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Louie Gartner - Sports Nutrition Helps Former Defensive Lineman on Weight Loss Journey

“Losing this weight helped me with closure. Finishing football after playing since I was six was hard, but this helped me realize that there is another chapter of my life, and it starts right now.” — Louie

A life-changing decision

Since his sophomore year at St. Francis University, Louie had worked with Jeff Lucchino, MS, RD, CSSD, Director of Sports Nutrition for UPMC Sports Medicine, to gain and maintain muscle as a defensive lineman. In addition to working with several other Division I and professional athletic programs, Jeff provides sports nutrition services to all of the College’s athletes.

“Jeff didn’t only help the team with nutrition; he was a friend to all of us. That’s what made me very comfortable working with him,” Louie shares.

Weighing 270 pounds in March of 2019, with graduation approaching in December, Louie decided to approach Jeff about a new nutrition plan—a weight loss and healthy living journey to help guide him into this new phase of his life. They jumped right in.

“When I first began working with Jeff for weight loss, I was a complete beginner. I had no idea how to lose weight through nutrition, so he started with the basics, like what my plate should look like at each meal. It’s a lot to learn, but he made me feel comfortable by encouraging me to ask questions, and that helped me so much,” Louie says.

As Louie progressed with his meal plan, he learned a lot from Jeff, eventually understanding the most in-depth conversations about healthy fats, macronutrients, and more. Not only was he changing his body, but he was changing habits, learning the tools to stay healthy for the rest of his life. 

Finding inspiration

A New Jersey native, Louie moved home after graduation in 2019, but he has continued this journey with Jeff via email through February of 2020. “I was skeptical about keeping this up long distance,” Louie shares, “but Jeff was perfect over email. I still provide him updates, and he helps me stay on track.” 

Jeff’s guidance and nutrition expertise considered, Louie stresses what is perhaps the most important element of this process: self-motivation.

“You can’t be afraid. You have to want to do it, know why you’re doing it, and be willing to change your lifestyle,” Louie says.

For example, one of Louie’s biggest hurdles was changing his relationship with food.

Often, Louie would turn to food to celebrate milestones and accomplishments in life. But with Jeff’s help, he found confidence and new ways to celebrate.

Sharing the journey

In January of 2020, Louie met his first phase goal of weighing in at 205 pounds, nearly 70 pounds less than he weighed only a year before. Phases two and three of his program focus on building core muscles, including working to sport six-pack abs. His success with this program prompted him to reach out to Jeff with great enthusiasm about meeting his goal, sharing that Jeff had “helped [him] change [his] life”. He was similarly eager to share his experience with Jeff and Sports Nutrition at UPMC Sports Medicine.

Ultimately, Louie hopes to inspire other former football players by sharing his journey. Many football players, especially those on the defensive line, are required to be great in stature and very muscular to satisfy the demands of their position. But, when a lifetime of football ends, it can be difficult to cope both mentally and physically for anyone, especially those who had played from a young age and were required to gain weight for their position.

“Losing this weight helped me with closure,” Louie says.
“Finishing football after playing since I was six was hard, but this helped me realize that there is another chapter of my life, and it starts right now.”

Our patient stories profile people who have had treatment at UPMC. By sharing their stories, we hope to help other patients and their families better understand these treatments and their potential benefits.

Everyone’s care experience is unique. Louie’s treatment and results may not be representative of all similar cases.