Out of all the interviews I have done with celebrity and non-celebrity persons, this one has to be closest to my heart. I had never met Ron Lester prior to this interview, yet I do not think there could have been a better fit with more comparable early years than the parallel of Ron Lester's obesity problem and mine.
You will know Ron Lester as the big and funny guy from big screen movies such as "Varsity Blues" and "Not Another Teen Movie", or the WB Television series "Popular", but I will know Ron as a brother who has been involved in an overwhelming battle with obesity.
In the year 2000, on December 19, weighing an enormous 508 pounds, this larger-than-life celebrity flew to New York City to meet with a top surgeon to see if he would be a candidate for Gastric Bypass surgery.
The next day, December 20th, the doctor said he qualified, and the very next day, December 21st, Ron Lester laid down on an operating table. The first surgery involved the surgical team taking 3/4 of Ron's stomach out though his naval. During this first surgery the actor lost his pulse and flat-lined, so the team decided to stop and come back later, which they did, and perform a second surgery to reroute the 1/4 stomach to the large intestine bypassing Ron's small intestine.
Immediately after these first two surgeries were completed Ron began losing a huge amount of weight. Ron lost a total of 349 pounds, going from 508-to-159 pounds. This procedure was not only life changing, but also life-saving for the former heavyset actor. Ron already had four arthroscopic knee surgeries and two maybe mild heart attacks prior to the Gastric Bypass surgery. Losing 349 pounds has helped take a huge strain off Ron's heart and knees.
Ron and I both grew-up as the physically strong, heavy athletic kids who were fun loving and fun guys to hang out with and pick on. Both of us played some high school football and were very quick on our feet. Ron could even leg press 1500 pounds in high school weighing 300 pounds at 6-feet tall.
Ron wrestled in high school at 275 pounds, and I went to the wrestling camps and some training, but was too fat to wrestle since I weighed 305 lbs (weight limit was 275 pounds). We could not get a date with a good-looking girl to save our lives. Most people do not understand how hard it is emotionally on a teenager who is unsuccessful in the dating department. Dating is such a huge part of social development for teens and Ron and I missed out pretty big on that one.
We both had low self-confidence and low self-esteem because of our size, but most people did not realize it, not even our families. I had let my weight balloon to 305 pounds and Ron let his weight grow to an even larger 508 pounds.
We both had loving families who cared about us and were there for support, but neither family knew exactly the right tools at the time to help us slim down safely and effectively. I lost my weight through rigorous diet and cardiovascular exercise, and Ron lost his through an operation. Neither of us did this the safest way, but it was the only means we knew to save our lives.
I lost 100 pounds by the age of 18 and without suffering with serious depression, but Ron was experiencing serious depression not only from being obese, but from losing 23 people close to him in high school, including one of his favorite people in the world, his sister Linda. This led Ron to attempt suicide, but the hollow point bullet must have been a dud and did not go off.
Ron's parent's tried to get him help, but money was tight and their insurance did not cover counseling. The only thing possible at the time was to have Ron admitted to an eating disorder clinic to maybe get help for the depression. His stay there was uncomfortable and not effective to say the least.
Ron was put on lock-down for a month and a half and the only other residents there were about 19 girls battling with Anorexia. Since he was so fat, Ron was what they feared most and it made for an unsettling stay, his closest friend passed while on lock-down.
Through a successful career already Ron seemed to be able to self-medicate his depression and feelings of loneliness with food until finally reaching a few breaking points when he had trouble fitting into a bald-headed special effect and also became lodged behind the steering wheel of a vehicle on set.
Soon after those humiliating times Ron had seen where the celebrity Carnie Wilson had Gastric Bypass Surgery and lost a lot of weight. Seeing that was all Ron needed to make his life-changing and life-saving decision. Now each of us knows the importance of a regular healthy eating plan combined with exercise and how to safely train with weights and cardiovascular exercises.
Both of us are always eager to share our stories with anyone who needs some guidance and to teach the dos and don'ts of safe and effective exercise and nutrition.
Side Effects Of Gastric Bypass Surgery
Ron will be the first to admit that the gastric bypass surgery was dangerous and that it cost him his life, at least for a brief moment in time, when he flat-lined on the operating table. Ron believes the best candidates for this surgery are those who have life-threatening conditions that are exacerbated by an enormous amount of excess weight.
If you are Morbidly or Super Obese and are having no success losing weight the healthy way with exercise, proper nutrition, and enough rest, then you might be a candidate. If you have seriously and with consistency and persistence tried to take the right steps to lose weight, but are failing then you may be a candidate.
Gastric Bypass is not an easy way out. Some of the side effects Ron experienced were: dying temporarily, pain from surgery, expense of surgery, loss of money and time at work, excess gas, diarrhea, vomiting, limited food choices, limited food amounts, pain pills and excess skin.
The last side effect I mentioned was the loose skin. There was an extremely large amount of loose skin all over Ron's body, which created a new problem. Ron had just started to get into the dating scene with girls approaching him left and right and I remember I did not know how to handle the attention.
Even though all was going well with the ladies, Ron had never really taken his clothes off in front of any of them, especially to go swimming.
When a girl in Arizona that Ron had been seeing for nearly 4 weeks finally got a glimpse of him and his loose skin, she literally got her things together and left him saying she would not be able to get past the thoughts of his loose skin. This was crushing for Ron. He said here I am with over 300 pounds lost and now "I cannot win for winning!" This situation led Ron to a second attempt at suicide and he decided last minute against it, with gun in hand, while sitting in his truck.
Soon after this incident his mother called and he had an appointment with Dr. Keith Jeffers, a well-known Plastic Surgeon in Atlanta, Georgia. This would lead to another rough road ahead. Next Ron would go through a series of seventeen (17) plastic surgeries to remove loads of hanging skin.
Loose skin was taken from just about every body part from head to toe. He even had a lot of loose skin around his testicular area that needed to be removed by a plastic surgery procedure known as the Townsend Tuck. Each surgery left Ron in pain, so he began taking Vicodin. Ron soon grew addicted to these pain pills and at the peak of his addiction he was consuming eight pills every four hours. This was hard to overcome, but Ron did it. Ron had a 20th surgery. He says because of the Gastric Bypass, his Gallbladder needed to be removed.
With the loss of the weight, Ron had to redirect and remold himself as an actor. He used to be the big, funny and fat comedic actor who was following in the footsteps of Chris Farley, John Candy and Jackie Gleason, but now without the excess weight, he has lost all of his old niche acting jobs.
Positive Effects Of Weight Loss
On a more positive note, Ron has been able to lose the huge burden of the excess weight, which was killing him every moment. He had said living with 508 pounds was like everyday committing a slow suicide. Ron was able to get the much-needed surgeries for safely dealing with the loose skin. He was able to beat the addiction to the painkillers and stay on track living a healthy lifestyle.
Ron says, "Exercise is Key!" He eats 6 small meals or snacks per day keeping his metabolism running high and better regulating blood sugar levels. He feels better, sleeps better, and deals with life's challenges with a brighter and more positive outlook.
Since Ron had lost the weight he was able to travel back home to Georgia to spend delicate time with his mother, MaryEllen Lester, who was dying of Ovarian Cancer. Her last year was spent having Ron in her hospital room with her night and day.
Ron's mom was his favorite person and someone who knew him better than anyone. She could feel the pain of his life changes without him having to say it. He lovingly shared his time, devoted to her, not to his career, during her final days. His mother sadly passed away March 28, 2007.
Ron also had another positive happen to him because of the surgery. When he wasn't even looking for a significant other, Ron met his girlfriend, Kate Williamon. She is a triathlete who is already living a healthy lifestyle and supports Ron through all of his exercising and nutritional undertakings.
They eat healthy the majority of the time, yet still find that having a few cheat meals per week keeps sanity but also helps to trick and boost the metabolism to go into overdrive. Ron is now working on many new projects as an actor with a slender new body type.
Question & Answer With Ron Lester
[ Q ] What was a normal day of eating like for you when you where 508 lbs?
[ A ]
- Typically I would start the day with 3 big bowls of cereal. That - looking back - would have been at least 5 glasses of whole milk. Maybe some toast and butter, about 4 slices.
Go to work, on which ever show I was on that week, and grab a Bagel; load it up with cream cheese, leeks, tomatoes and red onion. Two cans of cokes. Or ... If I had to work right away, once I got on the set ... I would wait. Then when I had a break, there was a Mickey D's near and because they would have started serving lunch by this point I would order, 2 Big Macs, super-size fries, super size Coke, and a fish sandwich.
I might have had to drive the mile to get there and the time to order it! Then the show would take a lunch. I would eat what everybody else would. About an hour after that ... snack. Movies and TV shows have the world's best cart service trucks. They keep on there whatever the lead actors such as myself wanted. Most people would have what I use to call hippie food. You know veggies and stuff. But mine was a Chicken Salad - Mayo and Chicken, red onion, mayo, celery, boiled eggs sliced up in it, and mayo. God it tasted soooo good!
- Then if we had to work a typical 16-hour day, I would eat that a couple more times and then eat dinner with everybody else. But no matter what ... on the way home, there where at least 7 different drive thru's and I LOVE BURGER KING! So I would get Three Whoppers, extra tomatoes and onions, NO lettuce, and pickles and [email protected] but heavy mayo! And the biggest Coke they had! Next day - Say I need to go on a diet ... while I was eating my 2nd bowl of cereal.
[ Q ] What was a normal day of eating like immediately after Gastric Bypass Surgery?
[ A ]
- After a couple of days in the hospital, on that IV drip ... I lost 20 pounds. It was crazy! Then they allowed me soft things like Jell-O and soup. Still that was only a couple bites and then I thought I would die. I was so full! Then I was moved up to baby food!
Want to know why you have a hard time getting your kid to eat sometimes? 'Cause that stuff taste like sh!t! So we took a blender and made my food for me. Just a little bit of steak, potato flakes, peas and would turn it into baby food. If she made me 2 oz of the stuff like they said I could eat I think I would only eat like 1/4 of it. The funny thing is if I ate that at 11 a.m, I couldn't eat again until, 7'ish.
[ Q ] What is a normal day of eating now? Do you have cheat meals and snacks?
[ A ]
- I wake up and have coffee! I am an old man now; I need it to get going! Hahahaaa! Around 5:45am: I tend to eat about three egg whites and a bowl of grits! I like grits; I use about 1 tsp of Smart Balance butter.
Around 10 I have a snack. I like Grilled Chicken so I take a grilled breast of chicken, chop it up, and have it on a bed of spinach. 1 p.m: I eat lunch. Most of the time it's leftovers. I can't eat that much at one time remember. 5 p.m: Snack; I like pumpkin seeds!
Then by the time Kate gets home I have made dinner. We have a glass of wine, now (thanks to Kate) I like Indian food. So will make a dish of her choice. Start off with a spinach salad and then the meal. Remember that this could be the next days snack! Hahaaa, so it has to be good!
If I am running from meeting to meeting during the day and don't have time to stop and sit down to eat (which I think is key, sit and enjoy your food and you won't be looking for it again in a couple of hours), I eat what I like! Yes, I will stop off at a drive thru, but instead of eating the crap I use too I do something different - If I want a hamburger ... I get it! If I want fries ... I get it! It's called a "Happy Meal:" I never eat it all, I had the "TASTE" of comfort food, never finish the small coke (carbonation hurts my stomach), and the best part is ... I GOT A TOY!
- On the weekends Kate and I like to drop the top on the car, drive to Malibu and order a "CUP" of Clam Chowder with a Bloody Mary. And sit by the ocean.
Only on the weekends, Kate allows me to "SOMETIMES" have about a 1/2 cup of ice cream.
I believe if you are trying to diet and or on a diet - the reason you get so depressed - is you miss the things that "YOU THINK" make you happy! So if you can have a taste and enjoy a small amount and not eat the whole container ... I say why not?! It's only once per week.
[ Q ] Did you exercise when you were 508 lbs?
[ A ]
- NO! I had two gym memberships and never went to either! I figured I could bench 410 lbs and leg press 1500 pounds, what did I need to go to the gym for? A treadmill wasn't really going to help me lose weight! I had one at the house and it had more clothes on it than my closet had in it!
[ Q ] Were you able to exercise immediately after the surgery?
[ A ]
- I have heard that some people are able to. I on the other hand was not. I went walking and bought a mountain bike (but still had a fat @ss, so that seat ... well you know) but never really rode it.
By the time I was able to move around better (less weight on my bones) I was having another surgery. And it stayed like that for almost seven years. Remember, I went and had 17 plastic surgeries. Each time meant healing. It has only been really the last three years that I could. But I had never really been a GYM person until I met Kate (The love of my life)!
[ Q ] What types of exercises do you do now and how much and for how long?
[ A ]
- Well, I hate to say this, but it has only been the last couple of months I have been WANTING to join a gym. I am finding out more and more about my body everyday; things I can and can't do. I wasn't being lazy the last three years, I just had a lot going on. I am human, and a former fat @ss - some habits die-hard! Plus I figured I was thin. Why go to the gym?
Right now, I wake up and go walking and hiking! I love hiking and climbing And the truth is - I guess, 'cause when I look in the mirror - I still see the 508-pound guy! I visited a gym one day and felt like everybody was looking and judging me ... Oh, look there is that celeb that was so fat! And now I don't really have any upper strength.
I look like a p_ss trying to work out. So I get embarrassed! I thought about a personal trainer, but you know how much that would cost to get me on track? I mean we are not talking about a new mother trying to lose a couple of pounds.
- The bad thing is I really want someone to train me, personally, and help me get as close as possible to what my co-star Paul Walker's body looks like! I wish I could say that was a joke. I know I will never look like that, but the journey to it would be worth while for me personally.
[ Q ] You mentioned wanting to train for a triathlon with your girlfriend Kate Williamon. Do you still plan on it and will your knees hold-up?
[ A ]
- Well I have a lot of doubt that my knees will allow me at this point and time, after carrying 508 lbs for so long and
- , 4 scopes, etc. Most likely they will not. But the fact that I will be able to "TRY" ... well that is the difference in "never getting too", know what I am saying?
[ Q ] Do you regret having the surgery at all?
[ A ]
- I don't miss the days and moments that got me "to being fat." I am glad I lived through them though. They made me a stronger man than most when it comes to dealing with people and feelings!
I think the only thing I kinda miss is the fact that I was so loved by my fans, and the second: well you saw me; I was like a walking billboard. I was famous and you knew who I was right away.
- Growing up you always want to be accepted, no matter who or what you look like. I worked so hard to make people like me growing up! Now there is no, in a "split-second" acknowledgement!
I miss what I "HAD EARNED" with being fat. But the way I see it, I made a couple a million dollars and I put $400,000 into my body - It saved my life! I was able to have enough money to quit working for over three years to help my mom with her cancer. I was sleeping on the floor for the last year-and-a-half of her life at the hospital. Now that she has passed I was able to come out of retirement.
- As of November 2007 I am back to work and I am rebuilding my career. The difference is that I am no longer the "FUNNY FAT GUY!" I am just like anybody else. I sold my "niche" for my chance to live and even though it's harder to start over, even with a resume like mine, I have earned the right to be able to do so!
It is all due to the belief that my mom and dad watch over me and that I gambled with my life to lose weight and won! NO ONE can take either one away!
- So yeah, I miss the fame as the funny fat guy; I kinda miss the funny fat guy; but ... I would never trade the life I have now with Kate and the endless opportunities I have in store for me, with my old life.
[ Q ] What do you feel are the positives about you having the surgery?
[ A ]
- Well I kinda answered that already in the last question - I was able to take care of my mother who ended up getting Ovarian Cancer. That has been the biggest thing in my life! She did so much for me in mine. Either it was as a kid, or just believing in me enough to support my career. She was my MOM!
If I had never had the surgeries I would have been dead before my 33rd birthday! My dad passed away when I was 23, and my mom was my best friend. Who would have been there for her? The honor that I have in my heart, knowing that I was alive and was there for my mom ... well that is the greatest thing of my life's story!
- The other is finding Kate Williamon, a true southern lady, and a woman that I know my mom would have loved. Personally, I think my mom helped put Kate in my life! I may not be as rich as I was, I might not be known throughout the town anymore, but I am alive.
I have the chance to go thru both the good and bad stuff everyday. If I hadn't had the surgery ... well I wouldn't have had the chance to meet "you" and help people understand what a guy's point of view could be like when it comes to real life being threatened and the ins and outs of weight loss surgery!
What Is Ron Lester Doing Now?
Ron has many new entertainment projects in the works. His very popular official website sells lots of his famous clothing, "Billy Bob" apparel, "Varsity" merchandise and memorabilia. Ron has also been public speaking to a wide variety of support groups, college students, television shows, documentaries, and many other media outlets.
He has been sharing his powerful and triumphant story with people all around the world. Visit his website and see many of the top TV talk shows Ron has recently been on and watch the videos yourself.
Ron says because he has his health, he has no complaints. He believes he has a second chance at life now so he will, with his good health, make the best of his new career.
I wholeheartedly believe that my weight loss positively changed my life for the better and I know Ron Lester feels the same. We would not have gained the self-confidence we have if we had not lost so much weight. We ended up taking care of important business by putting our health at the top of our priority lists and losing dangerous amounts of fat that was slowly killing us. Now we both have wonderful opportunities to share our stories and help support and motivate others to fight obesity!