Skip to Content

Rancho Cortez "Fat Farm" Results

Finally a "fat farm" that works

Read Michael's inspiring story in his own words. 
If you’re a baseball player, it’s a decent batting average. But if you’re a 60-year old  man who stands 5-foot-10, it’s a fairly disastrous weight. I had been battling my weight for most of my adult life, and in the last couple of years I had been losing the battle.

After the second of our dining room chairs developed a crack from trying to support my weight, my wife demanded that I do something about it and suggested that maybe I ought to try a fitness ranch.

I didn’t have any idea where to go, so I did an Internet search and looked at five or six different places. I wish I could say I made the right choice because of extensive research, but I was just lucky. I looked at five or six different ranches, and because the price was right and the location – the Hill Country of Texas – seemed interesting, I decided to go to Rancho Cortez.

It was one of the best decisions I ever made.
 
I weighed 275 pounds when I checked into the ranch on the first Monday in May. I paid in advance for two months and hoped if all went well, I could lose 50 pounds.

When I first looked at the weekly schedule, I felt more than a little overwhelmed. Each day consisted of a hike – long some days, short on others – and four or five different exercise classes. There wasn’t a whole lot of time to sit around and just vegetate.

When I went out on a hike with Mary Cortez on my first day after weighing in, I saw just how far I had to go. We walked for about an hour in Hill Country State Natural Area, taking the easiest, flattest hike in the park. We probably covered three miles or so, and I was exhausted by the time we finished. I think I did one other class that day. It was water aerobics, and I had to quit about two-thirds of the way into the hour.

It was definitely a slow start.
 
I was doing one thing that wasn’t on the schedule. To get a discount on my price, I was shoveling manure six mornings a week, mucking out the stable and the pens around it. I had never shoveled manure – at least not literally; heck, I was a journalist for 30 years – but for some reason I could hardly explain, I enjoyed it.

The exercise part of my stay had started slowly, but I have always been blessed when I get serious about diets. The weight usually comes off quickly for the first few weeks. I lost 12 pounds the first week, and my 42-inch-waisted jeans started feeling a little bit loose.

I don’t want to go week by week through the time I spent at Rancho Cortez. For one thing, I’ve never thought other folks’ stories of their diets were all that interesting.

Suffice it to say that the people and the program were wonderful. People were nothing but friendly and encouraging, and the dietary part of it was highly educational. I learned a lot from what I ate and from what I didn’t eat, and I got some great tips from the classes they held about good eating habits.

I lost 30 pounds the first month and 19 the second. I came up half a pound short of my goal of 50, but I extended my stay for another three weeks and lost 10 more pounds.

When I left for home in mid-July, my weight was down to 216 pounds. I never did adapt to the schedule of all those exercise classes, but I did something that worked out even better for me. I hiked, usually by myself, almost every day.

Most days I went five miles or so, and I became well acquainted with the beautiful South Texas countryside. I actually fell in love with Texas, a 180-degree turnaround from my previous feelings about the state. For the first time, I understood why people from Texas think – heck, know – that they are from a very special place.

I learned so much at Rancho Cortez about how I need to live the rest of my life, and the best part of it all is that I was able to take what I learned and transfer it to my life back at home.

As I write this, I have been home from Texas for a little more than nine weeks. During that time, there have been exactly three days that I haven’t hiked. I walked 5-6 miles on city streets every day. It’s not as beautiful as rural Texas, not by a long shot, but it is a part of my day that has become every bit as much of my routine as brushing my teeth or washing my face.

My good eating habits have continued too. I have eaten less than 1,500 calories a day every single day since I have been home. My old bad habits – cake, chocolate and the rest – are a thing of the past.

This morning I weighed 177 pounds, which means I have lost 103 pounds since that disastrous scale reading in the spring and 39 additional pounds since leaving Rancho Cortez. I’m skinny again!

I’m wearing pants I haven’t been able to wear for 20 years, pants with 33-inch waists. I even went to Macy’s the other day and bought myself a pair of jeans with a 32-inch waist. They’re a little snug right now, but they won’t be for long.

I have dieted before. I lost 80 pounds in both 1985 and 1989, getting down to 160 both times. But neither one of those diets worked permanently, because I saw both of them as depriving myself until I reached a goal.

But dieting can’t be successful when you look at it that way. What I learned from 11 weeks at Rancho Cortez is that only changing your lifestyle works. Exercising and eating sensibly is now a way of life for me. I have been doing it for almost five months now, and it has succeeded beyond my most optimistic expectations.
I’m sure there must be other places in the country that are good, but my experience at Rancho Cortez absolutely changed my life.

I would recommend it without reservation to anyone who wants to get into shape – and stay in shape.