Leonard Rivera: 'I can scale ladders, pull hoses and climb stairs'

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Who: Leonard Rivera, 38
Town: Westbury
Occupation: Lawyer, ex-fire chief, current volunteer firefighter

Height: 5'3"
Weight before: 193 (May 2007)
Weight after: 140 (April 2009)

His story: As a former fire chief of the Garden City Fire Department, Leonard Rivera knew his weight and fitness level were not ideal. "The rigors of firefighting are extremely demanding and, frankly, I was having tremendous difficulty," he said. Taking the elevator is not an option for firefighters responding to a seventh-floor apartment fire. "That was brutal," he said.

Rivera, a civil litigation attorney based in Garden City, wasn't feeling too vital in the office, either. Just looking at a StairMaster machine was almost enough to make him break a sweat, he said. During his lunch break, Rivera, like all his co-workers, ordered a big hero coated in mayo, with chips. Instead of energizing him for the rest of his workday, the food would drag him into a "food coma" at his desk.

Today, the ex-chief is a fitter and happier firefighter. "I can scale ladders, pull hoses and climb stairs with all my equipment on, with less fatigue," Rivera said.

What he eats: With encouragement from his wife, Rivera joined Weight Watchers in May 2007. He stopped skipping breakfast and now has high-fiber oatmeal with blueberries. Sushi is his new favorite lunch. For dinner he stopped eating so much beef, opting for leaner chicken and fish.

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Workouts: Rivera wanted to make working out fun. To avoid boredom or burnout, he mixed up doing the StairMaster, elliptical and weights at the gym with things he used to do as a kid, such as riding a bike, rollerblading and running.

His advice: Rivera lost the weight (and the weight didn't find him again) by shedding pounds slowly and deliberately, in addition to keeping active five days a week. "I realized weight loss is more than just going on a fad diet, thinking you are going to eat salads and drink water all day," he said.

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