Joe Marro, 38, knew he had to make some changes in 2017. That’s when his doctor told him he was on track to become diabetic. “It wasn’t a good feeling to know my life could be cut short. I was too young. I have many goals, passions and dreams,” he says.
“I reached the point where the scale was almost 300 pounds, and I had to do something. I didn’t want to die. I felt like I was given an ultimatum.”
Along with his risk for diabetes, Marro also had issues with his thyroid, low energy levels and problems with breathing. “I was a music teacher for 14 years, and my students would see me coughing and not breathing properly,” he says. “I love my career. I have the ability to impact kids’ futures. But without my health, I wasn’t able to give 100%.”
Marro, of Deer Park, NY, had struggled with his weight for his entire life. “I always had this vision of being fit. I tried so hard. I participated in sports when I was younger, and I was always overweight. My weight was always something that bothered me. I felt it held me back, and people looked at me differently,” he says.
Marro had tried lots of different diets, but he would always lose a little and gain it back: “I felt like I was destined to be overweight, like it was my genetics. But the reality is, I didn’t understand how to eat properly, and I didn’t understand how to develop a workout routine.”
Once he learned how to eat and exercise in ways that supported his health, he lost 130 pounds. Here’s how he did it.
He made fitness and diet changes on his own at first
Those classes helped him start to enjoy exercising and feel like he was part of a community. “Before that, I would go to the gym but feel lost because I didn’t know what I was doing,” he says. “Group classes expanded my knowledge of exercise and gave me something to look forward to.”
He also reduced his portion sizes and counted calories. These changes helped him lose 55 pounds before his weight loss stopped. “In that year, even though I was plateauing, I developed a consistent exercise routine,” he says.
Still, he needed to get past the plateau. He tried more intense workouts to see if that would help, but he wasn’t getting the results he wanted.
He turned to an expert for advice
Marro hired a trainer, who helped him create an eating plan centered around counting macronutrients (protein, fat and carbohydrates).
“I started losing a little bit of weight, but I wasn’t entirely sticking to the meal plan,” he says. “I was following it maybe four or five days a week. I would always eat on the go, and I think that was a big issue. When you go out to eat, you don’t really know how many extra calories are in the food or how it’s being prepared.”
Finally, he decided to test his trainer’s advice by following the plan “to a tee.” He targeted 100 to 150 grams of protein, 125 grams of carbs and 50 grams of fat per day. He discovered healthier foods that he liked and created meals centered around those foods. “I started cooking my own food and measuring everything. I fell in love with the process,” he says.
And that’s when he saw results again — he started losing one to two pounds a week consistently, and by 2020, he lost another 75 pounds.
Marro’s trainer also worked out with him one-on-one, and he discovered he enjoys developing an exercise routine and challenging himself.
In his current plan, he aims for 9,000 to 10,000 steps a day between running, the treadmill and the Stairmaster. Marro now works as a school administrator, and he’ll walk on his lunch break or when he’s talking on the phone.
He also lifts weights five days a week, with two days on upper body, two days on lower body and one day on full body: “I love weightlifting. If I had never gone through a journey like this, I don’t think I would. Now, it’s a part of my routine that I enjoy.”
After losing so much weight, he has a little bit of loose skin, although he feels like weight training has minimized it. “It’s still something that weighs on me mentally,” he says.
He’s seen these non-scale victories in his health and his life
Marro’s weight loss has lowered the risk for diabetes that scared him into making changes: “I had my blood work done recently, and I have a clean slate with no issues. My doctor said there’s nothing I need to improve.”
He’s happy to be doing what he can to improve his longevity odds: “I want to live a long life. I know I could get sick with anything at any time. But I’m increasing my chances.”
He’s noticed these changes, too:
- He can run a 5K.
- He has more energy.
- He doesn’t need as much sleep as he used to.
- He doesn’t have to worry about needing extra space on an airplane.
- He can buy brands of clothing that he couldn’t wear before.
As a music teacher, I always tell students, ‘If you want to be better on your instrument, you have to be consistent with your practice.’ And if you want to lose weight, you have to be consistent with eating healthy.
He applied his training as a teacher to his own life
“I’ve learned that part of fitness is knowing how your body reacts to exercise and how food plays a role. I took my career in education and incorporated it into my health and fitness,” he says.
“As a music teacher, I would always tell students, ‘If you want to be better on your instrument, you have to be consistent with your practice.’ And if you want to lose weight, you have to be consistent with eating healthy. They correlate together.”
Marro has maintained his weight in the 170s since 2020, and he manages fluctuations by weighing himself once a week, scanning his body fat and paying attention to how he feels. “I carefully monitor how I’m feeling, because I think that’s important, too. If I notice I’m starting to feel a little sluggish, that’s a warning,” he says.
He still sticks to his macronutrient meal plan. A day of eating may look like this:
- Breakfast: A smoothie, oatmeal, eggs and vegetables or yogurt with walnuts and berries.
- Lunch: A Chipotle-style bowl with either chicken or ground beef; rice, black beans or sweet potato; and two to three cups of vegetables.
- Dinner: Fish or another protein with vegetables.
He connects with people for support
Marro joined the Start TODAY Facebook group and appreciates how people are there for each other. “When you’ve gone through major weight loss, having a support system is very important. You could easily slip back into what you used to do,” he says.
“I love the fact that people motivate each other. You’re able to provide support for people, and people provide support for you. Everyone supports each other’s goals, whatever they are, because everyone has different goals and everyone’s in different places in their health.”