Family loses 300 pounds together

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(Photo: Gabi Rose)

The whole family, from left: Rachel, Gabi, Sarah, David, Josh, in front, and Noah. In 2005, Gabi Rose faced a turning point; she decided to change her habits after suffering a near-fatal asthma attack.

The whole family, from left: Rachel, Gabi, Sarah, David, Josh, in front, and Noah. In 2005, Gabi Rose faced a turning point; she decided to change her habits after suffering a near-fatal asthma attack.

Gabi Rose wore maternity clothes for more than 12 years.

Her weight, which bounced up and down around her four pregnancies, wasn’t just an aesthetic concern. She had frequent asthma attacks, broke an ankle several times, developed rosacea and noticed that her hair had stopped growing.

“I didn’t realize it was affecting my entire family,” Rose said.

Once Rose got serious about losing weight for good, she, her husband, David, and daughter Rachel lost a combined 300 pounds together. A big factor in the trio’s transformation was changing how they ate: choosing healthier foods and cooking at home.

“The weight loss in my opinion is the easy part,” Rose said. “It’s the maintenance that’s hard, and that’s difficult and takes time and education and understanding.”

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A family health crisis

Rose had many complications with her pregnancies. She was hospitalized for four weeks because of preeclampsia with her first son, Josh. Her third child, Noah, almost died as an infant. Rose suffered badly with asthma and weighed close to 300 pounds when she was pregnant with her youngest child, Sarah.

Her older daughter Rachel, now 14, suffered weight problems, too. Rachel remembers going to Target with her mother and wanting to try on clothes in the kids’ section. But because of her large size as a third-grader, she had to shop in the adult section.

It was hard for Rachel, knowing children were in the other part of the store; she was surrounded by “all these old women.”

“Rachel looks at old pictures of herself and she says, ‘Why did you let me get so big?’ ” Rose said. “It probably is my fault. I was kind of lost myself.”

Rose tried commercial weight-loss programs, but nothing worked.

She became serious about getting healthy after an asthma attack in 2005, a year after Sarah’s birth. Rose was driving her children home from a friend’s house when she felt a heaviness in her chest. She reached for her inhaler, but it wasn’t in her purse. She panicked and pulled over.

“The only thing I could think of is: ‘I’m going to die here on the street,’ ” she said. “I called my husband and I told him where I was, because I didn’t think I’d be alive when he got there.”

Her brush with death made her decide once and for all: The weight had to go.

Changing bad habits

In those days, Rose didn’t cook much at all. Frozen pizza, chicken nuggets in a bag, mac and cheese in a box, a pre-made “family-size portion” of chicken lasagna for herself and her husband — these were typical meals.

When the children were little, Rose kept a hefty supply of bags of chips, she said.

“All the neighborhood kids used to come over all the time because I had so much junk food,” she said.

But in 2006, Rose dedicated herself to understanding healthy food choices. Now Rose avoids anything that comes in a bag or box.

The family cooks together, making main courses such as chicken wings from scratch and sides such as mashed potatoes mixed with cauliflower. Every meal has a salad.

Rose’s husband has become “a wizard with stir fry,” she said.

And Rachel, who used to buy two ice cream snacks at school at lunch, now brings her lunch from home and makes strawberry-banana protein smoothies.

Rose was once a size 26. She's now a size 2, having lost 168 pounds.

Rose was once a size 26. She’s now a size 2, having lost 168 pounds.

Getting up and moving

The family has also been spending less time sitting on the couch.

Rachel and Noah have been playing tennis for years. They’ve motivated the rest of the family to play tennis, too, Rose said.

The family also rides bikes around the neighborhood and has gone on outdoor adventures such as white-water rafting and an obstacle course. They have joined a family gym, so that everyone is working out at the same time, and have run 5K races together over the past two years.

David Rose credits his wife as leading by example in the diet and fitness changes that have transformed the household. He lost 80 pounds, which he has kept off for four years, and now weighs about 188 pounds.

“I remember the first day that she took me over to the gym and put me on an elliptical machine,” he said. “That was the beginning of a process.”

Gabi and David Rose ride a zip-line roller coaster in St. Cloud, Florida, to celebrate their weight loss.

Gabi and David Rose ride a zip-line roller coaster in St. Cloud, Florida, to celebrate their weight loss.

Ups and downs

It hasn’t always been easy.

On Valentine’s Day 2008, David went to buy his wife a fondue maker and gourmet chocolate from a local chocolatier. She had loved the Melting Pot fondue restaurant; he thought with this present, “I was hitting a grand slam home run.”

He was wrong.

“I just looked at him and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’ ” Gabi Rose said. “I was just beside myself. He’s just not understanding the efforts that I’m putting into my weight loss.”

Her fury didn’t abate when her husband tossed the chocolate in the garbage. She didn’t speak to him for a month. (“I knew she was going to bring up [the fondue],” he said later).

In retrospect, Rose sees that until that point her weight-loss efforts had been inconsistent. But her husband apologized, telling his wife that he hadn’t understood where she was coming from — that she was serious about getting healthy, long term, and about making everyone in the family feel better about themselves.

“He was afraid that I was going to become a different person I guess, or not as fun as I used to be,” she said. “But we found fun in other ways, without eating.”

Rachel, 14, is an avid tennis player. She lost 50 pounds after her family started eating differently and exercising.

Rachel, 14, is an avid tennis player. She lost 50 pounds after her family started eating differently and exercising.

Inspiring others

Today, Rose weighs 145 pounds, and has become an expert on losing weight. She has traveled extensively, speaking about how to make healthy changes, and was the host and co-producer of a reality show in South Florida called “The Get Fit Club.”

In 2009, she teamed up with Dr. Elisabeth Cohn-Gelwasser — whose medical practice Rose has been coordinating since 1994 — to offer a medical weight-loss program that targets nutrition and fitness and also incorporates counseling in behavior modification, and medication when necessary.

From a size 26, Rose has slimmed down to a size 2.

Rachel has also made significant progress; she lost 50 pounds between 2009 and 2011, and her father said she has been “an inspiration to other children.” Now in high school, Rachel knows a lot of girls who complain about their appearances.

“I honestly can’t relate to them, because I love the way that I am right now,” she said.

As for the embattled fondue maker, it’s still in the family’s kitchen, David said. It’s a reminder of an era of overeating that’s melted away.

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7 comments

  • Not_Now

    “Rachel looks at old pictures of herself and she says, ‘Why did you let me get so big?’ ” Typical entitled kid, “It CAN’T be my problem, so you must fix it.”

    Also, if she weighs 145 lbs., how in the WORLD is she a size 2? When I was 130 lbs., I was a SIZE 7!!!!!

  • Karma

    I am pleased to see Gabi take some ownership in Rachel’s weight gain. As a parent we are responsible for teaching our children healthy eating habits and choices. I am also happy that they discovered this journey of healthy eating together. I am sure Rachel is proud of her mother for taking on this huge responsibility to change everyone’s lives. A size 2 at 145lbs is wonderful. Congratulations to the whole family on the new and improved you.

  • Kristina Jaramillo

    Agreed. Congrats but I went from 240 pregnancy, multiple sclerosis &additional neurological issues 4 nurses fired 30meds stopped to self water therapy& water aerobics by myself! I have no book or weight loss program to rid extra skin! Sz8 @135 she must have had surgery? ! Overweight children are led by parents example but not sure she shouldn’t accept who she was and how/why she’s a dmaller girl. Thats real inspiration to help our youth in our bully obesity nation!

  • Not_Now

    “I am pleased to see Gabi take some ownership in Rachel’s weight gain. As a parent we are responsible for teaching our children healthy eating habits and choices.”

    Sorry, I don’t buy that. Why didn’t Rachel take responsibility for Rachel’s weight? I know for a fact that in some schools you are taught that YOU are responsible for YOU! They had 4 kids. If it was a “family” problem, why was the WHOLE family not overweight not just one kid and 2 adults?

  • Karma

    @Not-Now I think you are missing the point of this article. This young girl (child) was not blaming her mother – it was just a remark to show how they all seemed to lose sight of the fact that they all had weight issues. I think they all show tremendous courage and insight and I personally do not read any signs of entitlement or resentment. This young lady looks wonderful and following along with her mother she has chosen to eat right and do regular activities. Both Mother and Daughter are role models to their peers.

  • Not_Now

    Again I quote (emphasis mine), “Rachel looks at old pictures of herself and she says, ‘Why did **YOU** let me get so big?’ ” Who was she blaming, the dog? I applaud their weight loss, but put the weight gain blame where it belongs, ON THE PERSON THEMSELVES!

  • Karma

    Oh my goodness this is not an article about who is to blame for weight gain. This is about a family that took control of the situation and lost the weight – I am sure with plenty of roadblocks along the way – including blame and guilt. Your words do little to encourage this child on her journey of self discovery and acceptance nor does your cynicism towards the mother’s weight and size give any indication that you applaud her achievements. I know not every situation calls for a kumbaya moment but seriously give these folks a break – it’s a great success story and certainly an inspiration for so many – young and old – struggling with weight issues.

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