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Deborah Ferguson, NBC 5 News
A Dallas man who lost 300 pounds has kept the weight off for a decade.
A Dallas man who had a 68-inch waist lost 300 pounds over two years -- and has kept it off for a decade.
Rick Salewske, 49, used to weigh 538 pounds. Today, he is half the size he was and married to the first woman he had dated in 18 years.
"It's a miracle, really," he said. "Think about it. I shouldn't be here."
Dallas health expert Dr. Kenneth Cooper said Salewske is "one of his favorites."
In 2000, Salewske's boss paid for him to go to the Cooper Clinic to lose weight. When the money stopped, Cooper picked up the expenses so he could continue on his weight-loss journey.
Cooper said Salewske's success has lessons for anyone trying to lose weight.
"I would say, No. 1, it can be done successfully," he said. "No. 2, it has changed his life. He wasn't even dating when he first came to us. Now he has three kids. And then the example he set for others -- I delight in seeing this man working out in our center. He has discovered that discipline is the key to keeping it off."
Salewske is so disciplined that he hasn't had ice cream in 12 years.
"I'm afraid of it," he said.
Salewske said ice cream was his big weakness during his days of extreme weight and he fears that even a small taste could spiral out of control.
His discipline extends to his workout routine, too. Four days per week, he runs 2.5 miles at lunch and rides a bike for 30 minutes after his children go to sleep. He also adds basketball and time on a StairMaster.
"I just make sure that I exercise at least half an hour to an hour every day," he said. "If I have more time -- like the weekends -- I do more."
However, Jay Ashore, clinical director of the Behavioral Health Center at Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, said there are genetic, biological or psychological factors that can make weight loss a tougher struggle for some.
"What I don't want to do is send false hope," he said.
Ashmore knows Salewske from his days at the Cooper Clinic, where he helped him manage his weight. He said Salewske's resources at Cooper gave him an advantage others may not have.
But Ashmore also said that the lifestyle changes that worked for Salewske are proven in the National Weight Control Registry, a database of 10,000 people who have lost a lot of weight and kept it off.
"We see reductions in TV time, reductions with the frequency with which they go out to eat," he said. "They weigh regularly."
Salewske recently weighed in at 262 pounds -- 25 pounds more than he'd like.
"It's better than 538," he said.
But he said he is confident he can get back down to the 238 pounds he enjoyed 10 years ago.