HACKENSACK, N.J. — John Pasqual crouches next to a truck tire outside his Hackensack gym.
He just finished flipping it across the length of the parking lot in between deadlifts -- and he's breathless.
It's gotten much more difficult for Pasquale to achieve that winded feeling in his lungs since 2011, when at 425 pounds, all he had to do was walk a city block.
These days, Pasquale is sitting comfortably at 243 -- the lowest he's been in decades -- and he says having a gastric sleeve surgically put on was the first step to helping him reclaim his health.
But, Pasquale said, the sleeve did not do any of the hard work for him -- that was all him.
"It's not magic," said the Hawthorne native, who has lost 45 pounds since Labor Day. "You have to put in the effort."
Pasquale says he has always been "husky" and his weight never bothered him. It slowly crept up in college and then again after for several decades.
His "moment of clarity" happened six years ago, at the NFL draft at Radio City Music Hall. He remembers it vividly.
"This really drunk guy came into our area. He was so drunk that he basically passed out in his chair," said Pasquale, who works at the Hard Rock Cafe in Times Square.
"People were drawing on his face and taking stupid selfies.
"Someone showed me their picture with him and I saw myself in the background."
Pasquale thought to himself: "People are going to look at a picture of this drunk guy and see me in the background and say, 'Man look at the size of him.'"
In that moment, Pasquale decided he was going to have weight loss surgery.
Several months later, he went in for the first part of gastric bypass surgery and had his sleeve put on. He definitely felt less hungry and the weight began coming off rapidly. But soon enough, he found himself putting it back on, to the tune of 40 pounds.
"It is easy to eat through your band or sleeve," Pasquale explained. "Your stomach expands and contracts, and it could easily expand again."
"If you look at competitive eaters, they take in large volumes but not every day. So, they practice expanding and contracting stomach.
"If you keep eating, your stomach stays big and you're always hungry."
Pasquale put an end to the cycle once and for all this past Labor Day, when he decided to clean up his diet and be consistent in the gym. He lost 45 pounds since then just through diet and exercise, totaling 182 pounds since his highest weight in 2011.
He has also directed several friends to his doctor for similar procedures. Some have successfully kept the weight off, some have not.
Not that Pasquale is looking leaner, he says he's learned a thing or two about himself and others.
"I was the same person when I was fat, but now that my appearance is different, people treat me differently," he told Daily Voice.
"I've learned to adjust my mentality and things along those lines over the course of time."
Pasquale is not looking for attention and he is not looking for a pat on the back. He says he is happy for not feeling he has to hide himself anymore. Happy to be just another guy at the gym.
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