D'IBERVILLE -- He was the one who always volunteered to take photos of his friends at the beach or by the pool, because he hated being in front of the camera. But last week, Long Beach native Robby D'Angelo was in a New Orleans studio for two hours while he was photographed along with Karol Brandt-Gilmartin for the cover of their new book.
In 2006, the former Southern Miss offensive lineman weighed in at a little more than 300 pounds.
"It was about midway through senior year of football, and I was sick and tired of always being sick and tired," he said.
D'Angelo was consuming 10,000 to 12,000 calories every day. He started his morning with a 2,500-calorie protein shake and ate whatever he could to keep his weight up. He was small for a lineman, so he had to work hard to keep the pounds packed on.
"I got to the point where after every meal I had the just-leaving-the-buffet feeling," he said. "I would eat this huge lunch and be ready for a nap and had to go practice football for three hours."
Growing up, D'Angelo said he was always the biggest in his family.
"I grew up the quintessential fat kid," he said.
Both of his parents were athletes, educators and coaches. Both of his brothers played golf and were quarterbacks.
"Growing up and seeing all that, I put a lot of pressure on myself, and being overweight, I wasn't quite the athlete.
"Most meals, I would sit down and eat until I was uncomfortably full where I couldn't move. I was filling the void in my life with food."
In seventh grade, he decided he wanted to lose weight. He started eating healthy and working out, and his mom helped him pack his lunch with better-quality foods.
But then he had to choose -- did he want a healthy lifestyle or to follow in his family's footsteps and play college football?
"I wanted to be like the rest of them," he said. "I chose my dream, and every year I was in high school, I consistently gained 20 pounds." He got his diploma at 280 pounds.
A dream deferred
By the time he was finished with Southern Miss football, he realized his dream wasn't really his.
"I grew up doing what everybody else wanted me to do," he said. "I finally made the decision to be who I wanted to be."
He began cutting calories and working out when he could, but graduate school kept him busy.
He lost 100 pounds in a year, but D'Angelo still didn't like the way he looked.
"I didn't have the proper education. I didn't look healthy," he said. "When I came back down to the Coast, I would re-introduce myself to people because they didn't recognize me. They used to always ask, 'Are you OK? Are you sick? Is there something wrong with you?'"
He researched nutrition and developed a diet and meal-prep plan that made sense to him. He worked out regularly.
"From that point on, I became a serious health and fitness guru," he said.
Overall, he has lost 115 pounds. He reads medical journals for fun and is training for his first bodybuilding competition.
He's in tip-top shape, but he said he sometimes struggles with the way he looks. The competition, he said, will help him gain confidence.
"To step on stage and be judged purely on your body alone is a challenge. It's a mental challenge more than just a physical challenge to me," he said. "When you have something negative in your life holding you back, you have to face it head-on."
The struggle is real
When D'Angelo was at a rock concert at Kress Live lest year, he met Brandt-Gilmartin, who also had lost more than 100 pounds. They started talking about fitness and the healthy lifestyle, and she convinced him they needed to write a book about their struggles.
"She kept pushing me and pushing me," he said. "Finally, we sat down one day and started mind mapping what we could talk about."
The two would meet in coffee shops between D'Iberville and New Orleans and just write.
Their book was picked up by Jesse Krieger, author of "Lifestyle Entrepreneur: Live Your Dreams, Ignite Your Passions, and Run Your Business from Anywhere In The World." Krieger, who hosts seminars on business leadership, is based in Las Vegas. His book was published in Asia in 2012, according to his website.
D'Angelo said Krieger mentored them and told them to write down as much as they could on paper, and the rest would fall into place.
The book, "The Struggle Is Real," gives no diet or workout advice. Instead, it's a motivational book that offers self-help methods to change an entire lifestyle.
"If you don't have that internal motivation to actually stick to the diet when the struggles come, you aren't going to. That's what we wanted to tackle. Not many people are challenging the way you're thinking before you transform your body," he said.
The book debuts on Nov. 10 on Amazon and in Mississippi and Louisiana Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million stores.