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Philly’s Phinest Profile: Thomas Camarda


It was February 2003, and Thomas Camarda had just left his doctor’s office after hearing the most devastating news that a human being could possibly hear:

picture of Thomas Camarda heavysetThomas was dying.

It wasn’t a terminal illness that was going to take Camarda's life: it was his lifelong battle with obesity. But unlike many people who have no ability to change their respective fates in the face of death, Camarda was offered an alternative, which is why he is here today to share his story.

Thomas Camarda has only lived in the Philadelphia area for four months, but his story is inspiring people across the Delaware Valley and beyond. The divorced father of fifteen year-old triplets, Camarda was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. It was during his childhood when he first developed his love for food, which up until six years ago had troubled him for most of his life.

“I was heavy all my life,” says Camarda. “I was the first son, the first grandson, and the first great grandson. Being raised in an Italian family, every event was surrounded by a meal. Whether it was breakfast, lunch dinner, or coffee and cake. When somebody says ‘I have a surprise for you’, I automatically thought 'What kind of food was it?' as opposed to anything material.”

Thomas recalls one particular incident growing up that had a profound effect on his self esteem.

“When I was in fourth grade, the Catholic schools required you to fill out a height and weight card. I never filled out the card because I was very embarrassed. When my teacher went through everybody’s cards, she called my name because I didn’t turn it in, and asked me to come to the front of the room. There were 55 to 60 kids in the classroom, and she pulled out a scale in front of those kids. She turned around and said to me ‘You fat cow, 196 pounds! You should be ashamed of yourself.’ I don’t have to tell you how cruel (the)kids were.”

From the age of 14 until several years ago, Camarda's average weight ballooned to 300 pounds. Despite the severe weight increase, eating made him feel good, and Camarda states that he was the happiest when he was eating. Even the warnings of his doctors did not detract him from his grandiose appetite.

“Every time I went to the doctor, they warned me of what could happen to me,” Camarda said. “High blood pressure, diabetes. I can’t tell you how many times I was punished (by my mother) for eating too much. I can remember sitting down at dinner having literally three bowls of pasta when I was 14. You could have four or five meals which would be what my meal was. But it gets to be worse and worse and worse. Every time something happens you go to food to make you feel better rather than doing what you need to do.”

As the years passed, his weighed had increased dramatically. And at age 39, he was now at 476 pounds. Camarda decided to schedule a doctor’s visit when he had noticed an increase in weight despite a recent curb in his appetite. It was at this doctor’s appointment when Camarda was informed of his inevitable fate.  After the doctor ran sonograms on his heart, it was determined that every one of Camarda's vital organs was infiltrated with fat by 40 percent or more. Fat had started growing inward in his body, and Camarda was told that he was going to die from congestive heart failure before the age of 40, and he was most likely going to die in his sleep. The warnings from his doctors, which Camarda had been accustomed to hearing since he was a teenager, were now becoming a reality.

“I just lost my father to leukemia three months before,” Camarda recalls. “And when the doctor tells you you’re going to die in your sleep, you really don’t want to go to sleep that night. I got very upset and I just accepted the fact that I was going to die until I realized that my kids only had me at that time for just nine years. I had my father for 38 years and it killed me to lose him, and here these kids are going lose their father when they are not even 10 years old. As devastating as it was for me with my father, how are these kids going to understand at 10 years old how their father was taken away from them?  I soon made the decision to go through gastric bypass surgery.”

Camarda immediately started looking for the right doctor to perform the procedure. After interviewing six doctors, he was scheduled for surgery in November 2003. However, Camarda's condition had deteriorated to the point where his doctor advised his surgeon that the operation needed to be sooner, or there was a great possibility that he would not even live to see November. The surgery, which is only a 45 minute procedure, was rescheduled for July 31st, 2003. The doctors performed a 45 minute full gastric bypass. The operation was a success and Camarda had a new lease on life. Now 45 years of age, he weighs 156 pounds. Forty pounds lighter than that day when he was ridiculed in front of his fourth grade class. Camarda did experience some temporary side effects after surgery, but has no regrets.

“One thing I will tell you is that it is probably the most painful thing you will go through in your entire life. It’s absolutely excruciating and agonizing. But if you asked me today, I would do it again in a heartbeat. It was four days of pain for basically a new life. The reason why I wanted open gastric bypass surgery is because if something did happen, they (the doctors) have open access to stop any possible complications because you can lose your life. You have to reteach yourself how to eat. The first two weeks is only liquids. After that you can eat baby foods or processed foods for four weeks. Then you can slowly start to eat real foods. Your whole stomach was rerouted, so everything inside of you is swollen, so there is no room for food. You couldn’t put anything in the body because there is no room for it. After six years, I’m now just able to eat a slice and a half of pizza. Before I could eat that in about six seconds.”

Although Camarda expresses no regrets about his surgery, he doesn’t recommend it for everybody.

“If they feel like there is nothing else you can do, than gastric bypass would be the answer. With me I figured that I could either die on the table, or last six months. I took my chances, and my whole life was remodeled. Only do it if it’s life threatening at that moment. The funny thing is that after I went through the bypass, I realized that I could have actually conquered this on my own. You can look at this (food) as an addiction. People are addicts to alcohol and drugs, and you can become an addict to everything you can eat on a daily basis.”

photograph of Thomas Camarda skinnyThese days, Camarda works for “United Credit Education Services”, a company based in Detroit, Michigan which specializes in credit restoration. The company is the only one in America who has an A rating from the Better Business Bureau, meaning that the company has had no complaints in over five and a half years in business. “We help people that have credit challenges who need to get their credit score increased. At this time we’ve taken off over 400,000 items of negative consumer credit,” Camarda said.

In his spare time, Camarda aspires to reach out by motivating and encouraging those regarding the issues that he has faced regarding obesity.

“You come to a point in your life where you say ‘this is me and except me for who I am.’ Their contribution to the world is much more than just who they are now, but it’s who they wanna be and who they are inside. They have to get in touch who is really inside of them and become that person. There is a way (and) they need to get that person out.'

'That person is inside of them and he or she is hiding underneath 200 pounds. It might not sound right to some, but there are people out there reading this is who are going to understand what I’m saying. When you live a life of restriction for almost 40 years because of your weight, and then all the sudden you don’t have that weight anymore. Not only does every medical and physical problem go away, but you have such a heightened sense of what you can accomplish. Your confidence level goes through the roof. You feel like you’ve succeeded in the impossible, and now you can basically accomplish anything.”

And in the case of Thomas Camarda it’s a brand new life, and so far he’s accomplished a lot.

Check out Thomas' Weight Loss=Life Gain Blog at http://thebiggestloser-weightlosslifegain.blogspot.com/   and  www.TheCreditBuilder.info

To contact Thomas, you can email him at thomascamarda@aol.com