Photo by Danny Fulgencio

Photo by Danny Fulgencio

When you weigh 538 pounds, traveling can be exhausting and embarrassing, recalls Preston Hollow resident Rick Salewske, who weighed just that at age 38.

“When I visited my family in Michigan, my sisters would be dating, having kids, and moving on. Meanwhile, I was growing more depressed and packing on the pounds,” he says.

One year, because the airplane safety belt wouldn’t fit around his body, Salewske had to drive from Dallas to Michigan. By the time he arrived, the friction of the steering wheel against his rotund torso had worn a hole in his pants.

Now at 51, he is 300 pounds lighter, married, and a proud father of three. He plays basketball, he hits the treadmill daily, and last November, he celebrated 10 years at a healthy weight by finishing the New York City Marathon in five hours and 27 minutes.

That could be a tidy end to a weight-loss success story, but for Salewske, depression and other factors that can prompt binging are still a daily battle. He thinks it is important to share his story with others suffering from obesity who might feel hopeless.

Years ago Salewske’s concerned boss at Clark Dietrich Building Systems paid for the Cooper Lean Program at the Cooper Aerobics Center, which was a turning point.

“I knew there was no quick diet, that I had to exercise and eat right over time,” Salewske says, “but once I felt the endorphins kick in after I got my heart rate up at the gym, I was hooked.”

Because of his success, Cooper dubbed Salewske “man of the year.” In 2003 he appeared on Oprah Winfrey’s show. A few years later, he graced the pages of People Magazine.

Dallas Morning News writer Debbie Fetterman covered Salewske’s marathon training last year. This year she’s collaborating with him and local literary agent David Hale Smith to publish his story in book form.

“I’m working on the book because I want to connect my story to other people’s stories. If a regular guy like me can conquer a lack of confidence and get healthy, they can, too.”

Salewske represents his company as a guest speaker at national conferences. He’s frequently told that his passion when lecturing on “true life” and how to tap into it by rejecting unhealthy habits mirrors that of a charismatic Baptist evangelist. Salewske takes the comparison as a compliment.

“I just want to keep preaching my story and helping people,” he says.

To keep himself motivated, Salewske set a 2014 fitness goal: run the December Dallas marathon in under four hours.

To learn more about Rick Salewske, visit

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