On his way back ... pound by pound

Posted: July 31, 2014

AFTER a personal health crisis, Christopher Sapienza chose to re-examine his life.

The Delaware County native, 46, was too busy performing in musical-theater productions for Disney and the Walnut Street Theatre, or occasionally on TV in episodes of "Law & Order," to worry about his weight and health.

Since childhood, he has struggled with his weight. "I was a chubby baby and had to wear husky clothes as a child, and that always drove me nuts," Sapienza recalls. "From there it just went on and on, until I ballooned up over 300 pounds."

The excess weight really took a toll, then came the diabetes, and if that wasn't enough, Sapienza was then diagnosed with spinal stenosis (compression of the spinal cord) which put him on steroids. For sure, it was a wake-up call.

"One day I got out of the shower and looked at not just my face, I mean I truly looked at my entire body," Sapienza said. "I didn't recognize the guy that was looking back at me. I was completed destroyed. It was at that moment that I finally admitted that I am an obese person. I was like a drug addict or alcoholic recognizing that I needed help."

Though a fan of such reality weight-loss shows as "The Biggest Loser" and "Extreme Weight Loss," he knew that that route was not realistic and he headed to the nearest gym and to Weight Watchers. There he received the initial support and guidance he needed to get started.

Although still a member of Weight Watchers in 2012, he continued to struggle with the pounds and knew that he needed a little more daily support. That's when Sapienza decided to up the ante by turning to Facebook and creating the Release the Pounds Facebook group, which began with a couple of friends and family members.

Then something amazing happened. In as little as two years, the group has grown from just a few followers to more than 600 people internationally, all seeking support and guidance in their efforts to release the pounds and live healthier lives.

"Release the Pounds Facebook group is a nondenominational support group; a place full of love and support, where people can bounce around ideas, get and offer tips, and receive feedback from one another," Sapienza said.

In other words, you don't have to belong to any specific plan to be a part of this group. Instead, Sapienza wants to help and inspire others along their weight-loss journeys by providing inspirational posts, videos, photos, exercise, recipes, nutritional tips, etc.

Ironically, Sapienza's virtual Facebook family has become so close that many of the members desired to meet in-person. They decided to hold a conference near Philadelphia, which occurred recently. The conference was overwhelmingly successful and Sapienza is already planning next year's conference for spring.

Sapienza says "the group has helped me lose 30 pounds, with another 60 to go." So far the group has lost a total of 1,000 pounds.

With his new lease on life, Sapienza has never been healthier or happier, and now he is not only ready to hit the stage and screen again, but this year he is taking on the Disney half marathon, too.

"Facebook has been invaluable, though it's a constant battle," Sapienza admits.

But at least now they're all winning the war.

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