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By Geno Vento
My name is Geno Vento. I’m forty-three years old and the owner of Geno’s Steaks in Philadelphia. We serve Philly cheesesteaks, are open twenty-four hours a day, and are known for our quality and cleanliness. Geno’s Steaks is located in the heart of South Philadelphia and it is a place where people from all over the world come and stand in line to get the best cheesesteaks!
I was overweight most of my life and had been on every diet along the way. I turned to food as it made me feel so good. It was always there for me, never let me down, and put a smile on my face. As I got older, I knew I had to change so I went to the gym. This was a very hard thing for me to do as I always felt like the fat kid in the gym and like everyone was watching me. My weight went up and down initially, but then only went up and up. I knew I was in trouble when I couldn’t move very well and my breathing was labored. Like many overweight people, I hid my pain. I covered it up through laughter as a way to distract people. But deep down, I hated life and most of all myself.
I tended to eat late at night and sometimes ate out of depression and boredom. I was always on the go and strived for perfection in everything I did. My highest weight was 360 pounds. The death of my father left me to take care of my mother and I inherited the responsibility of running the Geno’s Steaks empire. I had no one to turn to for support as I was an only child and this became too much for me to handle. Eating became my escape. However, I knew if I continued this behavior, I was going to die.
So I went and had the abdominal sleeve surgery in 2012 and started exercising. I also worked with trainers at Unite Fitness. Additionally, I was able to speak with Chris Powell from Extreme Weight Loss on ABC. He is an amazing person with so much heart and loyalty. Chris wants the best for you and my fifteen-minute conversation with him has changed my life!
In 2013 I faced another challenge as I lost my mom to cancer. She was my world and I miss her greatly. I didn’t let it keep me from my goals, though, and in fact used it as fuel to my fire. To date I have lost 110 pounds and am feeling incredible! I am able to enjoy life and do things that I never thought possible. I will never take for granted the simple things in life like tying one’s shoes or going for a walk without being winded.
Now I love to do cardio and run on the treadmill. I enjoy cooking mushroom ragu that I put on chicken and fish (it’s a good way to get your veggies in). While I still enjoy comfort foods and Italian cooking, I always prepare them on the lighter side so I can enjoy them and not feel like I’m missing something. I keep it really simple.
One of my favorite things to do is to walk around Philly to see what the city has to offer. It keeps me active and burning calories while having fun. My key goal is to have better health. I used to have sleep apnea and high blood pressure and was borderline diabetic. My doctors are happy with my new lower numbers. I got off a lot of the medications and have so much energy. My personal life is great; I’m meeting new people and I just graduated from Walnut Hill College. Now the sky is the limit!
You have to be ready to change your eating and workout habits. You have to allow yourself to take the journey and to be committed to it. I recommend that you get support from others and not be afraid to ask for help. I learn from people every day and was so lucky to have mentors such as Chris Powell and Jay Doran to help me when I stumble. They pick me back up with their encouragement. Jason checks in on me every other day to make sure that I am on track. I also suggest that you find something that you like to do for exercise so that it will not feel so bad when you are doing it. Make realistic goals and challenge yourself gradually. Most of all, do it for yourself and no one else!