How I Got This Body: The GW University Student Who Lost 115 Pounds His Freshman Year

Photographs courtesy Gianluca Nigro.

Welcome to How I Got This Body, our look at some of the amazing things the human body is capable of and the Washingtonians who put their bodies to the test. Want to share your transformation story? Email

Who I am: Gianluca Nigro, a 20-year-old rising junior studying political science at George Washington University.

How I changed:  “I was born in Rome, but was raised just south of Boston in a town called Hingham. I have two fantastic parents who always had me eating healthy foods, and I played soccer all throughout school and then I was the captain of my rowing team in high school, but I still came into GW at around 285 pounds and 5-foot-7. The DC and GW lifestyle changed my life, as I am now 170 pounds and healthy.”

What inspired me: “I wanted to make a change because I was concerned about my health. Obesity did not fit my character or the ideals of my culture or my family. I risked the prospect of having to take on multiple diseases and death, and I worked too hard at everything else in my life for it to be shortened by what was laziness on my part. Every situation is different, but for me, it was a lack of motivation to move which was causing my obesity; I had put myself in this position, and I knew I could change it. Being a closet eater was not the fault of my fantastic parents or Italian heritage, but instead it was the fault of my own will to be sedentary. I knew I had to make a change in order to live a long and full life; I was inspired by the prospect that I could give myself a better life. I wanted to prove that I could defeat the freshman 15.”

My exercise routine: “I exercised about six days a week and tried to go on runs as much as I could. I would go to the gym and do two chest days, two leg days, and two back days a week. I would spend about an hour and a half to two hours at the gym every time, and would pair my weight training with 30 to 45 minutes of cardio and 20 minutes of abdominal workouts. I tried to stay on a routine that would be sustainable and that would allow me to build muscle to tone my body. I tried to give myself at least one off day per week, but some weeks, I found myself heading to the gym all seven days. In addition to this, I weighed myself every morning to make sure I was staying on track.”

How I changed my diet: “I went mostly Paleo; I was eating a lot of chicken and turkey, and a lot of cod too. I bought all my food from Whole Foods. I was pretty strict about paleo—I cut out all grains, dairy, and legumes. I had mostly vegetables like broccoli, spinach, kale, and sweet potatoes. For fruits, I was doing a lot of pears, grapefruits, bananas, and avocados. I tried to keep a high content of potassium and fiber in my diet, as well as protein. Being Italian, I missed the pasta, pizza, and risotto, but I knew I had to make a drastic change in order to fight the morbid obesity. I have since moved away from a meat-based diet, and have moved over to a more sustainable diet of mostly fruits and vegetables, as well as some whole grains and legumes. I still try to keep a low sodium, high fiber diet.”

Fight for your family and for your loved ones so that they can live to see you have a full life; but most of all, fight this battle for you, because you can.

How I feel now: “I feel fantastic and healthy. Most of all, however, I feel proud. I have accomplished something that many fail to accomplish; if I can do this, I feel like I can do anything I set my mind to. I have a weight chart of what I weighed and my height from the age of nine to 19. I love going back to look at it now, to see how at five feet and seven inches I weigh what I did when I was a preteen and five feet tall.”

One piece of advice: “Make it about you, fight for you. Weight loss is an ultimate sign of achievement. Fight for your family and for your loved ones so that they can live to see you have a full life; but most of all, fight this battle for you, because you can.”

This interview has been edited and condensed. 

Want to share your transformation story? Email with details. 

Associate Editor

Caroline Cunningham joined Washingtonian in 2014 after moving to the DC area from Cincinnati, where she interned and freelanced for Cincinnati Magazine and worked in content marketing. She currently resides in College Park.