Tackling a Weight Problem

Football legend Anthony Davis shares his weight-loss story

Former NFL player and legendary University of Southern California running back "A.D." (Anthony Davis) has spent many a Super Bowl Sunday in the VIP box, watching the big game and sampling plenty of mouthwatering snacks. Baby back ribs slathered in BBQ sauce. Nacho chips smothered in cheese sauce. Spicy chicken wings begging to be dunked in creamy blue cheese dressing those were his favorite. "Mmm, they were so good that I could never resist them," says Davis.

But Davis's days of indulging in fat-laden appetizers are over by his own accord. 2006 was a big year for Davis. He was "enshrined" into the College Football Hall of Fame. It was also the year that Davis decided to regain control of his life, he says.

"I weighed 100 pounds more than I did when I played college or pro football. I wasn't exercising," recalls Davis. "It was a lifestyle that was killing me." Literally. Davis had just been diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He suffered from painful flare-ups of gout (an inflammatory disease linked with obesity). Davis also struggled with sleep apnea, an obesity-related condition in which one stops breathing several times a night. "Every night, I had to hook up to a machine that helped me breathe," says Davis. "And I still couldn't get a good night's sleep."

Davis knew something had to give. Unless he started eating better and exercising again, he feared he'd end up like pro football Hall of Famer Reggie White who died unexpectedly in 2005 at age 43. (Doctors suspected that sleep apnea contributed to White's death.) "Any day, his fate could be mine," Davis recalls thinking. "I was a walking time bomb." Months of dieting had proved unsuccessful. After discussing his health conditions with his doctors, he concluded that changing his life would require drastic measures. He scheduled gastric bypass surgery for March 11, 2006.

Almost a year later, Davis was 90 pounds lighter, "just about down to my college weight," he says. His waist measures a trim 33 inches. And he feels better than ever. "I have so much energy," he says. "My diabetes, gout and sleep apnea are gone." Thankful for this second chance at a healthy life, Davis speaks publicly about his positive experience with gastric bypass surgery (which, it should be noted, is reserved for very overweight people with serious medical risks).

While the surgery jump-started his weight loss, only regular exercise and a healthy diet will keep the pounds from creeping back. Davis knows this. Physical exercise is again part of his daily routine. "I walk everywhere now," says Davis. "And I've started working out at the gym again too." Davis's biggest changes are dietary ones. Gone are the days of eating a 14-ounce T-bone steak followed by half a sweet potato pie. "Now I pace myself," says Davis. "I eat four small meals a day, mainly lean meats and beans with some fruits and vegetables." Davis opts for leaner, lower-calorie snacks while watching the big games these days. He is, after all, still an athlete at heart?one whose body deserves to be treated right.

Reprinted with permission from EatingWell Magazine.