Weight loss jour­ney turns into life­long jour­ney

They lost nearly 600 pounds to­gether and just got mar­ried

The Hamilton Spectator - - HEALTH - MARY ESCH

Frus­trated with his ever-grow­ing weight that peaked at 675 pounds, Ron­nie Brower be­gan di­et­ing and work­ing out on his way to los­ing an as­tound­ing 458 pounds. His fouryear fit­ness jour­ney, chron­i­cled on Face­book, earned him the ad­mi­ra­tion of a woman at his gym who sim­i­larly was try­ing to lose a lot of weight.

Brower and that ad­mirer, An­drea Masella, formed a bond around that shared mis­sion, and on Satur­day they got mar­ried in their home­town of Syra­cuse, New York, cel­e­brat­ing their new lives and all they’ve lost to­gether, a com­bined 578 pounds.

“I was just re­ally in­spired by him and I thought he was su­per cute,” said Masella, 24.

“We started talk­ing at the gym and I hate to sound cliché but it was love at first sight.”

Nick Mur­phy, Brower’s per­sonal trainer who was his best man, calls it “a match made in heaven, a sto­ry­book movie.”

Masella, who works as a hair­dresser, said she and Brower plan to con­tinue to sup­port not only each other in their com­mit­ment to main­tain­ing a healthy life­style, but to coun­sel and in­spire oth­ers as well.

“Both of us had used food as a cop­ing mech­a­nism; I would just eat my feel­ings,” Masella said. “We’ve gone through a lot of coun­selling to come to terms with that and change.”

Brower, 32, is slim, trim and happy now, but he re­calls that he hit his peak weight, and rock bot­tom, in 2013 when he was so heavy he could barely leave his par­ent’s house.

“I was de­pressed, ad­dicted to pills and al­co­hol, eat­ing 10 dou­ble cheese­burg­ers or two large piz­zas at a time,” Brower said. “My turn­ing point was, my doc­tor told me if I kept on like this I’d be dead be­fore I was 30. I was 28.”

At the urg­ing of a friend, Brower con­tacted Mur­phy, owner of Mis­sion Fit­ness. Un­der Mur­phy’s guid­ance, Brower gave up drugs and al­co­hol, fol­lowed a low-car­bo­hy­drate diet and started work­ing out for three hours a day, be­gin­ning with sim­ply lift­ing his arms while sit­ting in a chair.

Within 100 days he had lost 100 pounds and was able to leave the house and go to the gym for his work­outs.

“My job 24 hours a day was to get healthy and save my life,” he said.

Af­ter 23 months, he had shed much of his ex­cess weight when he met Masella.

At five-foot-four, she had weighed 250 pounds in 2014 and was on her way to los­ing 120 pounds. Their first date was play­ing ping pong and bas­ket­ball at the gym. “We laugh all the time,” he said. Brower was grate­ful for Masella’s ten­der lov­ing care when he un­der­went four surg­eries to re­move 30 pounds of sag­ging skin. “It was re­ally in­tense,” he said. Brower now works two jobs, as a school bus driver and a load­ing dock worker, and has moved out of his par­ents’ house into his own place. He looks for­ward to mar­ried life af­ter he and Masella take their vows at the Chris­tian church where his trainer bap­tized him three years ago.

“Peo­ple come to me all the time, ask­ing for weight-loss ad­vice,” Brower said. “I just tell them there’s hope out there. If you want it bad enough and put your mind to it, any­body can do it.”

RON­NIE BROWER, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ron­nie Brower, Brower and his fi­ancée’ An­drea Masella bonded over their weight loss jour­neys, los­ing a to­tal of 578 pounds. They mar­ried on Satur­day

DOREEN MAS­SELLA, JILL MUR­PHY, THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

An­drea Mas­sella be­fore and af­ter los­ing 120 pounds.

THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Ron­nie Brower be­fore and af­ter los­ing 458 pounds.

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