was 320 pounds; I lost 50 pounds before surgery and now my current weight is 170. I realized I was the only one holding me back and that it was up to me to make the change.
What would you say to Black men out there that are neglecting their health needs?
I would say to them, that it’s never too late to start. Even if you’re older in age, or you think there’s not enough time, or think you can’t do it — just do it. The resources are available, especially with social media and the way things are more connected globally. There are genuine people out there that are willing to support you if your family isn’t supportive of your goals or if you don’t think you have the strength. Whatever you need to do to achieve those goals, you have what it takes inside. What’s going to determine your success is how full you dedicate yourself.
You have what it takes
“Whatever you need to do to achieve those goals, you have what it takes inside. What’s going to determine your success is how fully you dedicate yourself.”Charcarus Thomas