Writing the 2012 book “Think and Grow Thin” was a dream come true for St. Louis weight-loss coach Charles D’Angelo. In it, he revealed his methods on rapid and healthful weight loss — promising results in 88 days — to the world rather than just to the people who visited him in St. Louis.
The world isn’t an exaggeration. D’Angelo, 31, has coached people who’ve flown in from as far away as Australia and Europe as well as from across the United States.
Something, however, didn’t feel complete. Five years later, he has found that answers come in many forms.
First, he met his soon-to-be wife, Crystal. “She taught me what it means to love, to put someone and something ahead of everything else,” he said in a recent interview. “Everything I’ve ever cared about has magnified. My love, compassion, empathy, patience, that I have for her, I bring to my relationships with clients.”
That helped him take the next step of his dream with a new book, “Inner Guru: The Guide to Mastering Your Health, Wealth & Relationships From the Inside Out.” It’s more a love story masquerading as a self-improvement book.
Before “Inner Guru,” D’Angelo already had become a national go-to guy for information on weight loss. Stories of clients who lost lots of weight were told by local and national media. D’Angelo has appeared on “The Dr. Oz Show,” “Larry King Live” and in People Magazine.
The walls in his St. Louis Hills office show portraits of him with the likes of Bishop T.D. Jakes, motivational speaker Tony Robbins, Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. He was endorsed by Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill after she used him to prepare for her last campaign.
Larry King wrote the forward to “Inner Guru.” Clinton and Robbins wrote cover endorsements.
D’Angelo says his secret is treating everyone the same. “I love the people I work with,” he says. “It doesn’t matter who they are.”
But, “Inner Guru” is the story of how his methods have changed.
“I didn’t always have the (approach) I have now,” he said. “It used to be my way or the highway.” Now, he says, “I’ve recognized if a person finds … that it’s pleasing, sustainable, achieving their goal. My goal is my clients’ goal.
“My role is not to tell them what to do. It’s to awaken them to what they already know. And that’s what the title is all about: becoming the authority on your own life, learning to trust who you are.”
HIS FIRST CLIENT
His new volume spends a lot of time describing his first client: himself. He started as a 360-pound teenager with a history of mental and spiritual abuse, experiences that have turned many young people to explorations of bad, even destructive, habits. He lost his parents recently. But he lost his mother, figuratively, earlier when she started using prescription drugs and alcohol.
D’Angelo, depressed, turned to food. By 16 years old he was 360 pounds.
When he was 17, “The change happened when I made one decision,” he said. “I was no longer going to settle for anything less than having an extraordinary life — using the family circumstances as a warning, rather than as an example.
“It started with taking charge of my health, and from there, I used the very same disciplines to change all the other areas of my life … .” Weight loss was a central focus, though. “I find it’s almost impossible to improve other areas of your life, if you don’t feel good. Physical vitality is the major step to improving your overall life.”
He picked the good things his parents had given him before changes marred things. For example, the work ethic from his father, who was a freelance building cleaner and maintenance man. His mother had encouraged him to read and think for himself.
First, D’Angelo realized that any life direction he took was a choice. That required the most difficult part of the process: recognition and discontinuation of bad habits, replacing them with good habits. Where he once rewarded an achievement with pleasure food, he began rewarding himself with finding ways to develop.
Then, purpose became the sustaining good habit. He firmly believes that his success is an assignment from God. His job in life was to take what he has learned and share it with others, help others live better. “That’s my purpose,” he says.
His mission morphed into “Team Charles,” his weight-loss coaching business, first set up in southwest St. Louis County in his early 20s.
People began to seek D’Angelo out, especially when they saw literature that showed his 360-pound body compared to his 200-pound self.
“Think and Grow Thin” revealed his strict health and dietary regimen.
He toured the country touting “Think and Grow Thin” at book signings and media interviews. He met Crystal in an airport in California. Their romance didn’t take long to develop. A photograph of his marriage proposal is on page 267 of “Inner Guru.”
He’d seen hundreds, maybe thousands, of people 50, 100, 200 pounds overweight. But he starting realizing that clients didn’t talk to him about their weight; they talked about their lives, “what made them who they are,” D’Angelo says.
They described what they saw in the mirror, how they thought of themselves as people, their anxiety about how friends, family and loved ones valued them. Most of all, they discussed inescapable feelings of helplessness, as if they were trapped. “So many of them had decided that this was just their life and that was how it always was going to be.
Referencing his own life, “I realized, you don’t help people just by getting their weight off,” he said. “You help the whole person, and the weight will take care of itself,” he said. “My book is about losing the chains of your history.”
He recalled what he’d said to himself more than a decade earlier. “I said if I’m going to treat myself differently because of my standards, I will change my standards with others. If you won’t accept abuse from yourself, you won’t accept abuse from other people. That changes your life just in itself.”
IT JUST KEEPS GETTING BETTER
What thrills D’Angelo is that his evolved methods work better.
Tim Buchanan, 40, of Union, used to eat pizza four to five days a week because it made him feel better, even though “I felt miserable right after I finished. Then, the next day, I did it again knowing how I’d feel,” he said in an interview.
He’d been a pretty athletic individual until a shoulder injury nearly two decades ago ended his athletic career, even his hobbies. He basically went to work and sat for nearly 20 years. No one told him he was getting too big. But he could see it in the mirror. No weight-loss program worked, and he considered surgery.
He found D’Angelo a little more than a year ago on a radio program and bought “Think and Grow Thin,” and his story is now told in “Inner Guru.”
Ten months after joining “Team Charles,” he was 210 pounds, half his former weight. D’Angelo had talked to him about the things that had gotten under his skin and how large quantities of high-calorie food eased his anxieties.
During the weight-loss process, his health improved, his energy increased. He got a belated wake-up call from his wife.
“She told me halfway through … she said the end of her life plan had changed because she assumed I wouldn’t be there,” he said. She had reason to believe that. He had been 420 pounds at 5 feet, 11 inches, and had showed no sign of turning himself around.
His wife has now changed her plans. “She believes now that we’ll get to the end of our lives closer together,” he said.
THE REVISED APPROACH
The new book dwells on increasing energy levels through improved health as a way to address bad habits. “I started with food and energy. If you don’t feel good, it doesn’t make a difference,” he said.
“This isn’t a weight-loss book, but it helps with weight loss,” D’Angelo says.
“Health isn’t just weight. Are you healthy emotionally, spiritually … This is about everything it took me two decades to learn. So many people said they used the principles to lose weight, but then applied them outside their life to add meaning.”