Nick Mirrione learned how to change his mindset to finally lose weight for good

By Julie Mazziotta
Updated December 08, 2020 10:56 AM
Credit: Courtesy Nick Mirrione

At close to 500 lbs., Nick Mirrione tried every diet possible to lose weight – a grapefruit diet, a diet where he just ate plain canned tuna for three weeks – but nothing would stick.

“I lost some weight, but then I gained more back, and it was just a yo-yo,” Mirrione tells PEOPLE. “I lost 100 lbs. seven times, and I lost 150 twice. And every time I got bigger when I went off the wagon.”

And whenever he fell off the wagon, Mirrione fell hard. Most nights he would head to McDonald’s and scarf down two quarter pounders and a milkshake on the drive home, where he’d eat a second meal of multiple servings of lasagna or other Italian favorites. Then for dessert, Mirrione would eat half a cake throughout the night.

“And sometimes in the middle of the night I’d get up and eat some more of the cake,” he says. “I just couldn’t get enough of it, my body was screaming out for more sugar.”

“When I was feeling stressed I would eat, and I would feel good. It was like a drug. And then you hate yourself for it.”

His mindset was the problem, Mirrione says. He just couldn’t commit to a diet for good, because they seemed like temporary solutions. But it was his daughter who finally broke through.

“It got to the point where my daughter said that to me, ‘What happens to us if you die?’ and I really started working on how to solve the problem,” he says.

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In 2000, Mirrione finally accepted that he needed help, and went to a doctor for gastric bypass surgery, a journey he documents in his book, Who Is This Guy?.

“I finally had the right mindset, I was focused I wanted to change things,” Mirrione says. He had the surgery on Jan 16, 2001, and was determined to lose weight for good. “I had a slogan, it was 195 or bust. I wasn’t going to eat one thing outside of the program until I got to 195. And I didn’t.”

But it hasn’t always been a smooth transition. Once he hit 195 lbs. a year and a half later, Mirrione celebrated with a slice of pizza, and the cravings came right back.

“For 18 months I didn’t have a piece of bread. And then after 18 months I said I was going to celebrate by having a slice of pizza, and it started all over again,” he says. “One bite of pizza and the signals from the brain started all over again. I guess it’s similar to being an alcoholic.”

“I had some difficulty for awhile, the urges were there, the struggle was there, the distraction of worrying about it and the fear of going back, and I eventually got myself back on track, and stayed that way for six to eight months, and then I think, ‘I can have one of those pieces of bread,’ and then it starts again. But I just catch myself quicker.”

Now Mirrione knows to stay away from his major trigger foods like bread and sugar, and to eat in moderation. He consumes between 1700-1800 calories a day, carefully noting each one in a journal so he doesn’t go off track.

“That way I know if the calories are creeping up I can stop them so I don’t wonder in a year, ‘How did I get here, how did I gain 40 lbs.?’ ”

But the biggest change Mirrione made was to they way he thinks about food.

“I learned that I didn’t need a diet, I needed to change my mindset and that I have to change the way I live my life and eat properly. Not a diet. You don’t need to deprive yourself, just learn to eat smaller amounts in moderation.”