Franco Donadelli has worked hard to lose 70 pounds and get in the best shape of his life.
Many people who struggle with their weight know they need to get healthier to reduce their risk of many diseases. Franco Donadelli was one of those people.
At his heaviest, he weighed 230 pounds. Now, at age 18, he said he is down to a healthy 160 to 165 pounds “depending on the day.”
There were many reasons he wanted to make a change: appearance, sports performance, health reasons and, yes, to get the attention of a girl. But Donadelli learned so much about himself through his weight loss journey and encourages others to find their own motivation to better themselves.
Donadelli was surprised at all the life lessons he learned throughout his journey. He lost the weight. He’s happy with how he looks and he feels great, but it took determination and commitment to get there. He learned not to do things for other people, but for himself.
“To really want change, you have to completely drop everything that you are doing and start from zero,” Donadelli said.
Donadelli fought obesity throughout his childhood, but it wasn’t until he was pre-diabetic and began having knee problems that he knew he needed to do something about it. ”I was a kid and I just wanted to eat what I wanted.” He jokes about the period from 6th until 10th grade when he would tell his friends, “This summer, I am going to get fit. When I come back to school next year, y’all aren’t even going to recognize me.” Then he would return to school the following year and his friends would ask what happened.
He just didn’t find the motivation he needed.
When he was 14, Donadelli began playing basketball at the Plant City Family YMCA. His basketball coach could see he had potential to play much better if he could lose some weight.
“He could see that I would get exhausted running up the court, so he was the one to introduce me to the weight room,” Donadelli said.
Donadelli worked out when he was with his coach, but wasn’t consistent. A year later, a girl he really liked would not date him because of his size. That impacted his confidence.
“I didn’t like looking at myself. I hated taking pictures or videos of myself,” Donadelli said. “I was self-conscious but I wasn’t depressed. I wanted to wear nice outfits and I wanted people to think I was attractive, but also to be healthier for myself. In sports, I wanted to be at the same level as my friends or be better than them.”
That summer, Donadelli started to work out at the Plant City Y. Most people start with a diet, but he started in the weight room. He reached out to his Y volunteer coach who was happy to help. First, the coach worked with him on the selectorized equipment and next with free weights.
“He helped me for about five months. I fell in love with it, so I started watching videos on YouTube about exercise and nutrition,” Donadelli said. “I researched different diets, and took pieces I felt would work for me.”
He eliminated sodas, cookies and sweets. His diet consisted of chicken, fish and lots of vegetables. Donadelli really wanted to focus on losing weight and wanted to follow a low-carb diet he could maintain.
“A lot of people try to do these crazy diets and after a week or two, they just give up,” Donadelli said. “I was in it for the long haul. The first 20 pounds came off easily. It took me about three months but I was in the gym every day, twice a day, for the whole summer.”
When he returned to school, people noticed his progress. He wasn’t done yet, but he had hit a plateau and could not get past the 185-pound mark.
“I kept working harder, tweaking my diet,” he said.
He fell into a routine of working out and stopped loving it. He began to question whether he wanted to continue, but didn’t want to lose everything he worked so hard for. It was then that the same girl who hurt his feelings before gave him the boost he needed to continue: she noticed. Although she gave him the motivation he needed to keep going, he was now doing it for himself.
“My confidence went up,” Donadelli said. “When you love yourself, whatever people say will not really affect you because you know your worth. There’s no shortcut to working out. Every day that you are here (the YMCA), you get stronger, faster than the day before. I want to be a better version than I was the day before.”
It’s only natural that he now gives back to the same Y that changed his life.
“I’ve been here 10 years. The Y has seen me grow up and I want to be a part of something as great as the YMCA because I have seen what’s its done for me,” Donadelli said. “Here in the YMCA, I see people who haven’t had the best day. The weight room is the best therapy. I tell them to work out their inner demons. “
In addition to working in wellness, youth sports and childcare, Donadelli also volunteers as a Y basketball coach.
“I might one day find a kid that needs a little bit of guidance and I want to be a mentor,” Donadelli said. “Some kids may not have the best relationships with their parents and I will do anything in my power to help because these kids are our future. I want these kids to have a great life and see the positive in everything. I’m only 18, but I see the good in everything.”
Donadelli now likes looking at himself, but says there is always room for improvement.
“Working out is a journey,” he said. “Even in life, every day you have to want to be a better version than you were the day before. I learned that from working out.”
Angela Fulgieri is the Wellness Experience Director at the Plant City YMCA. Contact her at email@example.com.