MTV show helps MU freshman slim down

Samuel Traverso, a freshman in the college of Arts & Sciences was selected to be on MTV’s “I Used to be Fat.” Photo courtesy of Sammy Traverso.

With “Love Your Body Week” beginning Monday, Sammy Traverso has a lot to love about his own— make that a lot less.

Traverso, a freshman in the College of Arts & Sciences, had not heard of the MTV show, “I Used To Be Fat” when his mom found an advertisement on Craigslist for “high school seniors who want to lose weight” last year.

“I thought it was some sort of paid research study,” he said.

As it turns out, the show helps high school seniors struggling with weight shed the pounds before heading off to college, and documents their progress.

He e-mailed the representatives of the show, and they asked him to put some videos together describing his life as an overweight high schooler.

Traverso sent videos of himself walking down the hall and sitting in desks at his high school, exercising, spending time with his family and attending prom festivities.

His struggles with weight for only part of his life may have set him apart for MTV decision-makers. In middle school, Traverso’s weight began to increase, a cause of which he is still uncertain, but thinks it may have had something to do with playing video games instead of exercising.

“I was skinny as a child, and by maybe fifth grade or so I started to gain weight for no specific reason,” he said. “Also, I was not bullied in high school. I made fun of myself to stop people from making fun of me. I tried to beat them to the punch.”

Once he was chosen to be on the show, Traverso had to sacrifice his summer vacation to a personal trainer, a diet change and hours of intense exercise.

Every day until the day he left the Chicago area for Marquette, Traverso worked out at a gym near his house for four hours. The sessions involved an hour of “intense” cardio, an hour-and-a-half of weight lifting and another hour of cardio, he said.

“Every day, my shirt was completely soaked with sweat,” he said.

During workouts, his personal trainer, Saran Dunmore, said she tried to “keep it fresh” by incorporating different activities each day. This, she said, helped keep Traverso focused on his goal.

“During the process, he would get really frustrated,” she said. “As he lost the weight, he could do more of what I asked him, and he stopped pouting and started smiling more.”

The show offered to set him up with a personal trainer once he got to Marquette, but he turned them down.

“I wanted to know for myself that I could continue to lose weight at college without a trainer,” Traverso said.

By exercising and adhering to a diet plan of whole grains, lean protein, fruits and vegetables, Traverso — who began the summer at 316 pounds — has managed to keep off the 115 pounds he lost.

He gives his mom and trainer the most credit, for supporting him and keeping him motivated.

“My mom definitely was my biggest support. And my trainer’s ability to push me farther than I ever went before always made my workouts enjoyable, if possible,” he said with a laugh.

Dunmore spoke highly of Traverso as well, saying they will be friends for life.

“Sammy was already an outgoing and funny person, and now he’s 10 times that,” Dunmore said. “But the thing I admire most about him is that he wants to help others who are going through the same issues with weight as he went through.”

One of his peers at Marquette also commented on Traverso’s personality.

“Although I don’t know him very well, he’s funny and easy-going,” said Hannah McCarthy, a freshman in the College of Communication. “He’s very open about the show and seems proud of it, which I think he deserves to be.”

Although Traverso said he learned a lot about how to eat right and maintain a healthy lifestyle, the self-confidence he gained from the show is more important to him.

“Before the show, I was always wondering what a person was thinking when they were looking at me,” he said. “Now I don’t feel like that. I am much more social and happy.”