The News Site of Fresno City College

The Rampage Online

The News Site of Fresno City College

The Rampage Online

The News Site of Fresno City College

The Rampage Online

    Half the Man He Used to Be

    Ernie Garcia is half the man he used to be. Over the course of nearly two years, Garcia who is the Classified Senate president at Fresno City College, has lost over 200 pounds and 22 inches off his waistline.

    Garcia has become a beloved staple at FCC over the last 12 years. He began attending FCC after graduating from Clovis West in 1997. By 2001 Garcia was ASG president and employed in the student activities office. In 2002, he transferred to California State University, Fresno and ended up graduating simultaneously from Fresno City College and Fresno State. “I had transferred and was about to graduate when I realized I only needed a single class to get my AA. So, I got my AA on Friday and my B.A. on Saturday,” said Garcia. Since then, Garcia has been working in the Admissions and Records office at FCC. Recently, he is working on a special project to help organize FCC’s Centennial Celebration.

    Garcia’s struggle with weight began in early childhood. He enrolled in Weight Watchers for the first time when he was 9 years old. Over the course of the next two decades, Garcia was known as a Weight Watchers, “repeat offender,” sporadically enrolling in the program, losing a little of the weight, and then quickly losing interest again.

    “One of the hard parts was that whenever my friends and I would go out, we would always eat–and we would EAT. It wasn’t uncommon for us to go eat dinner, go to a movie or something, and then eat again. I would eat just because I was bored or just because it was ‘time to eat’ even if I wasn’t physically hungry,” said Garcia.

    Carrying the excess weight affected many aspects of his life. Garcia recalls a trip to Disneyland with friends and how embarrassed he had been. He had to use the wheelchair gate to enter the park because he couldn’t fit through the turnstile because of his weight. Throughout the trip, he refused to go on any of the rides because, “I was scared I would get to the front of the line and I wouldn’t be able to fit and everyone would see.” Rather than enjoying the rides with his friends, Garcia spent the day holding all the bags while his friends went on the rides.

    Garcia said his friends and family were loving and supportive, but he still endured the occasional discrimination. “Well, discrimination against overweight people seems to be the last acceptable prejudice…I became extremely self-conscious. I would get nervous in social situations like parties or even going to the mall because I felt like I stood out too much. It caused me to kind of shy away from people and sort of keep to myself. It is still affecting me…I still have a hard time being around people I don’t know,” said Garcia.

    Besides affecting his social life, Garcia also began dealing with the noticeable side effects his size had on his health. He said he suffered from sitting in a chair all day and his knees would hurt just from standing up. He also tired easily and was out of breath quickly. Garcia said he at first tried to explain it away, “I thought I was just tired from school and my work schedule.” But, it became much more serious. On March 30, 2001, Garcia went to bed and couldn’t wake up the next morning. “My mother went into my room and couldn’t wake me up. She panicked and called the ambulance,” said Garcia. He was lucky he lived. He spent three days in a coma with blood sugar levels around 800 ml/dl. A normal range is 80-120 ml/dl.

    Amongst other complications, Garcia was diagnosed with diabetes. He said he worked with his doctor to monitor his blood sugar but that he no longer tests regularly. The subject of his weight and its impact didn’t go unnoticed by those around him. “People would occasionally bring it up, but it was an instant turn-off and I wouldn’t want to hear it because I guess I just wasn’t ready,” said Garcia.

    Ironically, it wasn’t his health concerns or friendly advice that finally motivated Garcia to lose the weight. He said his motivation was simpler, “The thing that made me realize I needed to do something was the fact that my clothes were getting tight. I was wearing a size 6X shirt and size 66 pants (actually, I had a few pairs of size 68 pants). Sometimes, it takes something as superficial as that to make you wake up…One day a friend of mine said she was joining and asked if I wanted to go with her. That was the little push I needed. At his initial weigh in, Garcia’s weight was at its highest: 468 lbs.”

    Other than Weight Watchers, Garcia says he tried the weight loss aid Phen-Fen in early 1997 during his senior year in Clovis West High School. He quickly stopped using it after learning about health concerns connected to the drug. By September of 1997, studies indicated that the weight loss aid contributed to a 23x increase in cardiovascular disease and the FDA removed it from shelves. As for gastric bypass, Garcia said, “I had thought about it and did a little research online, but the main reason I didn’t want to do it was honestly because I didn’t know how long I’d be off from work. I totally support anyone who decides to go that route, but it wasn’t for me.” For him, the payoff just didn’t seem to justify the means.

    Once again, Garcia joined Weight Watchers with a friend and started to work diligently on the plan. Garcia said his goal is simple. “I’m just going to keep plugging away. All I can say is that you have to be willing to commit and you have to want it. You have to realize you’re worth all the trouble,” he said. Today, Garcia knows he is worth it. “I had to learn to listen to my body’s signals.”

    The Weight Watchers rates on a point scale based on serving size and nutritional value. Weight Watchers leader, Annie Hickman said, “We try to teach certain points are healthy points, like fruit points as opposed to cocoa puff points. Not all points are created equal.” Weight Watchers creates an individualized profile that looks at the participant’s health, gender, lifestyle, height, and weight. That information is applied to a formula that grants a daily number of points the individual can eat on a daily basis. As the individual’s weight and lifestyle change, so does his point allotment. Garcia said, “At first is was kind of hard, but now it’s like a habit…If I were to say that I miss something about my former lifestyle, then it’s almost like saying I regret making changes, which I don’t, so I don’t miss anything.” Each diet also comes with 35 unassigned weekly points. These help with incidental meals that would otherwise break the diet.

    Garcia started with 44 points, the program’s highest possible allowance. By Nov.2008, he had lost the first 100 pounds dropping his allowance to 43 points. From that point on, he subtracted one point for every 10 pounds he lost. His weight was 259 pounds during his last weigh in two weeks ago.

    Garcia said the trick to weight loss is determination and finding what works for you. “Take it one day at a time. It’s not going to happen overnight. I’ve been at it for almost two years. It’s like planting a fruit tree. You can’t put it in the ground and expect to harvest all the fruit the next day. But, if you’re patient and are willing to take all the necessary steps (watering, pruning, ext.) you’ll see the results soon enough,” he said. “For me, I went in with no expectations and no huge goals. Start small and be realistic.”

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