BY CHERYL SLAVIN
The turning point came on February 17, 2011. Football season had ended and now nothing remained to distract Joey DiCara, then 25 years old, from the ugly truth he had been trying to avoid. Lying on his bed, staring at the ceiling, the 5’5,’’ 370 pound young man knew he had to make a choice: change, or die.
The Haverstraw-native felt that he was already dying inside, his spirit crushed under the weight of his oversized body. “What happened to me?” he remembers thinking. He had been overweight his whole life, but his weight had really ballooned in the years he was away at college. He could no longer even recognize himself in the mirror. And aside from the emotional fallout of being obese, Joey also was well aware that he was on his way towards diabetes and heart disease. Something had to give.
“My passion for food had just turned into madness,” he realized. “I had to fight the demon. That’s when I thought of Napoleon Hill, and how he wrote that with the power of the mind, a person can do anything.”
So Joey made the only choice he really could; he chose life. Ordinarily an upbeat, creative person, Joey put his take-charge personality to the test. The first thing he did was call Overeaters’ Anonymous. Then he committed to attending regular meetings for over five months, until the group disbanded. At the same time, he started to put his love of cooking to work in his favor, substituting, for example, veggies and feta cheese for sausage and ham in his omelets. He slowly integrated regular exercise into his life, starting with three 30 minute power walks a week.
“I never followed any particular diet or exercise plan,” he explains. “I always knew what I needed to do; I just hadn’t done it up ‘til then. Food is a beautiful thing—just not too much of it.”
Within five months of making the decision to turn his life around, Joey had lost 50 pounds. Encouraged by his progress and buoyed by the support of family and friends, he kept going. The first big milestone came when he broke the 300-pound barrier. Then, after losing 60 to 70 pounds, his confidence returned and for the first time in his life he entered the dating scene. Two and a half years after that fateful day, Joey has lost over 180 pounds and is just 30 pounds short of his total weight loss goal. And for over a year he has been happily dating a wonderful woman he met at work.
Today Joey, who resides in Nyack, continues with his complete lifestyle change. His workouts now include alternating cardio and weight training days. He’s started running, and recently completed his first half-marathon. He races with his father, also a runner, and intends someday to beat him. Throughout it all, he has continued to work as a supervisor at Bed Bath and Beyond, as well as a freelance film and video producer. His colleagues and customers at Bed Bath and Beyond have been among his fiercest supporters.
Joey does not shy away from thinking about that dark day in February, but he is determined to use his story to bring the light to others. He’s replaced his passion for eating with a passion for health and wellness. He’s thinking about starting a multi-media company around that interest, and he’s also looking into the possibility of becoming a health and wellness life coach. He envisions counseling and cooking for others who have made the courageous choice to live better, healthier lives.
Since his decision to change, Joey has been keeping a video record of his struggles and triumphs as he traveled from obese to healthy. Once he achieves his goal weight, he will edit the film to make a documentary about his journey. Entitled “Dawn of a New Day,” he plans to premier it in Rockland in the Spring of 2014. For now supporters can view a trailer on youtube, and he will continue to release segments as he goes along.
“Obesity kills,” Joey says simply, when asked why he chose to go public about his transformation. “My goal is to inspire people, to combat hopelessness. I’ve been to hell and back, and I want people to know that if I can do it, so can you.”
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