By Molly Snyder Senior Writer Published Dec 28, 2005 at 5:34 AM

Tom Riewe struggled with his weight for most of his life, but this summer, he finally hit rock bottom.

"My eating was out of control," says Riewe. "I was eating proportions that would have scared you. Now, looking back on what I was putting into my body on a daily basis scares the heck out of me."

Riewe admits to devouring hoards of high-carb food like boxes of Little Debbie snacks, entire pizzas, loaves of bread and cans of Coke in one sitting. He often hid food and secretly binged at all-you-can-eat buffets and fast food restaurants where super-sized meals sell for small dollars.

"I was definitely in the rut of eating out of a bag in my car everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner," he says.

When Riewe packed on more weight to his already-large frame this year, friends and family confronted him, fearing for his health. But even though he suffered from knee pain, sleep apnea, depression and the inability to buy clothing at regular stores, he wasn't ready to listen to their concerns or take his out-of-control eating habits seriously.

However, shortly after a failed romantic relationship this past fall, the producer for 97.3 The Brew's morning show, John Bradley, asked Riewe to enter the station's "Biggest Loser" contest. Normally, Riewe would have cowered at the thought, but instead he began to examine his life, and after a period of soul searching, decided to enter.

"I had nothing to lose, except the excess pounds that have plagued me since childhood. It was time," says Riewe. "I owe a lot to John and The Brew for extending the offer to me; they really helped to kick-start a change in me that will last the rest of my life."

The eight-week contest featured three teams of three people, all competing by shedding pounds for a trip to Cancun. Riewe's team, which included Bradley, won the contest.

Riewe, 33, lives in West Allis, and works for Robert W. Baird as a purchasing specialist. He also plays guitar with his band, 76 Juliet, a '70s-to-the-present cover band that's played for six years at clubs and festivals like Summerfest, State Fair and Rooters. Performing became increasingly more difficult for Riewe over the years as he gained more and more weight.

When Riewe started the Biggest Loser contest last September, he was weighed for the first time in 20 years and says that seeing the number brought him to tears.

"I'm not ashamed to admit that I cried. It was a huge redefining moment in my life and without stepping on that scale, who knows if I ever would have been able to devote myself in the same way that I have," he says.

Although he's suffered a couple of setbacks at holiday meals, Riewe has managed to shed at least 78 pounds. During a recent phone call, he said he has probably lost more, but only weighs himself once a month and won't know an exact number for a few more days.

Although he is almost 80 pounds sleeker, Riewe still hopes to lose an additional 20 to 30 pounds, with a goal weight around 260, and says he might even slowly take off another 20 or 30 pounds after he makes his goal weight. At this point, Riewe is not comfortable disclosing how much he weighs, and says he is trying not to define his progress based on what the scale reads.

So how did he lose the weight?

Through The Biggest Loser Contest, he was given a team of personal trainers at Fitness Together in the Third Ward. He soon started a rigorous workout schedule including daily one-hour personal training sessions, hour-long cardio sessions by himself and nightly crunches, push-ups and step aerobics.

"This was the most time and energy I ever put into bettering myself. And it was by far the hardest thing I've ever had to do," he says.

On top of the intense exercise regime, Riewe learned for the first time what it means to eat healthy. He doesn't eat at fast food restaurants anymore, and knows what kinds of foods to put into his body that are useful, instead of empty calories.

Over the years, Riewe tried a slew of diets, including the Atkins diet. He says he would initially lose 15 or 20 pounds, but as soon as he stopped dieting, he would gain all of the weight back again, and then some.

"It's pretty frustrating, because there is so much conflicting information out there when it comes to diet and exercise. I was so confused at times I had no idea what I should or shouldn't eat," he says.

This time, Riewe is certain he is going to keep off the weight and continue to lose in 2006. He says the support of his friends, family -- and the staff at Fitness Together -- keeps him focused, and that when he feels tempted to eat fattening foods, he remembers how much time, energy, blood, sweat and tears he has invested in his weight loss.

Plus, Riewe is inspired by the physical and social changes that have evolved since his weight loss. He says he is more confident and outgoing than he has ever been, and that now, instead of dreading a four-hour gig with his band, he loves every minute of it.

"I don't feel the need to hide in the corner of a room anymore. I am absolutely loving getting out there and living life, you know, just doing the simple things that I've wanted to do for so long," he says. "I am a definite work in progress, and I'm loving the journey almost as much as I am sure that I'll love reaching my destination. Life is good, and I have truly been blessed."

Tom Riewe's weight loss blog is

76 Juliet's Web site is

Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.

Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.