This guy is one of the jolliest people I have EVER met in my life. His laugh…recognizable from a mile away :). You ALWAYS know when Rod is around. You don’t even need to hear his laugh – you can FEEL his presence!!! Gosh dang… this friend of mine, makes me feel better about myself than any man (next to Chris of course)!! I want Rod in my life, for the REST of my life. He really is one of the kindest, most generous, loving people I’ve ever met. It was such an honor experiencing this year with him.
I am so thrilled that Rod was willing to spend a little time catching up with me! His outlook on life, love, transformation, and everything in between is beyond inspiring and I am so excited to share just a bit more about this amazing man with you!
Heidi: Your episode begins with one of the biggest moments of your life….coming out to your dad. How did it feel to finally get that off your chest after so many years?
Rod: Miss Heidi, it felt like… I could breathe for the first time in a long time. Do you remember that YOU said to me “I want you to be ALL YOU – out, free, gay, all that!” That still makes me smile. And my father was, and is, beautiful about my coming out. I think it’s so important what he said “it doesn’t change how I love you or how much I love you.” I think this event was supposed to happen when it did, you know? And I know in my soul that being able to be my true authentic self with the man who means more to me than any other man has made a huge difference in not only my weight loss, but in my life. I allowed FEAR to rule so much of my life and I would tell others do not allow FALSE EMOTIONS APPEARING REAL to run your life.
H: After 90 days at boot camp you returned to your hometown over 126 lbs lighter!! Holy cow!! Your family was completely overcome at the sight of the new you… just thinking about it gives me chills!! Tell us how that felt!
R: That homecoming was one of the most powerful events of my life, Miss Heidi. Unforgettable, really. To have had the support of all of Tallahassee and of the school where I teach, Leon High School – I’ll never forget it. I’ll also never forget seeing my mother and father, who are 54 years together strong, crying tears of joy. My mother has a limited vocabulary since her stroke almost five years ago, but she kept saying “Oh baby, oh baby, so proud” and my father, just crying and saying “we love you buddy” (my Dad calls me “Buddy”). My older brother Marcellas was there and my younger sister Elise, who is my best friend – we shared a real private, awesome moment. And even today, my parents will look at me and shake their heads and smile and my Dad greets me with, “What’s up, Skinny?” To have the people you love the most support you in this huge endeavor feels so good.
H: Throughout your journey you talked a lot about using food to cope with loneliness and a lack of companionship in your life. You struggled with this nearly every step of the way! What finally helped break that cycle for you?
R: Honestly? I think really and truly loving myself and knowing my worth. That is something I learned during this journey and this process, and something I didn’t know before. I got there by putting myself first, knowing I deserve this experience and so much more, and KEEPING MY PROMISES TO MYSELF. I used to put everything and everybody before my own needs. But when I understood the concept of doing what I said I was going to do, it was like everything became clear. And I began having success, which then made me want to do more of what gave me that success. So instead of food (and most of the time really unhealthy food) being my friend or lover or place I ran to when I was experiencing heightened emotions, food became healthy and delicious fuel. I began to really be grateful for all the blessings and riches I DO have, rather than focusing on what I didn’t have. Plus, the plan you and Chris have created with carb cycling helped so much in understanding both nutrition and burning metabolism, which was essential in the success I had.
H: Rod…you climbed to the top of the EMPIRE STATE BUILDING! So incredible to watch!! You said yourself, the last time you were in NYC you could hardly stand a few minutes!! How amazing did it feel reaching that 86th floor?!
R: Again, one of the experiences of my life, Miss Heidi (hmmm…several of those happened during this journey). THAT WAS EPIC for me. The last time I was in NYC, I took a taxi to get to the theater from my hotel…which was less than four blocks from the theater! I couldn’t walk four blocks without stopping, sweating, my back hurting, my feet swelling. And this time…I walked up 86 flights and 1576 steps! I tried to train for this event by walking the steps to the Florida Capitol building in Tallahassee, but that’s only 24 floors. This was a whole different ballgame. Chris was with me every literal STEP of the way and he just knew when to ask how I was and what to say to motivate me…but I DID IT!!! I never ever stopped, Miss Heidi, not to rest or anything. I saw men and women who passed me at the beginning on stretchers around the 54th floor as I kept on trucking on up. And at the end, I was shocked at how GOOD I felt physically, like I could have done a dozen more floors. When you achieve a feat like that, you really are aware of how your body is different and your MIND is different. I felt like a warrior and a winner and knew that I did something really awesome. And to have it happen in my favorite city? That’s a memory of a lifetime.
H: Another momentous occasion in NYC… the audition!! That had to have been such a dream come true for you!
R: For 13 years I was the Drama teacher at my high school. I loved every minute of it and was and am so proud of my students, but I’ve always wanted to do was what I taught – ACT! So imagine the feeling of auditioning in front of two amazingly successful casting directors for some of the biggest hits on Broadway! Here’s another instance where in the past I would have let FEAR rule, but this year has been one of true transformation, and I had to remember that I am good at what I teach, and I wanted to take advantage of this amazing opportunity. To stand on that stage in New York, in front of those casting directors and Chris, and create three separate personalities through song was a sensational feeling. Any apprehension I felt went away when I got on that stage went away when I saw Chris sitting behind the casting directors. He just has a way of making me know that everything is going to be okay. And they were so nice and so helpful and spot on with their comments and direction. How many people can say they got to audition and sing “Mr.Cellophane” on Broadway? Holler.
H: Your finale. You made a huge transformation and lost SO much weight – but unfortunately you didn’t hit your goal number. Was that a disappointment for you?
R: You know, we set goals high so we can see if we can summon all that we can to meet them. There’s always disappointment when you don’t reach a goal…but Miss Heidi…on that finale stage in that room filled with my friends and family…you could FEEL the energy in that studio. I know I did. Maybe even more than my 90 day reveal, THAT is the experience that is etched in my heart. I felt those people with me this entire year. AND I LOST 188 POUNDS!! My buddy Peter said to me “People go to the gym to get that big, Rod!” I’m super proud of the work and dedication and discipline it took to lose that weight. As a food addict, I know that I will always have to work hard at making smart and right choices when it comes to nutrition, but I like the fact that this will be an active and conscious choice. I might not have hit the weight loss goal, but look at all I gained and all that I discovered about myself that I didn’t know before this experience. The true transformation for me happened in my heart and in my head, and in that respect, I exceeded the goal.
H: Okay my friend – Catch us up!! What have you been up to since your season ended? What’s new in your life?!
R: SO many exciting new endeavors, Miss Heidi! I am no longer the Drama teacher and now teach 11th grade American Literature, which is awesome. I was recently certified in teaching the TRX Suspension Trainer, and became a CORE Member of TRX. I am also teaching fitness classes at Sweat Therapy with Kim Bibeau, who has been instrumental in me staying active and embracing this new lifestyle of mine. And I”m working on getting a platform – maybe a talk show, maybe local television segments, maybe a book – to reach young people, especially those obese young people. That’s a real epidemic in our country, and I want these awesome kids I teach to learn the truths that took me over 40 years to finally understand. I want them to put themselves first, to keep promises to themselves, to truly love themselves and to make healthier and more productive choices. I’ve been blessed with this personality and this gift, really, that allows me the opportunity to really connect with other people. I want to use it for the greater good and to give back some of the education I’ve received this year. And if I can, please allow me to thank the amazement that is you and your husband. My father says you guys are “heaven sent.” Truer words have never been spoken.
H: First, let me say regardless of what the scale read you absolutely succeeded in your goals! We couldn’t possibly be more proud of your journey – you truly made the transformation of a lifetime. And second, for as much as you say we we’re “heaven sent” you have been just as much, if not more, of a blessing in our lives. We are so lucky to have you as a friend, and we are so excited to see what the future holds for you Rod!!