How a ministroke pushed Tom Arnold to lose 80 pounds this year

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A health scare in January 2022 motivated Tom Arnold, 63, to take control of his health. Arnold is a single dad caring for his two children, Jax, 9, and Quinn, 6. One night, he was giving the kids a bath when he noticed a strange symptom. “It felt like a curtain came down over my eye,” he said. Arnold had plans to film a pilot, and he said, “The old me would have just gotten on the plane the next day and gone to Alaska. But I had the kids, so I put them to bed, and I researched it.” 

While his research led him to believe he had an eye problem, Arnold followed up the next day and found out he had had a ministroke. And that was only his most recent health problem. Two years earlier, he had heart failure that was triggered by a virus. On top of that, he was worried about how the weight he had gained during the pandemic was affecting his health.  

“I could feel the physiological effects of being 285 (pounds). I’d go through airports, and I’d be huffing and puffing a little. My kids are very active, and I could tell I was putting myself in a position to not be a good father,” he said.  

Arnold was motivated to lose weight to reduce his odds of dying young — he wants to be there for his kids. Courtesy Tom Arnold

Working with a coach made a difference 

Enter life coach Charles D’Angelo. Arnold first met D’Angelo at Arnold Schwarzenegger’s house back in 2018. “He offered to work with me then, and I said, ‘thank you,’ and did nothing,” Arnold said. “I had all the ridiculous excuses.”  

D’Angelo weighed 360 pounds when he was in high school and was able to lose the weight and keep it off. As a coach, he shares the method that worked for him with his clients. “Many people come to me, and the issue is not that they don’t know what to do. It’s that they have trouble getting themselves to do what they know,” D’Angelo said. “How do you disconnect from food emotionally, so you no longer use it as a way of distraction or consolation? Food really is something you use to fuel your life. It isn’t your life. To do that, you have to have a plan.”  

Arnold had stayed in touch with D’Angelo, and after his ministroke, they started working together via Zoom. Arnold said, “When he told me in February that I would lose all this weight by the summer, that seemed impossible. But he really believed it, and finally, in the spring, I started believing it.” 

Part of D’Angelo’s plan involves getting to the “why” behind your desire to lose weight. That way, you can prioritize the changes you need to make to get there. “A lot of my clients, particularly those who are parents, find it very difficult, because they almost feel it’s selfish to put themselves first. But I say it’s the most selfless thing they can do, because you can give so much more of yourself,” D’Angelo said. 

In Arnold’s case, he was motivated to lose weight to reduce his odds of dying young — he wants to be there for his kids. 

He followed a straightforward plan 

D’Angelo had a plan for Arnold that began with a half-hour of cardio and eating six times a day. Exercising first thing in the morning helps ensure that it happens. Life can get in the way if you put it off until later in the day. And eating on a schedule helps make healthy nutrition a habit. “Food becomes like brushing your teeth, putting gas in your car, or getting dressed,” D’Angelo said. 

Arnold said, “Before, I wasn’t aware of how I was eating so much. There would be days when I went out in the morning to clean the table, and I was like, ‘Did I really eat all that?’”   

Here’s what he ate in a typical day as part of his weight-loss plan: 

  • Breakfast: A protein shake with strawberries, which he eats after his cardio workout 
  • Snack: Raw almonds 
  • Lunch: Fish or chicken with a lot of vegetables 
  • Snack: Low-fat yogurt 
  • Dinner: Fish or chicken with vegetables 
  • Snack: Fruit popsicle 

“At first, I thought I didn’t need that popsicle, but I noticed I was waking up at night with major cravings. You can’t skip any of these things,” he said. 

He’ll have a treat on occasion. “If the kids have a birthday or a half-birthday, we celebrate. I have ice cream, and it’s delicious when you don’t eat it all the time.”  

He’s up to an hour a day on the elliptical, and instead of increasing the time, he now makes the workouts harder. “I’m challenging myself,” he said. “I’m surprised at what I can do physically.” 

And he’s noticed that exercise is good for his mental health, too: “It’s good for my head — I don’t have enough energy to fight all the battles in my head. It takes the edge off.” 

His kids are also learning the importance of exercise for him: “My daughter came out one day (when I was on the elliptical) and said, ‘Dad, I gotta…’ and my son came out and said, ‘Dad needs to do this for his mental health.’ I love that he said that.” 

Every two weeks, Arnold and D’Angelo meet over Zoom, and Arnold shares photos of his scale. “We talk about my feelings, and why I deserve to be healthy,” Arnold said. 

Travel used to be an excuse to eat, but now when Arnold is on the road, he prioritizes his health — he makes sure he’ll be able to get the food he needs and that he’ll have access to exercise equipment at the hotel.  

He feels like he’s in a good place 

Improving his health means Arnold can be there for his children. He said, “For me, being a single 63-year-old dad with a 9-year-old and a 6-year-old, you really can’t be selfish. I have four ex-wives. People are like, ‘Did you marry too many times?’ Probably, but that’s what it took to get here. This is where I’ve always wanted to be in my life. I’ve had much more money, and I’ve done a bunch of exciting things, but every day with these kids is as exciting. I’m very grateful.” 

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