BY LYNDA LOPEZ
TSTC student Angel Gutierrez went from being an insecure, “unhappy loner” to a confident young man who finally found love.
The 21-year-old gives full credit for his metamorphosis from overweight to sleek and fit to the TSTC Wellness and Sports Center. “I wasn’t comfortable with how I looked. I started coming to the gym and working out little by little. Eventually, I lost more than 60 pounds. It was a life-changing experience,” said Gutierrez.
Gutierrez had an unhappy childhood after his mother suffered a debilitating stroke and he and his three siblings had to be cared for by his maternal grandmother. The San Juan native found comfort in food and that led to his unhealthy weight gain.
By the time he was in high school, Gutierrez was bullied for being the “fat kid.” He is embarrassed to admit that his unwanted nickname was Shamu, an unflattering reference to the SeaWorld killer whale.
While other boys his age were out dating, Gutierrez was home alone.
“Girls saw me as a friend, never as a potential boyfriend,” explained Gutierrez. I would hide my feelings and pretend to be happy. But, really I was lonely.” Gutierrez was so embarrassed by his weight that he developed an eating disorder.
“I didn’t want to eat. I would tell myself, you’ll get fat. I would eat just once a day and I wasn’t getting proper nutrition,” said Gutierrez. He lost weight, but he could not keep up with the deprivation routine. Eventually he gained it all back when he came to TSTC and started eating out often.
“Before I knew it, I was out of shape again. I felt like a failure. I kept trying to diet, but it really wasn’t working,” said Gutierrez.
That is when he started visiting the TSTC Wellness and Sports Center, a 29,000 square-foot gym complete with basketball courts, racquetball courts, weight room and cardio room.
“I started coming to the gym more often. I spoke to the Zumba instructor and asked her for help. She encouraged me to do cardio and then weights,” he said. “I can say she was a big influence.”
Gutierrez not only lost the weight, but because he was at the gym so often he gained a job working there for Joe Garza, supervisor of the Wellness and Sports Center and Intramurals.
“Sometimes we tell him he should be a motivational speaker. He’s more than a boss. Coach Joe is like a father figure to all the students who work here. He’s a mentor,” said Gutierrez.
The praise is mutual. Coach Joe says it’s been encouraging to see Gutierrez’s physical transformation.
“Angel has become one of the best students to ever work at the Wellness and Sports Center,” said Garza. “He is a hard worker and motivates students to lose weight. I can’t tell you how many students specifically ask for Angel to talk to him about how he lost so much weight.”
Gutierrez’s success with his weight problem translated into success in other parts of his life. He completed his studies towards an associate degree in Academic Core and is now working on an associate degree in Biology in the hopes of one day becoming a Child Psychologist specializing in suicide prevention.
His social life also changed along with his body.
“My self-esteem is boosted from feeling so much better in my body. I got involved in Student Government Association, school activities and I started volunteering. I broadened my circle of friends and finally had the confidence to talk to girls,” said Gutierrez.
Talking led to dating and, eventually, to his first girlfriend. Gutierrez says he’s never been happier. He’s trying to pass it on, coaching friends and other TSTC students on nutrition and exercise. His advice to fellow students struggling with weight issues?
“Take advantage of your gym and resources. It’s all free. We have everything you need: equipment, team sports and workshops to teach you about healthy eating and exercise,” said Gutierrez.
The TSTC Wellness and Sports Center is open Monday through Friday and is free to all TSTC students, staff and faculty. For more information on hours, upcoming activities or intramural sports, call 956-364-4344 or go to facebook.com/ TSTC-Wellness-and-Sports-Center.