DOWNEY − Diana Gamez knew it was time for a change when she woke up three years ago and realized she couldn’t tie her shoelaces.
“It really bothered me,” she said. “A normal person should be able to tie their own shoes.”
Similar to other Americans approaching middle age, the once petite 33-year-old’s weight had ballooned out of control.
“And I had to do something about it,” Gamez said.
Instead of tackling the challenge alone, this stay-at-home mom asked her husband, Israel, who weighed 406 pounds himself, to work out with her. Together, the Downey couple lost more than 260 pounds – and counting.
“Don’t write yourself off,” said Israel Gamez. “At age 36, we’re in better shape today than when we were 18-years-old.”
While athletic as a teenager, Israel, who now works as a foreman in Placentia, said a lazy couch lifestyle consumed his 20s.
“You go to family get-togethers and you’ve got to eat your aunt’s beans. You’ve got to eat everything,” he said. “And in the Hispanic culture, there’s a richness to how much food you have and everybody eats it all.”
Israel and Diana, who first met in 1999 and married four years ago, said it was that consistent loading of food and lack of exercise that led to the extra pounds over the years.
“I never looked at myself in the mirror and as a woman it’s important to look good and feel good about yourself,” Diana said. “I didn’t like pictures. I wore a lot of black and things that covered myself.”
However, without any money for a gym membership or personal trainer, the parents of three managed to reschedule their weekly lives in order to ditch the weight.
“I started running more than anything because it’s free,” said Diana. “I came to a point when I said, ‘I can do eight miles – let’s work on 10.’”
Diana said she steadily built up her stamina, challenging herself to train in any crevasse of free time, including during her kids’ sports practices.
“Everything takes a lot of planning and effort, but I take meals to the park and while they’re practicing, I run around the park,” she said.
“She got a head start on me,” Israel said. “She’d be eating vegetables and I’m like, ‘where’s my bacon at?’”
Nonetheless, Israel’s diet began to change too and the once overweight husband and father began walking, jogging and, eventually, running.
“I remember the first mile I ran when I was in the weight loss. It was awesome,” he said.
Since beginning his regimen, Israel has lost 180 pounds and now maintains his weight through cycling.
“I climb mountains on a bicycle, and you’ve got to get to the top,” he said. “You’re kind of beating yourself up, but everything else seems a lot easier after you’re done with that.”
Diana has lost 88 pounds since her transformation, but her greatest accomplishment was running in the Los Angeles Marathon in March.
“I trained for a whole year, I committed myself, and the experience was great,” she said.
With her family waiting at the finish line in “Team Diana” T-shirts, she finished the marathon in five hours and four minutes.
“I did pretty good, but I know I can do it faster. You better believe I’m going to do it again.”
The couple acknowledged how tough it was to break their old habits, but maintained the experience brought them closer together.
“We found out that the only roadblocks in life are the ones we put in front of ourselves,” Israel said. “We’re going to continue to support one another so we can ride off into the sunset in shape.”