DRACUT -- Two years ago next month, John Zimini got some troubling advice from his personal doctor during a routine checkup.
"He said 'If I don't do something about my lifestyle, I was a candidate for a stroke and borderline diabetic. He said by my next regularly scheduled checkup, if I didn't do something, I would need insulin," said Zimini, who works as a Massachusetts Housing Finance Agency compliance officer and serves as a Dracut selectman.
At the time, Zimini, 5 feet 11 inches tall, weighed 318 pounds. After discussing his options with his wife, Kris, he signed up for bariatic bypass surgery.
"I went to the Lowell General weight loss clinic. My wife was initially skeptical, but supportive.
"I weigh 180 now. I had very high blood pressure. My cholesterol was over 300; now it's like 120. My body BMI dropped tremendously and I lost 88 percent of my body fat," Zimini said.
He lost so many pants sizes, from a size 54 to a 36, he had to donate virtually his entire wardrobe to Goodwill and is still buying items to replace the ones he got rid of.
Friends whom he runs into for the first time in a while either do a double take or express concern about his health.
"They always say, 'Are you OK?'" Zimini noted.
He said many of the steps he has taken to lose weight could be helpful to anyone who has made a similar resolution, even if they don't opt for the surgery. Zimini, who has also worked for about 30 years as an assistant JV hockey coach at St. John's Prep, eats smaller portions than in the past; he puts his food on smaller plates, too, to make it feel like more food.
He walks the stairs a couple times a day instead of taking the elevator at work and uses a band to do upper body exercises at his office.
Zimini said he tries to stay away from anything with more than 12 grams of sugar per serving. He also avoids other foods that could generate a bad reaction as a result of the surgery, which limits the amount of food he can eat at a sitting without experiencing discomfort.
"I used to love all those cream sauces, the extra sugar and cream in the coffee. Now it's skim milk and decaf. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables, salads and proteins now," Zimini said.
"It changes your whole perspective toward life. I want to be around to grow old for the kids and the possible future grandkids."