Almost as enduring as midnight fireworks, the American resolution to lose weight every January is a troubling tradition. Perhaps motivated by an upcoming event, many people manage to drop a few pounds on their own, only to gain it all back (and more) after their class reunion or wedding day.

    But it wasn’t a special event that motivated Pat Brennan to lose weight. It was the threat of amputation.

    “Pat is a Type 2 diabetic, and he was suffering from cellulitis. His doctor told him that if his legs didn’t heal, they would have to be amputated,” explains weight-loss guru Charles D’Angelo. “He came to me for help, because he had to get control of his weight and his disease.”

    With D’Angelo’s help, Brennan lost 111 pounds in less than one year. “He’s now off of every medication.”

    The hallways of D’Angelo’s Webster Groves offices are lined with before and after photos of smiling clients, including 43 who have each lost more than 100 pounds. D’Angelo knows their names and their stories by heart, right down to the number of pounds they’ve shed and the date they achieved their goal. “I’m passionate about what I do!” he says. “I’m entirely committed to each and every client because I want them to know that I understand.”

     D’Angelo’s passion and understanding are genuine—when he was 15 years old, he tipped the scales at 360 pounds. “I felt so hopeless. I was afraid I would never get married, never have a family. It was like being in prison, and I just wanted to be normal.”

    His journey to fitness began with the decision to join a local gym, and continued with his education at Saint Louis University, where he earned his degree in psychology. “I’ve developed a system of strategies that worked for me, that are not dependent on a certain diet,” D’Angelo says. “It’s not about the diet; it’s about the mindset—teaching yourself to be consistent, even when times get tough. Like when you’re having a bad day and reach for food, for example.” The goal, he says, is to find a way to preserve the intention—trying to feel better—but change the behavior. “Find something else that has a positive impact, rather than a negative,” he suggests. “That’s what I teach people to do. My whole mission is to inspire, because I still remember how painful it was to be stuck in a place I hated. And when a person comes in to see me, I want to get them unstuck as quickly as possible.”

    D’Angelo has coached many prominent St. Louisans, including radio personalitiy McGraw Milhaven. “Charles is one of the rare people who walk the walk,” says Milhaven. “The compassion he showed and the energy he brought to the process motivated me to stick to the program.”

    Losing weight is one thing, D’Angelo says, but keeping it off is the bigger challenge. “Studies show that 98 percent of people who lose weight gain it back within two years if they don’t have a follow-up program in place. People treat weight loss and fitness as a goal, a destination: Once I get there, I can do what I want. You just can’t do that!” he insists. “My goal is to graduate people into independence over time. After they have met their goal, my clients meet with me on a regular basis.”

    D’Angelo says there is no magical plan behind his success “Everything we do is normal stuff. You go to the grocery store, you go to the gym. We are a product of what we do consistently, and in order to lose weight you have to make sure you are doing the right thing all of the time. When it gets difficult, that’s my job—to get you through that. I don’t want anyone to be stuck where I was, ever.”  LN

On the cover: St. Louis weight loss guru Charles D’Angelo has helped hundreds of people lose weight and keep it off. Pictured from left: Kristine Kopczynski (132 lbs), Amir Kalantari (113 lbs), Allison Mahnesmith (134 lbs), Charles D’Angelo, Pat Brennan (112 lbs), Sara Hebner (101 lbs), Bruce Baggio (175 lbs). For more information call 495-3228 or visit Main cover photo by Jason Mueller, cover design by Dawn Stremlau