Grebien drops 20.5 pounds, coming just shy of goal

Grebien drops 20.5 pounds, coming just shy of goal

At left is a shot of Mayor Don Grebien before he lost 20.5 pounds over three months. At right is the after picture. (Valley Breeze photos by Ethan Shorey)

PAWTUCKET - When he started out on his weight-loss journey three months ago, Mayor Don Grebien said he had a "modest goal" of losing 25 pounds by eating better and exercising. The mayor ended up falling short of his goal, but considering that he left exercise out almost entirely, he's pretty happy with the final results.

"I'm in a much better place," he told The Breeze.

Last November, Grebien was tipping the scales at 283.5 pounds. His scale Monday showed 263 pounds, meaning he's 20.5 pounds overall.

"With everyone watching me, I had the sense that I had to accomplish this," he said.

Grebien, 46, said he wants city residents to continue keeping him accountable for his eating and exercise habits, even though the official portion of his effort is over. Without that accountability, he knows he will fall back into a pattern of gaining weight, he said.

Chatting over a bowl of soup and a bottle of water at the Exchange Street Caf?©, Grebien said that in a perfect world he would get down to 230 pounds and stay there, but he will settle for a living weight between 250 and 260.

The mayor said he already has more energy, feels better about himself as a person, and has more hope of living a longer and healthier life with his family than he did last November when he decided to go public with his weight struggles.

Most of Grebien's 20.5 pounds lost came in the first few weeks of his healthier eating program. He was 268.5 pounds on Dec. 23 before gaining a couple pounds and failing to get back down to 268.5 until the end of January.

"One reason it slowed down" around 270 pounds was a newfound affinity for Ramen noodles, said Grebien. Holiday eating and a lack of exercise also hurt, he said.

He's always hated to exercise, said the mayor, but he decided one day to try out a group exercise class and found it was "way too intense."

"I went from zero to a lot," he said, grinning. "Exercising makes you sick, at least that's what I'm telling people."

One of his favorite activities is walking, said Grebien, and he plans to do more of it as the weather gets warmer this spring, in hopes of shedding more weight.

"Now I know I have to cut back on the eating or start on the exercise to lose more weight," he said.

Many of his old unhealthy habits, like binge eating junk food at night, have all but disappeared, said Grebien. Even when he cheats, like at the ski lodge on Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend, he does so in moderation.

"Before I wouldn't have stretched it out," he said.

Grebien said he's done well drinking his protein shakes and making healthy substitutions for foods and drinks he used to consume regularly.

Water, often flavored, has replaced soda, while yogurt and almonds (for the crunch) have become a nighttime snack staple. According to Grebien, he's now eating carrots with hummus and he even tried kale chips a few nights ago. They were OK, he said, but would be better with less oil.

"I'm in a much better routine," he said.

Grebien, who stands 6 feet, 1 inch tall, said he did have to buy a few new clothes after losing "a couple inches" off his 48-inch waist, but many items still fit, just much looser. As one resident previously pointed out in a note to The Breeze, the mayor did take some clothes to Sado's Tailor and Dry Cleaning to have them altered. It was notes like that that "made it fun" to be in the public eye even with such a personal issue, said Grebien.

The mayor said his wife, Laureen, and children, Alexa and Connor, have challenged him along the way. After years of talking about how he wanted to lose weight, they were happy to see him actually start doing it.

Losing 20.5 pounds has made him "not as lazy," said Grebien, allowing him to even get out and play in the snow with his children.

Grebien said he went to the doctor right before his weight-loss challenge last November and was told that his blood pressure was in borderline dangerous territory. When he goes back in April, he expects to hear that he's well into the safe zone.

When he started his weight-loss challenge, Grebien said he wanted to be an example to young people that someone can do big things if they put their mind to it. He said part of setting that example going forward will be sticking with what he's started, not allowing the pounds to pile back on.

Mayor Don Grebien keeps it pretty healthy with some chicken soup and water for lunch at the Exchange Street Cafe last Friday.