Wednesday, October 5, 2011

From Fast Food to Quinoa: An Incredible Weight Loss Journey

Let me introduce you to Richard Kalasky.


Just two years ago, you would have found a 325 pound Richard working as a paramedic in Atlanta with a large soft drink in his cup holder and a pack of cigarettes nearby. He relocated to Colorado at the age of 32, living at 10,000 feet, and suffered from high blood pressure and sleep apnea due to  a mixture of altitude and obesity. Knowing he had to make a change and FAST, Richard made a commitment to losing weight and adopting a healthier lifestyle.













“Before” photos

Taking off the weight was a challenge. Richard underwent bariatric surgery and this was a jump-start to his massive weight loss. Today, Richard has lost 140 pounds. In the past 1 ½ years he has run three marathons. He broke four hours in at the Rock ‘n Roll Mardi Gras in February with a time of 3:56. He completed his first Olympic and Half Ironman triathlon distances this summer.


But, the dude doesn’t stop there. On his agenda for the future? Doing a race in every state. Completing an ultra marathon. Becoming an Ironman.


At the Boulder Peak Triathlon

So, what drives people like Richard to live their best lives? I had a chance to interview Richard and whether you are trying to lose weight, make better food choices, or train for your first race, I promise you will benefit from his answers.

SUAR: In your 20s you were overweight, did not exercise and smoked. How did these habits first develop? How did your family eat when you were growing up? Were you active as a child?

 Richard: I was very active as a young child, even throughout high school and college playing sports. It was not until after college and in my early to mid 20’s that I began smoking, drinking heavily, and gaining weight quickly because I “couldn’t find the time to exercise”. I worked as a Paramedic in Atlanta and I guess became more sedentary than I thought, and couple that with drinking lots of sugary soda to stay awake at night and eating what I could easily grab, be it fast food or junk food from the 24 hour markets didn’t help either.

I remember seeing my parents smoke when I was younger but it wasn’t something that I picked up until hanging around with other co-workers in the Fire and Emergency Medical fields. The stress alone in my line of work made it easy to pick up those habits like drinking and smoking.

My mother has Crohn’s Disease, so we grew up with pretty abnormal diets and eating habits, and we did go out to eat a lot. My mother could not eat many vegetables or salads, and the family as a whole had an uncontrollable sweet tooth. My sister battled eating disorders her whole life, so I guess my family as a whole never really embraced a “normal” healthy eating lifestyle. Also growing up in the south meant that most everything was either deep fried or smothered in butter, gravy, or some kind of heavy sauces. Portion sizes were also out of control.

Finally in 2009 I reached my top weight of 325 pounds and with high blood pressure, uncontrollable sleep apnea, and borderline diabetes, it was time to make a change. The lifestyle here in Colorado is much more conducive to being healthy than it is back home in the south.

richardBefore 3 (2)

SUAR: What did running your first marathon symbolize to you?

Richard: I trained hard, following any marathon training program I could find on the internet and on social networking sites like Facebook. I was determined that on my 1 year anniversary of starting my weight loss journey I would complete my first full marathon. It so happened to be the Denver Rock n Roll Marathon in 2010. My partner and I were on a pace to complete it around 3:30 and at mile #20 I went down with excruciating pain in my left knee. It took me over an hour and a half to complete the final 6.2 miles, but with indescribable pain I finished it in 4:27.

Everyone told me that you would cry when you reached your goal of finishing your first marathon, however, I was all out of tears from the pain of the last 6.2 miles. Despite the IT Band issue, it was an amazing sense of accomplishment, not only had I lost over 100 pounds but I completed something that only a small percentage of people in the world can say they’ve accomplished. It sparked something in me to embrace a lifestyle of fitness and health, but also to continue to set and reach goals that I never dreamed I would be able to accomplish. It also allowed me to share with others my successes and help them also reach their goals. It also allows me the opportunity to train with my partner.

3 weeks later I registered for and completed the Rock n Roll San Antonio Marathon on my  35th birthday and was able to cut off 19 minutes off my time. I have not stopped trying to reach new PR’s at every event, all while having the time of my life!


Running the Georgetown to Idaho Springs Half in August with a finish time of 1:37!

SUAR: You say one key to maintaining weight loss and being healthy is cooking at home. What are some of your go-to meals you cook? Do you ever "cheat" and eat dessert or drink beer?

Richard: I do “cheat” I guess, because I have the most amazing partner who is a trained chef. We make every attempt to embrace an organic healthy diet, buying many of our food ingredients fresh from markets around town. By eating at home we are able to regulate what goes into our foods, I can watch salt and sugar intakes, manage fat and calories, and make sure that I am reaching my goals of 80-100 grams of protein per day. I also eat 5-6 small meals a day about 6-8oz each.

My favorite meal my partner prepares is a small Halibut steak with sweet potato puree, edamame, and quinoa salad with zucchini and squash. We eat a lot of fish and chicken, eggs straight out of the chicken coop, and pork from our past pet pig. I try to take in about 75% of my meals from high protein sources and about 25% from complex carbs. I also do “cheat” and eat dessert every now and again, typically we make our own ice cream both sugar and dairy free.

Recently while on vacation in Hawaii I was unable to keep solid foods down and spent the entire week on ice cream and cheesecake, it wasn’t pretty but I was able to keep it down and continue my training! I have not had alcohol in over 2 years, this is by choice. I have wanted to have a beer every now and then, but since not having it in over 2 years and basically losing the equivalent of a small adult, I am afraid of the consequences!

SUAR: For all those people who are reading this and don't know where to start with weight loss and fitness goals, what's your advice?

Richard: Set yourself up for success, give yourself a small yet achievable goal and go for it. You only set yourself up for failure and ultimately give up when you can’t reach those unobtainable goals. You have to embrace a program completely, you cannot embrace the nutrition and not the fitness, and vice versa. Remember, you will get out what you put into it, so be devoted and you will see the results!

There are several good free programs out there, but I recommend spending the extra money and seeing a nutritionist and trainer to start to make sure what you are doing is going to work for you and is not a scam. We are all dynamic individuals and what works for some does not necessarily work for all. I still actively meet with and speak with my nutritionist, especially now that I am training for more endurance events like my full Ironman St. George Utah in May 2012 and hopefully my first Ultra Marathon sometime in 2012. This is not about vanity, this is about your life, grab a hold of it and never look back!

SUAR: It seems an ultra marathon is in your future. I hope to do one too! Do you have your eye on one in particular?

Richard: I like to support local events here in Colorado as much as I can. A friend puts on the Bear Chase 50 mile, 50 K, and Half Marathon in Sept. This year I was competing in my first Ironman 70.3 and missed his event, but hoping to do it next year. There is also a new one in Moab, UT that sounds interesting, the Slim Rock 50 miler.

SUAR: How do you stay motivated on a daily basis to not fall back into old patterns/habits?

Richard: I’d like to say that it’s a healthy addiction, but I weigh myself every morning to make sure that I am on track and not slipping back into old habits! I continue to set new goals to reach for and will never allow failure to come into my life.

I enjoy swimming, biking, and especially running. I look forward to reaching my goals of 2012 of finishing my first full Ironman 140.6, my Ultra Marathon, and seeing those I am helping in the couch to 5K program succeed and run in their first event. Seeing that I can help others who struggle with obesity and health concerns overcome, is enough motivation to keep me going on a daily basis.

I appreciate the many opportunities I have had this year with representing Team MARATHON® Bar as an Active Ambassador and look forward to another great year in 2012 as I work to transition my successes over to helping others with fitness and nutrition!


Think you can’t lose weight? Think you can’t run a marathon? If Richard can do it, you can too. Ditch the excuses and find a way to make your life exactly how you want it to be.


PS: Don’t forget to enter my Marathon Bar giveaway. 5 winners!


  1. Love this post.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. Thanks for this. It's just what I needed. Yesterday I started a super conservative couch to 5K program (you walk the entire first month) but as I have 120 lbs to lose, I think it's probably better to start small. I never tire of these stories because they remind me that there's hope for me yet.

  3. Thank you for the amazing article! I hope that I can inspire others to lose weight and gain back a healthy, happy lifestyle. Always available to speak with others that may be in the same situation.

    1. Richard... how do you recommend planning for diet around the marathons. Do you have a "sample" diet plan? I've been to local nutritionists and haven't got much help.

    2. Have you looked at a product called Generation UCan

    3. Have you looked at a product called Generation UCan

  4. Wow, kudos to Richard for losing and keeping the weight off!

    Does he have a blog? I would like to keep track of his first Ironman training next year! Such inspiration (I secretly want to do one too...hmmmm).

  5. I love stories like this! So inspirational - thanks for sharing!

  6. Hey...this sounds familiar...!

    I am coming up on my 2 year anniversary of when I threw in the towel on my overweight unhealthy lifestyle and lost 120 pounds on my own! I've completed 5 Half marathons, 1 full marathon (my second is this weekend in Chicago!), Sprint tri, several 10 and 15ks, annnnd on October 29th, my first ULTRA marathon!! Can I get a hell yeah!

  7. Absolutely amazing; Richard you rock!

  8. Wow - Richard - you're amazing! Thanks for the inspiration.

  9. Wow! This is wonderful! So inspiring! Thanks for posting. This came along at the perfect time for me as I am in such a slump.

    Richard, do you have a blog?

  10. Truly inspirational! The before & afters blow my mind!!

  11. I 'know' Richard from his being on Team Marathon Bar with Karen and have exchanged emails and facebook posts with him and he's very positive.

    One question I would have asked though is why such a high concentration on protein? As an endurance athlete we don't need that much protein and need more carbs, since that is our main energy source. If he is racing 1/2 IMs and IMs the protein is not going to help him as much as carbs will.

    It seems like overkill when we are looking at 15% of calories from carbs as adequate for endurance athletes.

  12. such an inspirational story, and seriously st. George, that is the hardest ironman! I want to do my first ultra in 2012, I was thinking of Devil mountain 50k in October.

  13. I love your posts. This is a fantastic example of exactly what I needed to read tonight. Sometimes we (wanna be runners) aren't as motivated as we should be, but something like this is precisely what we need to push us forward and get us moving again.
    Really, thank you.

  14. So inspiring! Thanks for sharing!


  15. An inspiration, no matter what goal you're staring down right now. Loved this interview, and "meeting" Richard - congrats to him, and accomplishing a total life transformation! Maybe his next interview can be tips on raising a chicken and pig?! Ha, not something you read everyday...

  16. Maybe now you can team up with Dolvett on BL.

  17. Love it! Way to Go Richard!!! You are an inspiration for sure!

  18. Richard you are an inspiration...wishing you continued success on all your life goals.

  19. wow he sounds like an incredible man with an incredible story, plus he was wearing a Milwaukee shirt so I like him ;) I keep hearing of people being ambassadors, how so you get to do that?

  20. I love reading success stories and the history behind the person. What an awesome summary of your accomplishments, Richard- thanks for sharing.

  21. Holy mother. Such an inspiration. Thank you for sharing Richard's story. Amazing what our bodies can do, when our minds allow them to work.

  22. Hello everyone, yes I do have a new blog, in its infancy! It is

    I appreciate all the positive feedback and hope to hear from you all often! Let me know how I can help out! Check me out on Facebook as well.

    @Jason, to answer your question about the protein, it is more for bariatric patients, I have modified my diet somewhat due to all my running and training and incorporate more complex carbs. Most of the meal ideas I get from you!!! Keep up the great work and see you in Puerto Rico for IM!

  23. Inspirational story. Thanks for introducing us to Jason.

    How about sharing the recipe for the Sweet Potato Puree and quinoa salad.

  24. I'm bookmarking this for when I need future inspiration/motivation!

  25. This is indeed a very inspiring story. You can definitely share your story in other ways. You can be a motivational speaker who will give great thoughts and messages to your listeners who want to follow your journey.

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