Santiago Lopez, 32, doesn’t remember a time when he wasn’t struggling with his weight. “I think I tried my first SlimFast when I was nine years old,” he tells TODAY.com. “I tried intermittent fasting, I tried keto, I tried one meal a day. They weren’t sustainable. I got results for a month or so, and then I didn’t like the way I felt, so I would fall off.”
The highest weight he saw on the scale was 365 pounds, but he guesses it climbed to 380 — he didn’t want to check.
Lopez knew he had to make a change. His weight was impacting his relationships. For example, when he and his wife went to an amusement park to celebrate her birthday, he couldn’t fit on a ride. “I felt so embarrassed,” he says.
His weight impacted his social life, too. “There were definitely times when I skipped out on events with my friends because I didn’t like the way my clothes were fitting or the way I looked in the mirror,” he says.
“And I would want to go to a sporting event, but I knew the seats were small. I didn’t want to be the guy spilling over on someone else’s seat. I felt the same way about flying — it’s embarrassing to be the person who needs the seatbelt extender.”
Lopez had high blood pressure, back and knee pain and trouble sleeping, and he expected his health would get worse as he got older. He also anticipated health problems down the road due to his weight.
“My dad had a mini-stroke, and I thought, ‘I have a 5-year-old daughter. If I go down this route, I’m going to miss out on moments with her.’ That’s what really motivated me,” he says.
Mounjaro taught him these important lessons about food
Lopez realized he needed help meeting his weight-loss goals. He came across an online newsletter by Sequence, which is now WeightWatchers Clinic. He learned more about weight medications, discovered he met the eligibility guidelines, and decided to join the platform.
“I saw that the medication helps you feel fuller longer, and that you can get results like gastric bypass but without the surgery,” he says. “I thought, ‘What do I have to lose? I’ve tried so many things in my life. Why not try something new that seems to have promising results?”
He met with a doctor who explained the process, and he decided to go ahead with the injectable medication Mounjaro. With coupons, he was able to bring the price of the medication down to $25 a month.
The medication helped him control his portion sizes. “I used to eat a ton of fast food. I’d grab something for breakfast, eat it, and an hour later have a second breakfast. The medication helped me be more in tune with how food made my body feel. If I eat a fast-food breakfast, I don’t feel that good when I go on my run or bike ride. Even if I make that same meal at home, I feel a little bit better,” he says.
In the first month, he took a lower dose of the medication so his body could get used to it, and he lost six or seven pounds. As the dosages increased, so did his weight loss. In a year and a half, he lost 90 pounds.
At that point, he couldn’t get coupons for the medication anymore, and paying full price — over $1,000 a month — put it out of reach. “I got scared. I was worried if I stopped taking it, I might lose all my progress,” he says.
His WeightWatchers Clinic care team found more affordable alternatives for him to consider, and he decided to switch to Contrave, an oral medication.
He found the strength and motivation to complete a triathlon
Lopez now weighs 275 pounds and he’s still losing weight, but he doesn’t have a target number in mind. “It’s more about building habits and doing what I want to be able to do. Can I go outside and play with my daughter? Can I ride those amusement park rides? That’s what I really care about, not the number on the scale,” he says.
His weight loss has helped boost his physical activity, and he completed a sprint triathlon in July 2023, one year after starting the weight-loss medication. The race consisted of an 800-meter swim, a 17-mile bike ride and a 5k run.
“When I was training for the triathlon, I felt energized. And I wasn’t having the knee pain I used to, where I had to take two or three days to recover. It’s not like I’m a world-class runner, but just knowing I ran a 5k nonstop, no matter how fast it was, made me feel validated. When I finished the triathlon, I did what I set out to do,” he says.
Now, he and his sister run together weekly and they’re planning to sign up for 5k races and possibly a half marathon or another triathlon. “The options are endless. I know I can set a goal and achieve it. I just need to work at it,” he says.
Lopez has also noticed a big increase in his overall energy levels: “I work from home, and there used to be days I’d be sitting at my desk, an hour into the day, and I’d be so tired because I slept so poorly the night before. I don’t feel that way anymore.”
His wife and daughter appreciate his higher energy, too. “Before, if my family wanted to go see a basketball game on a weeknight, I would want to leave at halftime. Otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to function the next day,” he says.
“It wasn’t fair to them that we could only make plans on Saturdays and Sundays because I was way too tired on weekdays to do anything. Now, I’m not having those struggles where my energy level is so low.”
His weight-loss advice to others
Lopez believes that the changes he made are within reach of others. “It’s possible. It’s not going to be easy, it won’t happen fast and it’s a lifelong commitment. And it’s not about how fast you lose weight. It’s how long you keep it off and how strong and healthy you feel.”