When Adam Reitz doesn’t feel like waking up at 3:30 a.m. for his daily run, he reaches out for his phone and looks at the picture that changed his life.
Most days he doesn’t need to reach for the phone. The image of himself 100 pounds heavier is engraved in his mind, as are the feelings associated with that picture.
It was three years ago and two months before his wedding. He had just returned from a trip to Hawaii with his students and colleagues from Liberty High School in Bethlehem. The school nurse had taken the picture and left it in his mailbox for him to remember their trip. It was a pleasant image of him posing with his now-wife, Tara, who is also a teacher at Liberty.
He picked it up and saw a fat man next to his future wife.
“I thought, ‘I better lose a few pounds before the wedding,’” he says.
It was not the first time that he was confronted with his obesity. His father and his neighbor had encouraged him to lose weight in the past, but to no avail.
“Losing weight is something that you don’t do unless you want to do it,” he says.
He began riding his bicycle and changing his eating habits.
His beloved sweets became a thing of the past, as did the trips to fast-food chains, except Subway. He has not bought an item from a vending machine in years.
“Eating went from something I liked to do, to something that I just did because I knew I had to.”
And he lost weight.
By his wedding date, he had lost about 20 pounds and people noticed. It made him feel good. Then his friend, Kevin Anderko, persuaded him to sign up for a half marathon. The thought of running 13 miles seemed overwhelming.
“I probably couldn’t run from here to a block away when I started,” he says.
But his friend motivated him and soon Reitz found himself running every day.
It became addictive. Almost in the way that red meat, cupcakes and ice cream can become addictive. It also made him feel healthy, full of energy and, gradually, lean.
He signed up for a full marathon. By the time he ran the Philadelphia Marathon in 2008, he had lost 50 pounds. The training made it easier to reduce. He eventually went from size 44 to size 32. But he had to run two more marathons to achieve it. The preparation was brutal, but his progress was significant.
He ran the Philadelphia marathon in 4:06, under freezing temperatures. He told Tara he was done with marathons. But the Marine Corps marathon in Washington, D.C., tempted him the following year. He and his buddy ran it in 3:50. He promised his wife again this time he was done with marathons. He had lost 70 pounds. But then he and his friend made the lottery to compete in the New York City Marathon, and it was time to get serious.
They ran 20 miles every other Saturday for five months before the marathon. It paid off. They both crossed the finish line before 3 hours, 30 minutes. The training took care of whatever extra weight Reitz still had to lose. He is now at his ideal weight of 175.
How does he maintain his dream weight? Discipline, restraint and a lot of support from his wife.
“We do the grocery shopping together,” he says, “and there’s nothing that comes to our house, for the most part, that’s not good for you. And that’s a big key. If it’s in the house, I struggle.”
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