After his grandfather was hospitalized for heart problems and underwent triple bypass surgery, Joaquin Rodriguez began looking at his habits. At the time, he was driving an 18-wheeler truck and long days on the road meant little exercise and a lot of meals from gas stations. Over time that caused his weight to creep up until he weighed 264 pounds.
“Seeing someone that you idolized, you see as your Superman, somebody who was invincible in your eyes as a child, seeing him sick and not knowing what was going to happen, scared me enough to push me over the edge to really pursue weight loss and make healthier choices,” Rodriguez, 30, a sheet metal mechanic in Corpus Christi, Texas, told TODAY.
He started simply by eating smaller portions.
“I tried dieting a lot before and that just never really worked out,” Rodriguez explained. “So I figured it has to be (eating) less. I have to cut.”
That worked for him because he admits he doesn’t love vegetables and the thought of making himself eat a salad seemed unpalatable.
“That’s what made it really difficult for me in the (past) was thinking like I had to do it that way,” he said.
Eating smaller portions worked and he lost about 1 to 2 pounds a week. Then he switched jobs and wasn’t on the road as much. That meant he was able to add exercise into his routine starting at the end of 2019.
“It became easier for me to be more physical and start running,” Rodriguez said. “I started running and doing small local races like 5Ks and 10Ks and they turned into a passion for me.”
Even though he eventually was able to compete in races, when he first laced up his running shoes, Rodriguez struggled.
“It was very difficult. I remember being very out of breath and being down on myself, wanting to give up,” he said. “I pushed myself to continue on that path and then it turned out that I love it. It turned out being something more than a hobby for me.”
When things feel tough, he thinks of his daughters.
“I wanted to be somebody they could be proud of. I wanted to show them that there’s no quitting that we can push through things even when it’s hard,” he said. “I just want to be a good example for them of a healthy lifestyle and that change is possible.”
With diet changes, Rodriguez went from 260 pounds to 230. Then when he started exercising, he also cut out alcohol and went from 230 to 180. He now weighs 164 pounds. Now, he runs longer races and even became interested in triathlons.
“Local runners have been a great help to feed me information here and there and I’m always asking questions,” Rodriguez said. “I found what worked for me and I tried to hold myself accountable.”
His eating habits have also evolved — he even eats more vegetables now.
“I was a burger and pizza guy for a long time, most of my life,” he said. “So to start incorporating greens and carrots and fruits it was a (change). It was definitely because of running, trying to be a better athlete.”
Rodriguez learned a lot about himself as he lost weight and transformed his health.
“I had the ability to do something that I thought I couldn’t do and that helps me in everyday life, at work, at home with the girls and my wife. It really does help me to help other people and to inspire them to try to be better,” he said.
Rodriguez shares tips to help others thinking about making healthy lifestyle changes.
1. Make small changes.
When Rodriguez wanted to lose weight in the past, he often tried making too many changes at once. That’s why he started slowly by eating smaller portion sizes and it worked.
“I didn’t want to overwhelm myself. That was a big deal the other times I tried to lose weight,” he said. “I tried to do too much at once and it overwhelmed me and it made me (feel) like I wasn’t making any progress.”
2. Find your motivation.
When Rodriguez wanted to lose weight he wanted to do it for his family. When felt too tired to run or that he couldn't do it, he thought of his daughters.
“My older daughter, she’s 5 and she thinks I’m the strongest man in the world,” he said.
3. Ask for help.
While Rodriguez first started running just to move his body more, he realized he loved it and asked other runners for advice.
“The triathlon club that is here in Corpus Christi has been a great help. They are full of information,” he said. “They really helped me to get where I am now.”