By Evan Ceretti
March 5, 2017
Up until he was 12 years old, Richard Lawrence was an average-sized kid.
Over the next 20 years he ballooned to 440 pounds.
Everything about his body was breaking down, he said.
“I thought I would be dead by 40 from a heart attack or just something going wrong in my body because I was just not living a healthy lifestyle that would be sustainable beyond middle age.”
He is far from the only Islander to struggle with obesity.
A 2014 study from Statistics Canada said 24.2 per cent of Islanders consider themselves to be obese, which is above the Canadian average of 20.2 per cent.
On Jan. 14, 2016, Lawrence started on a weight loss journey.
His sister and mother were about to join the Ideal Protein weight-loss program, and suggested he give it a shot. He agreed, and went to a meeting to see what it was all about.
Today, just over a year later and after losing 242 pounds, the 33-three-year-old weighs 198 pounds.
“I don’t know what it was about the meeting that made me say, ‘I can do this’, but something definitely clicked with me at that moment.”
The program limits meal sizes and puts clients on a restrictive diet, removing sugars, carbs and dairy.
Lawrence kept with the diet for over a year without once deviating from it, he said.
“Simplicity is easy for me, and if I can stick to something simple I can keep at it, and not deviate from my goal.”
He would eat a bowl of porridge for breakfast, a garden salad with a home-made dressing for lunch and one cup of steamed vegetables with an eight ounce-piece of lean meat for dinner.
He’s now incorporating new foods into his diet but taking it very slowly.
“I’m always looking at the nutrition values now, that’s something I’ve learned to do over the last year: read everything that you put into your body and think of food as a fuel source rather than just something as a comfort thing.”
However, this wasn’t the case during most of Lawrence’s teen years and adult life.
“Morning… I would go to McDonald’s and get two egg McMuffins. I would go out to lunch and have a giant hamburger, big side, and a giant pop.”
Being over weight affected his confidence and mental and physical health, he said.
“I would always think that people were judging me for being fat. I know they really weren’t, but it was just a psychological issue I had going on.”
“Growing up, finding a girlfriend or finding a significant other is non-existent at a fat person because you don’t believe you’re worth anything. It’s a depressing mindset to be in, definitely.”
A few years ago, Lawrence found motivation in a friend who had lost a lot of weight in a short time.
“I was like, ‘If he can do this, I’m pretty sure I can do this, too.’”
It took a couple years before he took that motivation and lost 242 pounds. Now, he’s inspiring others to do the same.
“People can change. You’re not predetermined to be the way you are if you don’t want to be.”
He’s now a more confident person, and enjoys talking to new people because he doesn’t feel like he’s being judged anymore, he said.
“Physically, I feel great. Mentally, I feel great, too.”
During his transformation, people would ask if he was worried about having loose skin from losing so much weight.
“Now I do have loose skin and it’s a thing. When you think about it, it’s just a scar of my past. People have scars all over their bodies, as they go through life. This is just one of mine.”
Don’t let that stop you from pursuing a goal of being healthy, he said.
Lawrence has already inspired friends and co-workers to start their own weight-loss programs, and he encourages everyone else to do the same.
However, people need to do it at their own pace. It’s not a race, he said.
“You’re not in a competition with anyone else but yourself.”
“My message to people is: take your time, don’t give up on yourself.”
At no point in time did Lawrence think he wouldn’t reach his goal of 200 pounds.
“I knew that I was going to do this, it was going to happen, it was just a matter of time.”
He agreed to be interviewed in hopes of inspiring other people who are struggling with obesity, just as he was a little over a year ago.
“I want everyone to go through this, just to believe in yourself that you can lose weight.“