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Fat Joe is done being fat.
After losing seven friends last year to heart attacks – all in their 30’s, and six of whom were overweight -- Joseph Antonio Cartagena has lost over 100 pounds.
Through a revamped diet and a rigorous exercise program, the Bronx native has lost a monumental amount of weight. But he is not yet done.
When asked if he had reached his goal, Cartegena said: “I’m not even nowhere near. I’m gonna go from the guy you know as Fat Joe for 16 years to a whole different, transformed person.”
Fat Joe’s Puerto Rican and Cuban background makes many wonder if he still eats the same Latino foods that he and many other Hispanics indulge in daily, but that can be rich and diet-averse.
Cartagena says he “loves lechon, been eating pork for 16 years. I love all the normal stuff every Spanish person eats but I just stopped the carbs. I’ll eat my lobster, I’ll eat my fish, but with vegetables, I’m not eating carbs.”
Restaurants, he said, can be anathema to eating the right foods.
“They give you like a pound of rice, they think they're looking out for you but they're killin’ you,” said Cartagena, who is about 6' 2" tall, and before switching to a healthier lifestyle weighed more than 350 lbs.“That’s why people are dying young, we're eatin’ fried foods and a lot of rice, we just gotta scale back.”
In an interview earlier this year, he depicted poor eating as a kind of plague.
“The biggest killer of people is food,” he said. “It kills more people than AIDS or gun violence or war, anything you can name."
Fat Joe, who is 40, is not on a specific diet, but simply follows basic steps for eating foods that are nutritious and not artery-cloggers.
Working out has become part and parcel of his weekly routine.
Cartagena, who recently showed off his slimmer frame in a video called “Drop a Body,” does about a half hour of cardio exercise, then hits the weights and then wraps it all up with another half hour of cardio.
And he’s taking his new-found passion for diet and fitness, and turning it into a cause, advocating for healthy living. Among the fitness-related projects in the pipeline is a new cooking show that will feature Cartagena alongside fellow rap artist and entertainer Queen Latifah focusing on healthy dishes.
He is also spreading the word about eating well through media interviews.
“I’m goin' off what you know and what I know,” he said. “Carbs is what’s givin’ you the diabetes, and what’s givin’ people heart attacks. We can’t be carb dependent.”
Don’t think for a minute, though, that he’s feeling deprived.
Despite cutting back on carbs and restructuring his daily diet, Fat Joe still thoroughly enjoys what he eats.
“I eat great food, I eat great salads, I love what I eat.”
Fat Joe feels that being an advocate for weight loss and self-improvement regarding health may be his calling. He sees a kind of Divine Intervention at play in his new epiphany.
He wonders, “God, why do you continue to bless me if I’m a sinner? Maybe God, this is what he wanted me to do, become a role model. If I encourage five people, maybe 1,000 people, to lose weight and live, that’s a big accomplishment.”
When asked if the name Fat Joe would stick despite the weight loss, he said: “Absolutely!”
“They try to give me Slim Joe, Wacko Flacko,” he said with a laugh, but added in no uncertain terms that he will always answer to the name Fat Joe, no matter how many clothes sizes he has dropped.
E. J. Aguado Jr. is a freelance reporter based in New Jersey.