The New Me

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-By Anne Lindert-Wentzell

Life changing events – we all have at least one in our lifetime. It’s that pivotal, defining moment when it’s acknowledged that something substantial has impacted our life – that somehow, our lives will never be the same. Adro Sarnelli is confirmation of just how indisputably real that defining moment can be.

Not only did Adro walk away the winner of Australia’s Biggest Loser’s first series in 2006, he also walked away with some important life-changing lessons. The battle of the bulge is now his primary focus, and he is determined to change the lives of others who struggle with obesity, just as he did. The Dandenong Ranges, Victoria is where he plans to renew lives.

Adro’s defining moment came during the auditions for the Biggest Loser when, having applied only to support a friend, he made the short list. “It was the first time, for some unknown reason, I didn’t pull my shirt over my belly. I didn’t look at the floor or drag my feet. I didn’t go into a depressed state of posture. I then realized why that was – the room was full of overweight people… I realized that I had to change.”

With half of his body weight lost – from 155 kilograms down to 80 kilograms – Adro accumulated a wealth of knowledge and experience about successful weight loss as a contestant on the show. This subsequently led to the creation of his own obesity rehabilitation centre, The New Me, of which he is director. There are other weight loss retreats in Australia, but The New Me is the nation’s, and the world’s, only retreat for those over 100 kilograms. It welcomes a significant number of international participants as well; from the UK, US, Afghanistan and Japan.

The New Me has one live-in centre and an accompanying personal training studio. Adro has written a program for his privately funded facility that incorporates three essentials to weight loss: Eat smart, Move more, Think thin. These components come in the form of education, support and believing in one’s self. Having the proper mindset is the most important of the three, simply because, “You can go on a diet and exercise, but it won’t last if you have a poor attitude towards it,” Adro says. “I believe the formula for weight loss is exactly the same as the formula for weight gain – except the opposite.” Most participants can expect to lose five to 12 per cent of their body weight in two weeks.

The New Me encourages and fosters the much needed support, camaraderie and focus for each participant. Bonding is nurtured through a kind of kinship – each participant comes with the same aspirations, expectations and dreams. Their primary goal is to get their weight into the double digits.

Adro affirms that the reasons for substantial weight gain can be attributed to a number of factors. Some people have difficulty acknowledging that they’re obese. They will justify their weight through such explanations as they’re from a “large” family, their family culture entails rich foods or that they’re “not that bad.” Sadly, for some, they’ve adopted a “who cares” mentality. “That’s a destructive state,” says Adro. What’s essential to recognise is that, “They all became obese the same way; that’s a given. But the reason for starting to gain weight is different. That’s what they have to acknowledge.”

A stay at The New Me facility is at least two weeks, with an average stay of four to six weeks. Participants must be 21 years of age, have a doctor’s approval or referral and be mobile – not requiring assistance in daily living. The initial two weeks is a settling in process, says Adro, in which, “Their heads are still spinning,” with the influx of information. The program involves a twelve hour day, from 6 a.m. until 6 p.m. “For those that book for a two week stay, they get fired up, knowing that they only have a limited time. For those coming for 10 weeks, they may be a bit more complacent, thinking that they have lots of time,” adds Adro, but essentially, “they eat, they train, they learn,” regardless of the time stayed. Regrettably, there are those who find the whole process overwhelming and want to quit soon after reaching the facility. To them, Adro says, “You employed us to make a difference,” and believes that those who quit regret their decision. “The ‘what if?’ will always be in the back of their minds… of all the participants that said they were going to leave, only 10 per cent did. For the most part, everyone that comes to us is focused on themselves.”

A certified trainer and lifestyle coach himself, 32 year old Adro gets involved with the participants’ weight loss journeys and employs a qualified staff of physiotherapists, psychologists and personal trainers who share his “cause.” A physician also visits on a regular basis. The maximum stay at his centre is 12 weeks simply because, “It’s a huge time out of a person’s life. They can get caught up in being locked up.” If they’re still over 100 kilograms when they leave, they have the option of returning when they can, to resume meeting their weight loss goals.

The reality in life is that as we age, we become more set in our ways, not only in how we conduct our lives and interact with others, but how we view food – our eating habits. These habits can be the most difficult to change. The New Me provides the lessons on how to structure a healthy relationship with food. In terms of meal preparation, participants are on their own – there is no chef at The New Me. Consequently, they are taught how to cook, count calories, make healthy food choices and most importantly, develop an understanding and appreciation of food. Says Adro, “The advantage of a live-in program is that participants have to conform. They can’t do anything other… We’re set up to be focused on rehabilitation. They have to train or else while they’re with this program.”

Adro’s focus on a niche market is an, “Effort to stay true to our core business.” He doesn’t believe that catering to an adolescent market, for example, would prove productive – most of the issues surrounding obesity, in this age group, are not childhood issues. “Children don’t control their own lives at that point,” he says, believing that in order to conduct a children’s obesity camp, a simultaneous parent camp would need to be incorporated as well. “I would never allow a child to come and give them the hope that they could make a difference, and then have them go home to an uneducated or unmotivated parent… We would be emotionally and psychologically setting the child up for the worse. They get fired up and on this motivated path… I would never have them do that with their weight. A child becomes empowered, and then disempowered – that’s emotionally unstabilising.”

Adro relates one of many stories about noteworthy achievers in his facility, particularly a 40 year old school principal. She had initially come to the facility for two weeks but stayed for 12. During that time, her weight dropped from 136 kilograms to 69 kilograms. “She became addicted to her ability to succeed.”

Obesity is defined as having a body mass index, (BMI), of over 30. This means that more than four million adult Australians are obese. If the current trend of weight gain continues, by 2020, more than 80 per cent of the nation will be classified as obese. However, Adro has some concerns about defining obese by the BMI system alone. “It’s an irrelevant measure. I’m 80 kilos but have a 31 BMI because of my muscle, which weighs more than fat. So categorically I’m still obese. But it’s the only [system] we have, so it’s better than nothing.”

Achieving a weight loss goal is never an effortless task. It takes determination, perseverance and support. It’s a metamorphose of mind, body and spirit, requiring a little help with the transformation. Adro’s goal is simple: to be that help. For more information, visit www.thenewme.com.au.

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September 22, 2018, 6:09 PM AEST