When Tony Rio came to Rhinelander from Chicago, he moved here to enjoy all the things the Northwoods has to offer. There was only one thing standing in the way of enjoying the hiking, biking, snowshoeing and other activities that he looked forward to.
“I was just too heavy to do any of those things,” Rio said. “I would be loading gear into my car or getting ready to go on a trail and I would just be so exhausted from doing those that I couldn’t do the thing I set out to do.”
Rio weighed in at about 345 pounds and even took on the moniker “Fat Tony” at the Rhinelander Chrysler, Dodge, Jeep and Ram dealership where he works.
But about a year ago, Rio decided to make a change.
“I really did it for health reasons,” he said. “Especially with a history of heart disease and diabetes in my family, I knew I had to do something. I am 39 and I thought, if I don’t do it now, I probably never will.”
Rio started out by watching what he ate and found success.
“I really focused on my diet and I lost about 30 pounds,” he said. “Then Duff Damos who I work with at the radio station [105.3 WRLO] told me about the Ministry Health HMR [Health Management Resources] program that he was a part of and had found success.”
Rio enrolled in the program in February and the results have been incredible. Since February Rio has dropped more than 100 pounds and says he feels better than ever and is able to do some of the things that he moved to Rhinelander to do.
“I recently bought a kayak which was great,” he said. “Before I was so heavy that with my camera gear and whatever, there was no kayak that could hold me. So buying a kayak was a great feeling.”
Rio said joining the Ministry program was the best thing he could have done and has been instrumental in keeping him on the right path.
“I tell people it is the easiest hard thing I have ever done,” Rio said.
The program consists of going to meetings, eating program provided meals and exercising.
“They would send me three shakes and two entrees every day,” Rio said. “And that is what I would eat. It cost $100 per week which some people think maybe was expensive. But I wasn’t going to the grocery store at all and I tell them, this is not expensive. Diabetes is expensive, heart disease is expensive.”
Rio has even recruited others to the program after seeing his success.
“My mom saw how well it was going and she joined and has lost 60 pounds,” he said. “And just the other day, I sold a car to this couple and told them about the program and they are going to join.”
To those thinking about losing weight and trying some sort of program, Rio said he knows the frustration people can have and he had them too.
“You take a desk job and years go by and suddenly you look at yourself and you think how did I get here,” he said. “Then you think about getting into shape and next thing you know another year goes by and you get frustrated thinking well if I had just started last year when I thought about this, I would be where I want to be.”
Rio said the answer is not to wait and get out there and make it happen.
“Just do it,” he said. “Don’t wait. You have to get started. With the HMR program, it was hard to argue with results, when you are going into the class every week having lost five, six pounds that week.”
Rio said he is in the process of transitioning from the all program provided food to eating outside foods but he is still losing four to five pounds per week.
“My goal is to get down to 190 so I have about 20 more pounds to go,” he said. “One reason is that I would like to say I was under 200 pounds one more time in my life and the other is that I believe that is a good weight for my frame.”
In the meantime, Rio is busy enjoying the things that brought him to the Northwoods in the first place.
“I am walking a lot more,” he said. “It is great. I used to, if I was downtown and at Book World or something and wanted to go down to Mel’s Trading Post, I used to take the car. Now I walk and it feels great.”