Upper St. Clair man loses 200 pounds

Change critical to diet success

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John Pikras Jr. is half the man he used to be.

The Upper St. Clair father of three has slimmed down to about 200 pounds after logging in at more than 400 last January.

"I've battled my weight for the last 37 years, and this is the only time that I'm not overweight," he said.

Mr. Pikras, 44, had attempted many diets, all with only temporary success. He's convinced that his current program, Take Shape for Life, will turn out to have an accurate name.

"I see there being challenges to maintaining it," said Mr. Pikras, a financial adviser. "But I also see that the life I want to lead has me doing things that I never thought possible, doing things with my kids that I could never do before."

Regular exercise, racquetball, rock climbing, horseback riding: He said he is tackling new activities, all with the blessing of his wife, Colleen.

"I've been amazed at his ability to stick to it, because he has been on so many diets," she said. "I have never seen him this motivated, with the weight loss and his energy level. And this is the least I've ever seen him weigh, even since I started dating him."

His success eventually persuaded Mrs. Pikras to try the program, and she has lost 35 pounds since September.

Take Shape for Life integrates specialized meals with the key component of a weight-loss mentor. Assisting Mr. Pikras is Steven Morreale, a Peters physician who has also been on the program for the past year, dropping about 70 pounds.

He has been pursuing the health-care concept of ideal micropractice, or concierge medicine, and working closely with Mr. Pikras has been a natural fit.

"The goal of that is focusing on the doctor-patient relationship," Dr. Morreale said. "That tends to lead to better outcomes."

Both men are members of the McMurray Rotary Club and decided to join forces after a conversation during the club's first meeting of 2012. On Jan. 18, Mr. Pikras received his first batch of meals from Take Shape for Life.

An early concern for him and Mrs. Pikras was the cost of the meals, about $11 per day. That means he's spent nearly $4,000 in the past year, but he said avoiding eating out for lunch and dinner has saved the family money in the long run.

The program calls for participants to eat five of the prepared meals per day, plus one "lean and green" offering of their choice. Mr. Pikras said he limits what he drinks to water, tea and black coffee.

Although he admits to being tempted by food aromas, he has learned to say no to what he shouldn't eat.

"It might give me temporary satisfaction," he explained. "But how am I going to feel later? It's similar to people who have had one or two too many drinks at the bar. They pay for it the next day.

"Having been in the darkest depths of sadness and low self-esteem, to me, not having those things is worth it," he said. "Nothing tastes as good as thin feels."

Dr. Morreale has helped him considerably in developing an effective mindset.

"Eighty-five percent of all diets fail because people go on a diet and treat the changes as extrinsically imposed, to reach to a goal," Dr. Morreale said. "They lose their motivation. Lots of times, they get burned out on whatever it is they're doing."

Conversely, he and Mr. Pikras are working on the premise of intrinsic motivation, "not just doing what someone is telling you to do."

They also have taken an approach based on the Japanese philosophy of Kaizen, which focuses on continuous change for the better.

"You break things into little steps and make improvements," Dr. Morreale said. "It's process improvement that's a never-ending cycle."

Mr. Pikras looks toward becoming a weight-loss coach and hopes his efforts might encourage others to pursue healthier lifestyles. He said he plans to do what is necessary to keep the weight off the rest of his life.

"I tell people, I haven't lost 210 pounds; I have eliminated 210 pounds," he said. "I have no interest in finding them."

Information about Take Shape for Life: www.tsfl.com.

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Harry Funk, freelance writer: suburbanliving@post-gazette.com.


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