James Laurita didn't think much about his weight growing up. He'd always been a hefty guy.
"Although I had a weight problem, it wasn't a big problem," says Laurita, whose mom is skinny and whose dad is only slightly overweight. "No one made a big deal about it."
He attributes part of his weight gain to brewing his own beer.
"I was tasting it all the time and making bad decisions associated with alcohol: wings, mozzarella sticks, French fries and other fried food," Laurita says.
What turned things around for Laurita was an LA Fitness gym opening near him and beginning to study Zen meditation by reading Alan W. Watts' "The Way of Zen" (Pantheon, $35, 1957) and the audiobook by Shunryu Suzuki, "Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind" (Phoenix Audio, $14, 2006). He also began using FitBit (fitbit.com) to track his exercise and calories.
"Through Zen meditation, I learned about being in the moment. You develop the mindset to be in the moment, not thinking about what you're doing next or what was in the past."
He says it made both going to the gym and changing his eating habits much easier.
"You don't worry about what came before or what is after," Laurita explains. "Just do what you set out to do at that moment. Take joy in and fully enjoy what you're doing."
DIET "I was guilty of lazy eating and overconsumption," Laurita says.
After researching healthful eating, he has changed his diet. Breakfast is three eggs with fruit such as blueberries, strawberries or melon.
"Melon is my new favorite food," says Laurita, who also starts the day with one lemon squeezed into a glass of warm water. Lunch is either a lean protein or Greek-style yogurt with blueberries and almonds. He snacks on fruit or almonds. Dinner is usually shrimp or other lean protein sauteed with vegetables and fruit such as broccoli and pineapples.
EXERCISE After a lifetime of exercising very little, he now is in the gym every other day for one to two hours. He uses a personal trainer and does circuit training, runs up to 3 miles on the treadmill and has begun weightlifting.
ADVICE "Don't put off losing weight," Laurita says. "Don't say, 'This is my last day of eating unhealthy.' Just be in the moment and do it."