Actor and comedian Lenny Clarke (star of Are You There, Chelsea? and Rescue Me) shed close to 200 pounds and has kept it off for 5 years. How’d he do it? I had the opportunity to chat with him about his weight loss success.
Q: You weighed 388 pounds, then went on Weight Watchers and lost 182 pounds. What was your “aha” moment that made you start taking action to lose weight?
Everything bad that I could do, I did do, including years of booze and drug abuse. To weigh myself, I had to go on a truck scale— at my heaviest it said 388 pounds. People were coming up to me and said “you look good” with horror in their eyes. They would rub my belly like Buddha and that was hurtful.
Even when I was filming my weight was an issue. During a scene in Fever Pitch, I was supposed to drive Jimmy Fallon to a baseball game. I was so fat I couldn’t fit behind the steering wheel and they needed to adjust it for me. When they shot There’s Something About Mary, I played the fireman who was supposed to come through the window to help Ben Stiller when he got himself stuck in his pants. I was too fat to fit through the window, so they needed to rewrite the scene.
Q: You followed Weight Watchers to help shed your weight. Do you attend Weight Watchers meetings? Could you tell us how you ended up at your first meeting? What or who motivated you to go?
I do attend Weight Watchers meetings. One day I was riding on my truck in Martha’s Vineyard and saw my banker Margaret. She looked great. Later I saw her at a Red Sox game we were all watching and I was checking out what she was eating—water and peanuts (and she didn’t even eat all her peanuts). She told me she lost 70 pounds by going to Weight Watchers.
The first time I went to a Weight Watchers meeting I pretended to be the janitor. It was like I was auditing the meeting. I went home and started reading Weight Watchers Magazine and buying the foods at the supermarket. Then I went with my friend Margaret to a meeting (I was the only guy) and was really blown away. The women were so compassionate and welcoming. You know, it may have started for women but women are a lot smarter than men in a lot of things. If you’re a man looking to lose weight and don’t look at how successful these women are . . .
Q: Besides the meetings, how else did you find the Weight Watchers program helpful to your weight loss efforts?
I am a 58 year old man—I’m no kid. I go to the gym when I can and I have a 6-pack! If I can do it then anybody can. You need to remember that weight is one of the only things in your life you can control. You can’t control many things but you can control what you eat. You can eat everything on Weight Watchers but you just can’t eat it all at once.
I also keep a food journal. If I bite it, I write it. It’s important to concentrate on what you’re eating and eat to live—no mindless eating. It may seem overwhelming but it’s up to you to make the right decisions. If you want chocolate cake, have it but cut it by one-third. It’s not as hard as many people make it out to be.
Q: What did you find to be the toughest part about losing the weight?
The goal is to keep it off. I’d lost weight in the past and it came right back. This time I said I would lose so much weight that if I got lazy, I wouldn’t even be able to gain it all back. I now keep my weight within a 5-6 pound range. I find it is 85% what you eat and 15% what you do.
The hardest thing is not to slide—meaning, one cheat day turns to 2 cheat days which turns into a cheat week.
Q: What are 3 changes that you have made in your life since you started your weight loss journey?
- I take my coffee black. I’m still not used to it. Do I miss cream? YES! Do I miss sugar? YES! However, my pants fit—all of them. I’m not going back.
- I don’t eat at night.
- I don’t eat heavy dinners.
Q: How long have you kept the weight off? What did you find to be your biggest challenge to keeping the weight off?
For 5 years. When you starting doing the right things, they become a habit. My healthy habits have become second nature to me, like brushing my teeth.
Q: Having gone through the experience of losing 180+ pounds, what words of wisdom would you give folks who want to lose weight?
I’m passionate about weight loss. If I could help one other person lose weight, it makes me happy. Some days will suck and some days you’ll look in the mirror and say “not bad.”
Q: Could you share with me your favorite healthy recipe?
Herbed Rib Roast (recipe and photo courtesy of WeightWatchers.com)
Serves: 12 people
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 80 minutes
PointsPlus Value: 6 points
Yields: 1 slice per serving.
4 pounds uncooked lean whole beef ribs, trimmed of visible fat
1 1/2 tsp table salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp reduced-calorie mayonnaise
1 1/2 tsp horseradish sauce
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 Tbsp thyme, fresh, chopped
2 Tbsp dill, fresh, chopped
Preheat oven to 375°F. Season roast with salt and pepper.
In a small bowl, combine garlic, mustard, mayonnaise and horseradish. In another small bowl, combine parsley, thyme, dill and 1 tablespoon of mustard mixture.
Place meat, rib-bone down, in a roasting pan; coat top with remaining mustard mixture and cook meat until an instant-read thermometer inserted in center of roast registers 110°F. Coat roast with remaining mustard mixture and press herb mixture onto mustard with your hands.
Continue cooking roast until a thermometer inserted in center of meat registers 140°F for medium, or longer until desired degree of doneness. Cover loosely with foil and then let stand 20 to 30 minutes before carving into 12 thick slices.
Actor and comedian Lenny Clarke has appeared on Rescue Me and The John Laroquette Show. You can now find him playing Chelsea Handler’s dad Melvin on the NBC comedy Are You There, Chelsea?
Toby Amidor, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian and consultant who specializes in food safety and culinary nutrition. See Toby’s full bio »