In June of 2012, The Reporter ran a story entitled “Shaping up for summer” about the different fitness options available throughout North Bergen. Accompanying the article was a photograph of local resident Chris Rolon, who had begun a regimen to lose weight.
At his heaviest, Chris weighed 385 pounds. Now, at age 29, he’s down to 240.
The decision to lose weight and change his life was a long time coming. But as a security guard at a local elementary school, Rolon felt it was necessary.
“If you put enough work into it, you never know what can happen.” – Chris Rolon
At over six feet tall, Chris says, “I was pretty much heavy my whole life.” A former club bouncer in Hoboken and the youngest of three sons, Rolon found encouragement in the TV show The Biggest Loser. He was also inspired by an ESL teacher in his school, Jeff Cabrera, who knuckled down and lost over 60 pounds.
But his biggest motivation was his oldest brother, Anthony, who ran a gym in South Jersey where he trained UFC fighters.
“My brother was a trainer for like 20 some years,” said Rolon. “I have a best friend, his name is Salam Diri, he was also my trainer. They helped me pick up and start me toward where I am today.”
“I won’t forget the day,” said his mother, Terry Rolon, about the turning point when Chris began his regimen. The family was sitting at the dining room table, talking over dinner. “The nurse at school had told me if he stops drinking all those sugar drinks he could lose like ten pounds in two weeks or something. He used to drink the big drinks like that, those slushies and all, and he wouldn’t stop. He was sitting down and he listens to us talk about how bad the weight is, what it’s going to do to him. And then he just got up from the table quietly and he walked away. And the next day he was a different person. Totally different person. I joked with friends. I said ‘I don’t understand, he’s not eating. This ain’t gonna last. Maybe a week or two.’ But it was from that date on till now.”
“February 22, 2012,” said Rolon. “I’ll never forget the day. My first day of working out, eating good: veggies, brown rice, all my lean meats, day in, day out.”
Rolon’s father, Nick, a furniture salesman, set up a makeshift gym in a warehouse using second-hand equipment. Rolon would exercise there regularly along with several of his friends, including some North Bergen policemen.
In four months he lost 97 pounds
“It was amazing,” said Cabrera, the ESL teacher. “He was always a big guy. I never thought he was fat, I just thought he was a big, big solid guy. And then all of a sudden it just started dropping, like melting right off him. And he was really dedicated.”
Now devoted to his regimen, Rolon became a health advocate. “He tries to get a lot of people into it too, which is really good,” said Cabrera. “He encourages people that are trying to lose weight. How to go about it the right way: work out, eat right. He’s always posting memos and flyers in the teacher’s room downstairs. Tips, quotes, motivating things.”
In addition, Rolon began giving free lessons in the park on how to exercise correctly and lose weight. Since then he has set a new goal.
“I’m actually in school,” he said. “NCCPT [National Council for Certified Personal Trainers]. It’s an online course. I have to pass a state test. I should be done probably in May. I will be a certified trainer.”
In the meantime, he continues trying to inspire others to get healthy. “If you eat well and work out, you lose weight. There’s no magical way around it. Going out on a Friday night, that’s not going to get you to your goals. You have to always restrict yourself. If you want to get there, you move forward. That’s with everything: how bad do you want it? How bad do you want success? Not just losing weight, but your job, everything. Fight for the top spot. In time, if you put enough work into it, you never know what can happen.”
Although he had a strong support network of friends and family, Rolon’s message is one of personal drive.
“Salam, he always reminded me, I did it on my own. I had somebody there to help me, but he didn’t pick up the dumbbell, he didn’t run in the park. I did it.”
As for that photograph of Rolon in the Hudson Reporter article back in 2012, he found it inspirational. “I wanted a second picture,” he said. “And I want a third picture next year. So that makes me go further. My goal is 200 pounds. I’ve been doing my thing every day, eating good every day. I just have to keep going forward.”
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.