When you’re a 538-pound man, there aren’t many physical activities that you can do with great ease. Simply traveling from Texas to Michigan during the holidays can be an exhausting ordeal, as Rick Salewske, who weighed just that at age 38, recalls.
“When I would visit my family in Michigan, my sisters would be dating, having kids, and moving on. Every year I would just put on more and more pounds,” he says.
Because the airplane safety belt wouldn’t fit around his body, Salewske had to drive from Dallas to Michigan for one of those family visits. By the time he made it to Michigan, the friction of the steering wheel pressing against Salewske’s stomach had worn a hole in his pants. His sisters were crying because they were afraid his weight was going to kill him.
Today, at fifty-one, Preston Hollow resident Salewske is 300 pounds lighter, married, and a proud father of three children. He plays basketball, enjoys cross-training, and in November, he finished his first marathon in New York, running 26.2 miles in five hours and 27 minutes.
During a time of year when New Year’s resolutions and dieting are fresh in people’s minds, Salewske’s journey from morbid obesity to sporting a marathon medal offers some hope that a healthy lifestyle isn’t necessarily out of reach.
When Salewske was at his peak weight, his boss offered to help pay for Salewske to join a fitness program so that he could keep Salewske as a long-term employee. At the rate Salewske was going at, he wouldn’t be alive to reach retirement.
Taking the recommendation of his boss, Salewske joined the “Cooper Lean Program” at Cooper Clinic. Seeing his family in Michigan concerned about his weight loss kept Salewske motivated as he slowly began to integrate 15-minute daily workouts — along with diet restrictions, participation in support groups, and hypnotherapy — into his lifestyle.
“I knew there was no quick cure, that I just had to exercise and eat right over time” he says, “but once I felt the endorphins kick in after I got my heart rate up at the gym, I was hooked.”
Salewske’s dedication, along with support from friends and family, helped him lose a whopping 300 pounds in just two years.
As he trained at Cooper Center, Salewske was able to walk a few miles, so he began jogging, and that’s when he made the goal to run in the New York marathon. Tyler Cooper, the son of Dr. Kenneth Cooper, who Salewske refers to as “a mentor and friend,” wanted to support Salewske and keep him focused by running the marathon with him. Their goal was to run a marathon on the tenth anniversary of Salewske losing 300 pounds.
The New York marathon was cancelled in 2012 because of Hurricane Sandy, so Salewske and Cooper ran the marathon in November together. (Click here to see coverage of Salewske’s on race day from Runner’s World.)
Now that Salewske has accomplished one of his biggest goals, I asked him if he had any New Year’s resolutions for 2014.
“I originally had hoped to finish the marathon faster since I kept up a 10-minute mile during my training, so I think I will sign up for the Chicago marathon this year and see if I can do it in four hours,” Salewske says.
“I’ve been talking to a publisher about getting my story out there, too, and I would love to talk to high school students about ways to stay healthy,” he says, adding, “I would even do it for free. I just want to help people.”
To learn more about Rick Salewske, visit lost300.com
Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Preston Hollow.