Published April 12, 2013
When weight-loss coach Charles D’Angelo was 17 years old, he weighed 360 pounds – and he could give you every excuse for why he struggled with his weight.
D’Angelo grew up in an Italian family, who bonded between slices of cherry pie and sips of sugar-laden coffee. His mother was an alcoholic, and his father was a blue-collar worker.
At school, he was bullied about his weight until he withdrew from his peers to gorge on food in the bathroom stall during lunch. He even tried to cut gym class so he didn’t have to participate in President Bill Clinton's youth fitness program.
Little did D'Angelo know that less than a decade later and 156 pounds lighter, Clinton would be endorsing his book, Think and Grow Thin, and he would be coaching clients across America to control their habits and shed hundreds of pounds.
But he didn’t get from point A to point B on a miracle diet or a members-only exercise. He did it by shifting his mindset and charting his life course, and he said you can do it, too.
“No matter what the circumstance, no matter how bad it might seem, if you’re truly committed to change, the way will appear,” D’Angelo said.
He embarked on the obstacle-ridden path to success when he was 17.
After mustering up $280 and three months of courage to join a gym, he was denied membership because his family didn’t have a credit card.
As he lay on his bed in the August heat one night, staring up at the ceiling, cartoons played on the TV near his feet. Each time he exhaled, his swollen belly blocked his view. He felt trapped and alone under his own weight, and he wanted to give up.
Instead, he looked to the ceiling said, “God, if you’ll just help me become normal, I will commit myself to doing as much as I can to help other people.”
The next morning he awoke with a new sense of “peace.”
“It was the realization that if anything was going to change, it was going to be the result of me making the decision to take charge of my own life,” D’Angelo said. “No one else could do it for me . . . . I’ve found that if you take control of what you can control, everything else tends to work out.”
So when he’s coaching clients these days (including celebrities like Angela Bassett), he tells them to control what they can by managing their time. He calls it “blueprinting” your day, and it means scheduling healthy meals and exercises into your routine as your “most important meetings” each day.
“There are two things that you have to say cannot be infringed upon, and that is what you’re eating and what you’re doing with exercise,” D’Angelo said.
But your blueprint has to be consistent and practical, so D’Angelo recommends starting small. For exercise, schedule time to walk five days each week; for meals, schedule breakfast every day, and then eat small portions of healthy food every two-and-a-half to three hours to keep your metabolism busy until you fall asleep.
“What I’m proposing are very sound, balanced strategies,” D’Angleo said. “People think they have to deprive themselves to reach their goals. What I’m saying is the opposite. You’ve got to fuel yourself to reach your goal.”
Above all, he said you have to understand that healthy eating and regular exercise are just two legs of a three-legged stool. The third, most important, leg is a healthy mindset, which replaces spontaneity with strategy.
Looking back at his morbidly obese teen years when he was going blind from type 2 diabetes, D’Angelo realizes he was staving off concerns and insecurity with excuses and short-term solutions. He was playing the victim in his own life and allowing circumstances to dictate his responses.
“What I help people do now is realize that once they embrace the idea of being responsible for their habits, it puts them in control to chart their destiny,” D’Angelo said. “Look at your life as a movie. What role are you playing right now? The things that you’re doing right now, are they getting you closer to where you want to go? When was the last time you actually thought about where you were headed? The reality is, God will participate and help you whole-heartedly if you’ll help yourself whole-heartedly, as well.”