hat Weight Watchers did for Jennifer Hudson was good. But it pales in comparison to what Weight Watchers has done for Frank Strong.
Today, the 66-year-old retired Chrysler supervisor of West Bloomfield struts proudly at 318 pounds. Weight Watchers has helped him shed 258 pounds.
“I’ve always known that it works, and that’s why I went back,” says Strong.
When, in 1974, he needed to drop 25 pounds for his wedding, Weight Watchers helped him get back to a weight of 190 pounds. But over the next decades, he would gain those pounds back, and much more.
At his heaviest, in 2001 Strong weighed 701 pounds. He was trapped in his own home, leaning on a walker and wearing size 9X clothes. At that point, he had gastric bypass surgery, which helped him shed 200 pounds. But at 500 pounds, he was still morbidly obese and began gaining again.
The red dye from the steering column of his 1988 New Yorker was on every shirt he owned, reminding him he was heading down an unhealthy road. When his wife bought him a new car in 2001, he literally couldn’t fit in it.
In 2003, at 551 pounds, he returned to Weight Watchers. “I don’t drink and I don’t smoke, but I eat. It’s just as much of an addiction as anything else,” says Strong, who miraculously never had diabetes or hypertension.
Strong has been sitting in weekly 35-minute Weight Watchers classes, which serve as support group meetings, with mostly women for eight years. For most of that time, he would plop in a seat right next to the door because that was as far as his body would take him.
“Today, he really adds the biggest inspiration to the classes. He is supportive and sympathetic to every person in the class,” says Debbie Hutzman, who has been Strong’s group leader for eight years.
“Less than 10 percent of our general membership is men. However, when you look at our at-work meetings [which take place onsite at various workplaces], the percentage of men is considerably higher,” says Laurie Poma, a Weight Watchers media relations specialist. “[Locally] there are three men-only meetings-one in Troy, one in Royal Oak and one in Farmington Hills. Both sexes can benefit equally from the program, if they follow program guidelines.”
Strong is still losing weight today. He eats much smaller portions and exercises 35 minutes to an hour every day, walking three miles daily in the summer. Says Strong, “Weight Watchers really taught me a lot. I love absolutely everyone there.”
After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, the staff sent him cards and his group leader, Hutzman, helped him adhere to the strict protein diet his doctors assigned him. He was been cancer free for more than a year.
“I love Weight Watchers because it’s a forgiving program,” Strong says. “Debbie always tells me, ‘New day. New meal. Every day is a chance to get it right.’”