Meet the Blogger: Rob Portinga from Former Fat Dudes

Today I am interviewing Rob Portinga from Former Fat Dudes. Rob is the webmaster and primary blogger behind FormerFatDudes.com, a web site that is dedicated to life after weight loss surgery from a dude’s perspective. Rob is also the owner of Positively Healthy (positively-healthy.com), a nutritional coaching service for a positively healthy life. Join me as I chat with this energetic successful weight loss surgery patient.

[Tom]:   Welcome, Rob. I am glad that you could join me today to chat about Former Fat Dudes. I am always curious about what leads a person to be a blogger and more importantly a blogger in the weight loss surgery community?

[Rob]:   I was doing web stuff early on, pages for group events and such back in the days when AOL was king of the internet. I started my own personal site that was a sort of personal scrapbook of my various interests and such.

Eventually I was looking for easier ways to update my site and blogging was still not very popular, but there were other content management systems out there. I played with those a bit, but eventually I switched my personal site (upmykilt.net) to a blog format. I was using that to chronicle my weight loss stuff at first, but about a month or so after my surgery in 2009, I decided I needed to separate the content… and after looking for a good domain name I settled on formerfatdudes.com

[Tom]:   Former Fat Dudes caught my attention the moment I found the web site. Speaking from a dude’s perspective is definitely a rare thing to find in weight loss surgery circles. Support groups, message boards and blogs are generally female dominated. What differentiates a dude’s perspective from a female perspective?

[Rob]:   Sometimes not much, but at the same time those subtle differences can make a world of difference. Maybe a good 90% of what we all go through we have in common, but we can only sit through so many conversations about sagging boobs and the joys of getting visits from Aunt Flo again. But even on the things that we do share… guys still just look at things a bit differently, and women just don’t always relate to it. Empathize maybe… but not relate. And it does go the other way too I suppose.

[Tom]:   As a regular reader of Former Fat Dudes and one of your Twitter followers, I know that you are an avid advocate for obesity related causes and organizations. What obligation do you believe that those of us in the weight loss surgery social network have to further the cause of reducing obesity in America?

[Rob]:   Obligation? None. I guess I don’t think anyone should feel obligated. But in general, I think a “teach, don’t preach” attitude would be good for anyone to have. You don’t have to put yourself out there.. and you especially shouldn’t be getting on a pulpit every time you see someone eating unhealthy foods or anything, but I think if you’re willing to take the time to answer questions that people ask of you you will find it helps not just them, but yourself as well. A lot of what I do, I started doing mainly as a way to help keep myself accountable and on track.

[Tom]:   Your blog is a nice blend of posts that speak about healthy eating and physical fitness. As a nutritional coach, what is the key message that you want to leave my readers with in terms of maintaining a healthy diet and active lifestyle?

[Rob]:   Don’t deprive yourself. I know for many post-ops, there are foods they simply can’t eat anymore, but really… with some rare exceptions, there are no truly “bad” foods. If you’re a post-op in maintenance or just someone looking to eat healthier, you can enjoy any of the foods you love, but you need to control portions and frequency. I’m one of those RNY types that’s lucky (or unfortunate depending on how you look at it) in that I don’t dump. I haven’t found anything I “can’t eat”, be it ice cream or rice or pasta or whatever. So for me, I have to really work on my own self-control and use my pouch as a tool to help control potions.

One example I give a lot is French-fries. I still love them, but I pretty much have limited myself to being able to have them to once a month. And when I do get them, I make sure they’re a decent one, and I eat a LOT less of them than I would have a few years back. Of course I would probably be remiss if I didn’t say that everyone has to find that balance for themselves, everyone does have their “trigger foods”, and for me I would say it’s pop. It is the one thing I quit cold-turkey when I was pre-op and have not had since, not even diet pops.

Oh, and when it comes to exercise… don’t think of it as “exercise”, if it helps, just think of it as being “active”. It doesn’t have to be hitting the gym, it can be doing some yard work, going for a walk, playing with the kids in the park, whatever gets you moving.

[Tom]:   I know that you would like to establish a network of other dudes to be contributing bloggers on Former Fat Dudes. Many guys are leery of taking that first step into blogging. What motivation to blog can you share with other weight loss surgery dudes to get them started down the road of blogging?

[Rob]:   Beats me. I wish I could tell you why I really do what I do. I don’t know, I just do. I guess I would have to say, what have you got to lose? You can broadcast who you are, or you can do it anonymously, but in the end I do think it can be a great personal motivator…

[Tom]:   Earlier this year, you launched Positively Healthy, your nutritional coaching service. Tell us a little about your vision for this endeavor. What can we expect to see from you in the way of nutritional education and coaching services?

[Rob]:   It’s still a bit of a work in progress. Honestly, I’m still trying to figure out just what it is I’m doing. I’m in that chicken and egg situation of needing more experience to get clients but needing clients to get experience. But overall, my basic goal is to help people make some   small and pretty easy changes to their life style that in the end add up to making positive changes. I’m also trying to figure out how to go back to school, possibly starting a BS program in nutrition science so I can keep building on what I’ve already learned. And I guess eventually I want to build a practice where I can help those considering WLS with pre-op weight loss requirements, post-ops looking for help to fight re-grain, as well as working with families in general – especially when it comes to childhood obesity.

[Tom]:   I love to talk to other weight loss surgery patients about the transformation their lives have gone through after weight loss surgery. So many people become new persons they never imagined being prior to their weight loss. What avenues have opened to you in your post-op life and how have you changed the focus on how you are living life after weight loss surgery?

[Rob]:   Honestly, I can hardly imagine where I’d be right now if I hadn’t had surgery. Between the nutritional coaching, my other online stuff (doing videos for bariatrictv.com for example), I’m looking at getting involved in other obesity advocacy and education endeavors (like working with my surgeon’s office to talk to our state legislators), my level of personal activity, and now I’m even going to be part of a weekly talk-radio show on health and wellness. It’s honestly quite mind-blowing when I actually sit down and think about it.

And while this is going to sound cliché, it’s still true… before surgery, I was at the point where I was just existing. Now I really am living.

[Tom]:   Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today. I hope that my readers join you over at Former Fat Dudes. It is a valuable resource for weight loss surgery patients and those considering the surgery. What parting thoughts do you want to leave us with today?

[Rob]:   Just remember, no matter how many times you stumble, don’t beat yourself up. I still make some pretty stupid choices when it comes to food, when it comes to choosing going to a movie vs the gym, stuff like that. But… I continue to make many more good choices than bad ones, and as long as anyone does that… they’ll come out ok in the end.

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