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Video: The evolution of Al Roker

  1. Closed captioning of: The evolution of Al Roker

    now oranges, remember: cq.

    >>> we're back now at 8:10 with the remarkable evolution of al. just a few short years ago, he weighed over 300 pounds, he now tells us 340 pounds. today, al has never looked better. twice a week, al heads to new york central park and jogs four miles. it may not be a marathon, but it is an incredible accomplishment, considering how far he has come.

    >> here's what's happening in your neck of the woods.

    >> eight years ago, al weighed 320 pounds.

    >> i was having trouble walking. clothes didn't fit that well. i was in a size 60 suit. morbidly obese.

    >> three bucks an hour and all the chocolate i can drink.

    >> a wake-up call from his dad, al roker sr., forced him to make a change.

    >> it was a few weeks before my dad died and i was going to see him at sloane kettering hospital every morning before the show. one morning he said to me, look, you've got to promise me that you're going to lose weight . we both know i'm not going to be here to help you with my grandchildren so you've got to promise me.

    >> that evening, his father lost his ability to speak. three weeks later, he was gone.

    >> that was a real moment for me.

    >> weight had long been an issue in the roker household.

    >> growing up, i was always chubby, i was a chubby kid. nbc land animated special, bill cosby , fat albert . i remember watching it. of course, my full name is albert, thinking this isn't good. this is not good. walked into the schoolyard and within 30 seconds, i didn't hear anything and then all of a sudden, hey, hey, hey. i mean, you're not going to cry in front of your friends.

    >> things didn't improve in college.

    >> every time i would lose 30 or 40 pounds, it would stay off six, seven months and slowly creep back on.

    >> so al began his career.

    >> they don't get much bigger than me.

    >> quickly becoming known as the funny, fat weather man. in 2002 , al's wife, deborah, brought up the idea of gastric bypass surgery . after careful consideration, he decided to go under the knife.

    >> oaky doeky. i lost about 140 pounds. that was great. and i felt like, okay, i'm never going back.

    >> hey, beautiful.

    >> his initial weight loss was documented both on "today" and "dateline" but that wasn't the end.

    >> six months ago, i would be lying flat on the ground. he's so skinny now, i just bounce off.

    >> some people look at this as a magic bullet . it's going to change everything. no, it's going to help you lose weight . that's it.

    >> 40 pounds crept back on.

    >> view this as i do, you're a recovering alcoholic that no matter how much success you've had or are having, that, you know, you're only one quarter pounder away from falling off the wagon. i've come to accept that, you know, even though you -- yes, you do lose weight from a surgical procedure, at the end of the day , you still have to do the things that people who lost weight in the traditional way do.

    >> today, al maintains his weight with a careful balance of controlled calorie intake and exercise.

    >> i'm happy with where i am as far as my relationship with food. i just learned that you can be in control. you can make choices.

    >> of course, it isn't just about the scale.

    >> no matter how much weight you lose, there's still that person, that fat guy lurking. intellectually, i know i've lost weight. i mean, my suits are smaller. i know all that stuff. but, you know, when i look in the mirror, i don't see as much of a change as other people see.

    >> even with those daily struggles, al believes his dad would approve.

    >> i think he would be very proud. he was an athletic guy. i think he would be very pleased. he would be happy.

    >> and we're here with al right now. you're going to do a little weigh-in, in a moment. before we get to that, though, had you had other wake-up calls before your dad, which is so emotional, obviously? were there moments before that, where someone kind of took you, grabbed you by the lapels and said you've got to do this?

    >> yeah but no matter how many times that happens for the most part, until you're ready to do it, it doesn't really matter. it could be your parents, your wife, your friends. it doesn't matter. but i think that one with my dad was just -- because i was going to lose one of the most important people in my life and i had to make a promise to him so that's why i did end up doing that.

    >> did you sometimes -- you work so hard, al, constantly every day thinking about this, working out as hard as you are now working, do you fear slipping back?

    >> yeah, i still do. i really do. and i think everybody who has been here does worry about it. no different than an alcoholic worries about taking that one drink and falling off the wagon. the difference with alcohol is you can live without drinking. you can't live without eating. so, you still have to always be vigilant.

    >> i know people do come up to you and ask advice on that surgery you had.

    >> wray.

    >> it's not for everyone.

    >> no.

    >> how do you handle that when they come up and say should i do this?

    >> i tell people it's a very individual choice, very dangerous people . one in every 200 people die from it. you have to make that decision. i can't make that decision for you. make sure you research the surgery you're going to use and at the end of the day you still have to work at losing weight .

    >> you were over 340, you told us.

    >> yes.

    >> at one point. how long ago was that?

    >> eight years ago.

    >> i like how you take the coat off.

    >> i'm going to strip down. shoes. hold on just a second.

    >> you might want to give me your wallet.

    >> oh! very nice. all right, lauer! here we go. 204.

    >> 204, 136 pounds, my friend.

    >> thank you.

    >> not bad.

    >> ladies and gentlemen , that's so great. al roker , look at that.

    >> even more.

    >> give or take. i think i lost a pound in the hour i weighed in.

    >>> if you would like more information about al's weight loss , send us an e-mail. al will answer your questions coming

By
TODAY contributor
updated 6/7/2010 10:33:56 AM ET 2010-06-07T14:33:56

As Al Roker Sr. was dying of cancer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, his eldest son, the famous television personality, would visit him every morning on his way to work on TODAY, where he was known far and wide — mostly wide — as “the funny, fat weatherman.”

Roker Sr., a New York City bus driver, knew that time was short, and he had an important message for his son and namesake. “One morning he said to me: ‘Look. You’ve got to promise me that you’re going to lose weight. We both know I’m not going to be here to help you with my grandchildren. So you’ve got to promise me,’ ” Al Roker recalled on TODAY Monday.

Al Jr. promised he would. That evening, his father lost the ability to speak. Three weeks later he was dead.

Constant vigilance
“That was a real moment for me,” Roker said in a taped report about how he lost nearly 140 pounds and 20 suit sizes. He had one relapse where he regained about 40 pounds, but on Monday he weighed in at a trim 204.

“You can defeat the bypass, just as you can defeat any diet you’re on,” he said. “You have to be constantly vigilant.”

That’s why Roker works out every morning before heading to work, and twice a week  runs 4 miles in Central Park.

TODAY
Four-mile jogs through Central Park are a regular part of Roker’s regime today.
“I do a slow workout, which is high weights and slow repetitions, and I’m running,” the 55-year-old newsman, TV personality, author and entrepreneur said. “I’m training to see if I can do the New York City Marathon. I don’t know if I’ll make it.

“At my highest I got up to — I’m ashamed to admit — 340 pounds,” Roker told his TODAY co-hosts, Matt Lauer and Ann Curry. “I just kind of let myself go.”

The turning point
Like many morbidly obese people, Roker got plenty of advice from every quarter about his need to lose weight. But during a later segment he did with Curry and TODAY’s Natalie Morales, he said fat people do not respond to prodding.

“You can nag, you can cajole, you can browbeat — it doesn’t really matter,” Roker said. “It may even make it worse. We know we’re fat. We don’t need you to tell us. We know that, and when we’re ready to change, we’re going to change, so stop bothering us.”

TODAY
Shortly before his death, Roker’s father, Al Roker Sr., urged his son to lose weight.
The exception was the dying wish of his beloved father, which is what finally got through to him.

“I was going to lose one of the most important people in my life, and I had to make a promise to him. That’s why I ended up doing it,” Roker said.

Eight years ago, Roker underwent gastric bypass surgery, documenting the procedure on tape for TODAY. By then, he was having trouble walking. Tape shows him literally waddling down a hospital corridor.

Eight months after the surgery, The New York Daily News reported that Roker had lost 100 pounds on his way down to his current weight.

TODAY
Roker’s weight at the time of his gastric bypass surgery eight years ago is a dramatic contrast to today.

But keeping the weight off is a constant battle for the father of three, whose wife is fellow journalist Deborah Roberts. Roker said that Roberts has always been a fitness freak, and when he was fat, “we were kind of a coed Laurel and Hardy.” Now, they exercise together, and Roker does most of the cooking. He stays away from red meat and gluten and doesn’t eat the huge servings he once did.

New lifestyle
“I like the way I feel now. So if I’m going to put this in my mouth, it had better be the most spectacular thing of whatever it is I’m going to eat now,” Roker told Curry and Morales. Video: Roker trains for marathon

“The other thing is portion control,” he added. “In the old days, I could sit down and polish off two quarter-pounders. I don’t do that now. I don’t really eat burgers. It’s much smaller portions. I might have a bite of this, a bite of that, and that’s it.”

Roker said he grew up as a chubby kid who took grief in school for his resemblance to the title character in the “Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids” animated television show. No one says that today, but he cautioned anyone contemplating gastric bypass surgery that losing weight doesn’t change who you are — just what you look like.

TODAY
Roker weighs in on TODAY Monday as Matt Lauer and Ann Curry look on.
“Now you’re a thinner person, but you still have the same problems,” Roker said. In response to a viewer question about his biggest ongoing hurdle, he added, “It’s just to realize it’s not the end. It’s just the means.”

Roker is known as a classy dresser, and he said he gave away all his size 60 suits and now wears a size 40. One thing that keeps him thin is knowing the expense of being fat again.

“If I do gain this back, which I am planning not to, it would be a very expensive proposition,” he said.

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