My name is Ryan Rutherford, I’m currently 38 years old and I had been traveling for work with the New York Yankees for the past decade as an Associate Producer for the YES Network (Yankees TV Network) in charge of all the stats, sponsors and graphics you see during a Yankees baseball telecast. The job requires a ton of travel, essentially following the Yankees on the road for 7-8 months (pending on playoffs). A decade of living on the road lead to terrible eating habits and severe lack of exercise. For a typical night game that starts at 7pm, I get to the TV truck at noon and I’m not done for the day and back to the hotel until midnight usually (and that’s if there’s no rain delays, extra innings, or unusually slow paced games). I would often skip breakfast cause I wanted to sleep as late as possible, grab lunch around 5:30pm at the ballpark (usually a baseball press room) and the food isn’t the healthiest. Then I’d eat “dinner” around midnight, usually at a bar or whatever was open late with meals ranging from chicken wings & beer to a pile of nachos or mozzarella sticks and basically anything deep fried and far from healthy. The road life also leads to a lot of alcohol consumption. On a 10-day road trip, I used to drink 8 or 9 of the 10 nights on the road. And it would start with 3 or 4 drinks and escalate to 7 or 8 on really “fun” nights.
This lifestyle caught up to me at the end of the 2016 season in a very real way. As soon as the season ended, I went for a checkup to my primary care physician on October 4th. On that day, I had an ultrasound of my liver, an echocardiogram of my heart, blood pressure taken, and blood & urine samples taken. A few days later, she gave me the results. The ultrasound of my liver showed it was being engulfed by fat due to poor diet (known as fatty liver), it was starting to fail and causing my kidneys to fail as well. There was also some scar tissue on the liver which is an early sign of cirrhosis. I was warned if I didn’t change my ways, I would be headed for a liver transplant. The echocardiogram showed I had an enlarged heart. Essentially, I weighed too much for my frame and my heart was working overtime, even while resting, just to support my weight. Because the heart is a muscle, the harder it works, the larger it gets and if I didn’t reduce the size of my heart fairly significantly, my heart would enlarge to the point where it hit the walls and cause a major heart attack. To no surprise my blood pressure was extraordinarily high and the blood tests showed that I had high cholesterol and developed type 2 diabetes. Hearing all of this was really overwhelming. My doctor recommended that I begin losing weight immediately through proper diet and exercise. I went home and tried to develop a plan. In that short time, I was dealing with severe insomnia and slipping into horrible depression. Over the course of the next 3 nights, I had dreams that I was dying in my sleep…falling out of a plane with no parachute, drowning in an ocean, stumbling off a tall building…and each night waking up at 5am gasping for air right before I “died” in my sleep. This led to a sleep study conducted at a sleep disorder center which led to the discovery that I had developed severe sleep apnea. I stopped breathing in my sleep 53 times every hour. The solution to this problem was to sleep with a breathing tube and a machine known as a C-PAP.
Needless to say, I was distraught from all of these health problems and instead of getting healthy and trying to rectify these issues…I went the other way. I began recklessly eating whatever I wanted…entire pizzas, fast food from where ever & whenever, overeating and eating extremely poorly…I had decided I would rather die young than deal with these health issues for the rest of my life. After a few days of binging, I sat alone on the Jersey Shore watching the sunset, resigned to the fact that I wasn’t meant to live long and pretty much stopped caring about anything…as I wallowed in self-pity, essentially giving up on my pursuit of happiness, my phone started vibrating with several texts from my family members. My mom, dad, brother, sister & I have a group text where we keep in touch and share our daily or weekly news. My mom had announced she was retiring from teaching at the end of the school year after 45 years, my sister announced she was named Teacher of the Month for the 2nd straight month to start the school year, my brother had just found a new place to move into, and in the greatest news of all, my dad had just returned from his latest lung scan and it showed he was cancer-free for the 3rd consecutive scan since his last chemotherapy treatment. All this amazing news in my family and here I was, basically giving up on life, preparing for an early demise. They were so incredibly happy and I realized I couldn’t possibly put them through the heartache, pain and misery of losing me at such a young age. From that point in my life right there, I decided I was committing to getting healthy and turning my life around, not only for myself but for the people who care about me and truly love me.
I went back to my doctor and discussed options. I told her I had usually lost weight in the past with the Atkins diet, while mixing in cardio and weight lifting. She explained that I needed proper nutrition and not the “quick fix” that Atkins delivers; it had to be a lifestyle change, not just a “diet.” She also explained that I needed to do as much cardio as possible and very little weight lifting. I needed to physically lose weight, the pounds, not just fat because the heart cannot tell the difference between 300 lbs of muscle and 300 lbs of fat. So basically I could lift in order to shape and tone the muscles but not for bulk. So if I normally lifted 50-lb dumbbells, she wanted that cut in half to 25 lbs. I knew this was going to be a very difficult task to take on myself without any help. She had recommended health and wellness centers in Arizona, California, Florida and Utah. I went back home and researched a bunch of places online. When I stumbled across Movara’s website, it jogged my memory. I remember a friend of a friend telling us all about a place in Utah that he went to: hiked in the mornings, exercise classes in the afternoon, with lectures on nutrition and cooking demos. After investigating the website further, I decided Movara had everything I wanted in a health and wellness facility in order to help me get my life back on track. I wanted to do a month at the resort but I didn’t want to miss any holidays, so I wedged 3 weeks in between Thanksgiving and Christmas of 2016.
I showed up to Movara on November 27, 2016 at age 36 (I would turn 37 on December 7th at Movara!) and weighed in just under 375 lbs (the most I have ever weighed in my life). In my 3 weeks at Movara I did a grand total of 16 hikes, logging over 80 miles & over 50,000 feet in elevation, 75 fitness classes, 24 health & nutrition lectures, 6 cooking classes, a 5K race, a 10K race, made dozens on new friends and dropped 26 lbs in one life-changing experience that I will remember forever.
Just 2 months after my first day at Movara, I dropped a total of 45 lbs, normalized the hemoglobin count in my blood, significantly reduced the fat engulfing my liver, lowered my blood pressure & cholesterol, reduced the size of my enlarged heart, practically eliminated my sleep apnea, learned to cook & eat healthy meals on a daily basis, and averaged a 5K every day which quickly turned into about 5 miles every day when the 5 K got too easy.
4 months to the day I first set foot at Movara, I weighed myself at the hotel in Tampa (as I was there for an entire month with Yankees Spring Training) and came in right around 325 lbs. I was hoping to be closer to 300 lbs after that month of March but I understand that I put on roughly 5-7 lbs of muscle through weight training and was sabotaged a bit by dining out at restaurants that use too much butter and unhealthy oils in cooking their veggies. I also should have been more mindful of the heavy salad dressings like ranch and blue cheese that contain a ton of fat and calories. But I was happy with the overall progress and would continue to make adjustments to stay on the course I had laid out before me.
With the 2017 baseball season about to start in April, I knew I would be on the road for 81 games and in New York for 81 games. As I mentioned before, I’m at work from noon to midnight for night games and from 7am to 6pm for day games. I only got 3 natural days off per month for the 6 months of the baseball season. I was living out of hotels mostly and eating lunch/dinner at ballparks most of the time. My battle plan was to eat a healthy breakfast in the mornings, usually consisting of egg-white omelettes and a protein like turkey bacon or chicken, apple, sausage. Occasionally I made a breakfast burrito using low sodium, low carb whole wheat wraps. On days I didn’t have time to cook, I went with a Greek yogurt like Fage, Stoneyfield or Siggi’s which are the lowest in fat, sugar & carbs and paired that with fresh berries, usually blueberries, raspberries, blackberries or strawberries. For lunch I would eat salads with very light dressing, tuna or chicken salad lettuce wraps with light olive oil mayo, and again, occasionally use a whole wheat wrap. I feel it’s important to maintain a low-carb diet, and to have carbs with breakfast or lunch and never dinner. The goal is to burn off all carbs every day so none are lying around to turn into sugar. The body burns the carbs first, then burns the fat…best way to keep weight off is to reduce carbs and take in more protein in my experience. Dinners varied but my main objective was a protein paired with tons of fresh veggies. I had chicken or fish when I could, pork or steak on occasion and at least 75% of the plate was vegetables. I’m not a dessert guy so I never worry about that. I would bridge long gaps between meals with fruits like apples, oranges and bananas. Sometimes celery & peanut butter, almonds, or carrots and a light ranch dressing as a snack on occasion but not often. I would drink water with lemon and/or lime with every meal. Once a week I’d have a diet soda or sugar free iced tea if I was craving a drink other than water. Never coffee…not a coffee drinker (which I’m thankful for cause people can’t seem to shake that addiction). I avoided alcohol as much as possible but allowed myself a drink or 2 one night a week and a “fun” night on the road consisting of no more than 4 drinks on any given night once every 2 weeks. I decided to drink vodka & club soda as it’s the lowest calorie alcoholic beverage and avoided beer or sugary drinks as much as I could.
I was just over 2 months into the baseball season and everything was going according to plan. I was down to 305 lbs, which meant I had dropped almost 70 lbs since my first day at Movara in late November…My goal of getting under 300 lbs was within reach! Then, in the first week of June, I found out I was being promoted to Associate Director…but it wasn’t for the Yankees, it was for our NBA team, the Brooklyn Nets. I was being pulled off the road for the rest of the summer, with the exception of filling in for a few series, and had to report to our studio in Stamford, Connecticut to train for my new position and work on the Yankees Pre & Post Game shows, while getting ready for basketball season in October. This promotion was bittersweet for me as I was very excited to make more money and climb the ladder at my company, but I was bummed that I would be leaving my road family, not getting a chance to say goodbye to various friends I had made on the road over the years, and felt like this was going to throw a wrench into the battle plan I had devised to continue to lose weight and get healthy. Living in New Jersey, I was not crazy about commuting an hour each way (sometimes 2 hours with bad traffic) to and from Connecticut. But I knew it was a really good opportunity and I decided it was best to embrace it and continue moving forward in my never-ending quest to find happiness and success.
The summer months went by with ups and downs as my motivation waivered. I’d fall into a week-long slump of eating whatever I wanted and not exercising and then snap out of it and lock it down again, getting back to eating healthy and finding time to exercise. The mental aspect of this change to my life was the hardest part of staying the course. I would be driving to work and just start feeling sad about missing that life I had made for myself on the road for almost a decade. I’d slip into mini funks or depressions thinking about all the great times I used to have and how banal my life had become reporting to the same place every day, no adventure, no excitement…I never realized how addicted to the lifestyle I was until it was gone. I powered through the summer but didn’t make any real progress with my weight. I basically maintained around 305 lbs and spiked to 310 on my worst weeks.
October finally rolled around and I was ready to take on the challenge of basketball season and my new position as Associate Director of the Brooklyn Nets. There are 82 games in the NBA season, 41 would be spent in Brooklyn and the other 41 on the road. I was excited to get back on the road finally, the life that I had missed so much! But I quickly realized NBA travel is very different from MLB travel. With the Yankees, we settle into the city for 3 days or more as we usually play at least 3 games against the opponent. With the Nets, we get into the city, play the opponent and fly to the next city or home right after the game. There’s hardly any time to explore the road cities, grab dinner/drinks with friends, or really get to develop relationships with our game crews. I basically leave the hotel for the arena at 11:30am, get to the TV truck for 6 hours of pre-production, do the game that usually tips off at 7pm and then fly to the next city or home right after, getting in well after midnight, sometimes 3 or 4am to the next destination. While I’ve made the best of it, there is no doubt part of me is still a little disappointed about the overall lifestyle of basketball road life compared to baseball road life.
The other difficult part of this job and lifestyle is and always has been developing and maintaining relationships. I can’t tell you how many relationships I’ve lost due to this job. None of them ever get past 3 months. At first, the girl doesn’t really understand what I do. Then they get a better idea of the lifestyle and become more accepting. But then the time apart becomes too difficult for many of them to handle. The girl always winds up saying: “Let me get this straight: you work every night during the week, you always work weekends and you go away for 10 days at a time on the road. When are we ever supposed to see each other?” And there’s nothing I can do about it; the job is what the job is. This past year, I finally found a girl who understood and was willing to accept the lifestyle, but sometime around Thanksgiving, her mom had a massive stroke, leaving her practically paralyzed; so she was moving back to Brazil to take care of her mom. She didn’t want to maintain a long distance relationship and wasn’t sure she’d ever return to the U.S. and decided ending our relationship was best for both of us. So over the course of the Fall & Winter, I’ve added about 20 lbs as I’ve struggled to deal with the sadness. People handle pain in all different ways…I’ve been lucky enough not to turn to drugs, and not so much alcohol, but food has always been my medicine. I’ve medicated through comfort foods which offer a moment of satisfaction but are way more damaging in the long run.
That’s pretty much right at the crossroads you have found me. I’ve been falling back into bad habits but am now trying to turn things around in a never-ending struggle to get healthy. I’m back up to about 330 lbs and I know I need to readdress this issue. I don’t overly obsess about weight; it’s really just a number. It’s more about how you feel, how you feel you look and how your clothes fit that means more to me than the number on the scale. But for the purposes of getting healthier, I know I need to bring this number down significantly. So I’m aiming to lose 2-3 lbs per week over the remaining 4 months of the basketball season. Ideally, I want to drop 10 lbs per month minimum. I want to be under 300 lbs by the time I have to go back to working in the studio for baseball in May. And under 275 lbs by October 1st. Before then end of 2018, I want to get to 250 lbs. And my long term goal is to settle in at 215-225 lbs, but I’m in no hurry. I want to lose the weight slowly and steadily so that my body and skin has time to adjust.
As I continue to lose weight, I know exercising will become easier. I used to run/jog/walk 5-7 miles 5-6 times a week and plan to do so again. I would spend an hour to 2 hours 4 nights a week in the gym, doing light weight training to tone and shape muscles and I will get back into that routine, especially when I am not on the road.
Sorry for the novel, I’m just really passionate about getting this second & third chance at a healthy life…if you read the whole thing, you have my utmost appreciation & respect! I know we are all on this journey together. I am here for love and support for all of the former, current, and future Movara guests, as we strive to improve our health and happiness. Best of luck to everyone out there! I’m going to try really hard to stay on track and not let the rest of this basketball season get the best of me! Thank you for listening to my story…there’s still so much more to be written!