THEIR STORY: Lou, Donna and Donato Moneta had all become comfortable with being overweight.
"Coming from an Italian family, there was always lots to eat," says Lou Moneta, who was overweight almost his entire life due to lack of exercise and super-size meals. Skipping breakfast and lunch really helped pack the weight on.
"By dinner, I'd be ravenous and eat too much and then not feel like doing anything but sitting on the couch," Lou Moneta says of his average day. "My wife is also a really good cook. Nothing got thrown away because I'd always eat the leftovers."
If a recipe was designed to feed four, Donna Moneta would double it for her family of four.
While their oldest son, Luigi, 22, is slender and can eat whatever he wants, 14-year-old Donato was following in his father's footsteps. He had reached 200 pounds in 2012.
"I was at the doctor and he told me I was overweight," Donato remembers of that conversation in 2012. "I told him, 'What do you expect? My father is fat.' "
This was one gift Lou Moneta would rather have not given his son.
"I was devastated," Lou Moneta says. "I knew we had to do something."
Losing weight became a family affair for the three. Lou and Donna Moneta decided to use the Medifast meal replacement program. Then last summer, after getting the OK from the pediatrician, they enrolled Donato in Jenny Craig.
"If I hadn't gone along for the [weight-loss] ride, Lou wouldn't have done it," says Donna.
Lou Moneta says he learned how to eat small meals on Medifast, which usually requires users to eat six small meals a day, then slowly works back onto regular foods.
Donato credits his summer of Jenny Craig with teaching him portion control.
"Before, as soon as I had one meal, I was thinking about the next meal I was going to have," says Donato. "I could tell you without looking at the clock when it was noon. Now, I eat when I'm hungry. If I'm not hungry, I don't just eat because it is mealtime. I don't focus on food anymore."
DIET: After years of eating whatever they wanted and a lot of it, the Monetas are conscious that what they put on their plates is healthy. Lou and Donna have transitioned to regular food. Donato eats what the rest of the family eats now. While they can't always sit down together, everyone eats breakfast. Donato starts with a low-calore breakfast sandwich. Lou has a Medifast shake every day, and Donna indulges in half a bagel with 2 percent cheese. Lou's lunch is yogurt and granola, and Donato makes healthy choices at school. Donna has a low-calorie frozen meal for lunch. Three days a week, dinner is a salad and lean protein such as chicken or salmon. They splurge on Saturdays with a takeout Greek meal but rarely go to restaurants. The rest of the week, they stick to lean proteins and vegetables. Donna tries to replace more calorie-laden beef with chicken or turkey when possible. They load up on vegetables and have cut out potatoes, rice and other high-carb foods.
EXERCISE: Lou now attends the Adelphi University Adult Fitness program three nights a week for cardio and resistance training. Donna goes early each morning for classes and then again in the evening with Lou.
ADVICE: "If you have someone to do it [diet and exercise] with, it will be a lot easier," Lou Moneta says. "It also is easier for the person doing the cooking to cook healthfully for the whole family. We all motivate and encourage each other. I don't know if I would have been able to do it on my own."
In addition to cooking healthy meals, Donna Moneta makes sure everyone weighs in every Sunday. "Lou and I also shop together, and we always cook together."
Donato says: "I don't think a kid can do this in a healthy way without his parents' support. I know I couldn't have done it without mine."