For more than 22 years, Today weatherman Al Roker has given fans the lowdown on “what’s happening in your neck of the woods.” He’s won 13 Emmy awards for his work on Today and picked up gigs all over television, including on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, Celebrity Family Feud, and Wheel of Fortune.
Despite being known for his hearty smile on camera, the chipper 64-year-old anchor struggled with his weight behind the scenes early on in his Today career. While he is now enjoying a much-healthier lifestyle and weight, Al will tell you he went through his faire share of ups and downs to get to where he is today.
On his food-filled childhood:
As Al revealed in his 2013 memoir Never Goin’ Back: Winning The Weight Loss Battle for Good, the anchor grew up on a diet filled with carbs. Al says his mom cooked for their growing family (he is one of six children) using his father’s bus driver salary. Some of Al’s favorites included pancakes for dinner, grilled cheese and tomato sandwiches, pot roast with potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and Jamaican black-eyed peas and rice.
“All middle-income families use carbs to stretch meals, across any ethnic group — whether it’s kugel or rice and beans or macaroni and cheese,” Al Roker told Parade. Al explains that both his parents came from families that loved to eat and described himself as a “portly kid from Queens, New York.”
On his weight affecting his marriage:
After divorcing WNBC producer Alice Bell in 1994 following 10 years of marriage, Al married journalist Deborah Roberts just one year later. While the couple have been together for 23 years, Al says he felt pressure because of their “mixed-weight marriage.”
In an article for Today, the weatherman says that his unhealthy habits took a toll on their relationship:
“My wife is a size 4; she runs, she works out and it became a problem in our marriage … On a Saturday she’d get up, get dressed to run and I’d be sitting on the couch or making breakfast for the kids … She was upset about it, she was frustrated, she was angry. She thought, ‘Why don’t you care enough about yourself and why don’t you care about me and our relationship enough to change?’ And I said, ‘Look, it’s not about you. It’s about me.’”
On the promise he made to his father:
At his heaviest, Al said he tipped the scales at 340 pounds. It was a combination, he told Matt Lauer in 2013, of “not feeling worthy” and being worried he “wasn’t as good as he thought he was,” and that he just “really liked food.”
But his attitude began to change in 2011. The anchor went on to say in his book that he promised his dying father, Albert Lincoln Roker, Sr., that he’d drop the weight. And to make sure Al kept his word, his father made him “swear to God” that he’d do it.
“I don’t know if you’ve ever had to make a deathbed promise to someone you love, but if you have, you know the kind of guilt and massive responsibility I felt in that moment,” Al wrote. From that moment on, Al knew he had to commit. And on top of all that, a few weeks after his father’s passing, Al found out his wife, Deborah, was pregnant with their son, Nicky.
On his gastric bypass surgery:
In 2002, Al Roker decided to undergo gastric bypass surgery — just one year after he had a total knee arthroplasty and the same year he welcomed Nicky. Despite losing more than 100 pounds, Al revealed to NBC’s Dr. Nancy Snyderman on Dateline in 2013 that his surgery had other not-so-great side effects.
Al: “You have a bypass, you know, and you think your bowels have been reconstructed. You think you’re pretty safe. And I probably went off and ate something I wasn’t supposed to, and as I’m walking to the [White House] press room, [I] turn around and I think ‘I gotta pass a little gas here.’ So I walk by myself [and think] ‘who’s going to know?’ … Only a little something extra came out.”
Nancy: “You pooped in your pants.”
Al Roker: “I pooped my pants.”
On how his mother’s death affected his weight:
In 2011, Al’s mother was hospitalized, which caused him to slip back into his old habits. He ended up gaining 40 pounds by the time his mother passed away.
“I was out of my routine, commuting [to Long Island] to see her, and feeling guilty — either that I wasn’t spending enough time with the kids and Deborah, or that I wasn’t being there enough with my mom,” Al said to Parade. “I consoled myself with food. I got blindsided and, I think, to a certain extent, I got cocky.”
Looking back on the tough time, Al told Today back in 2016 that he “hated” that he “went back,” adding that he now knows what he has to do “to keep that from happening again.”
On the stigmas attached to being overweight:
In 2002, Al was reluctant to talk about his surgery in fear of the way overweight people are treated. He called getting the procedure done “the ultimate admission of failure.”
“In this country, if you have an alcohol problem or a drug problem, you can get treatment,” Al explained to U.S.A. Today. “If you have a weight problem, it’s lack of willpower: ‘Just push away from the table, tubby, and you’d lose that weight.’ But you can stop drinking, you can stop sticking a needle in your arm. You cannot not eat.”
He touched on a different stigma with Parade, saying that society puts you in a box.
“It’s [being overweight] the last acceptable group to make fun of. Throughout media, the heavy guy is the funny guy, the easy laugh … [and] when you’re overweight, you see that as your role,” he said to the outlet.
On what he did to lose weight:
“I used to look at a pint of Häagen-Dazs and call it a serving size. Now I know that I can have a couple of spoonfuls and I’m done,” Al remarked to U.S. News. “I’m more in control — and I’m controlling food.”
Apart from being more careful with portions, Al says he picked up an exercise routine called the “slow method” (developed by endurance athlete Melissa Bowman) that involves 30-minute high-intensity sessions three times a week. Additionally, Al told Runner’s World that he began running in March 2010. From there he went on to run a half marathon in Chicago and the New York City Marathon both in 2010.
“I know I need to exercise. For some people, exercise is like breathing; for others, like me, it takes effort. Exercising is what I need for my metabolism and for a better sense of well-being,” he said to U.S. News.
In his book, he details that he went on a 28-day detox where he cut out caffeine, alcohol, sugar, dairy, and gluten. From there, he also permanently changed his diet and committed to eating “only whole, unprocessed foods that are high in protein and low in carbs.”
On what his routine looks like now:
The weatherman expressed in Never Goin’ Back that maintaining his weight (which is now around 190 pounds) is “a killer,” but notes that he’s found a way to keep himself in check.
“I weigh myself in the morning and at night, so that I know where that number is,” Al said on a Today interview in 2013. Apart from eating better and strength training, Al says he has worked hard to get rid of bad habits where boredom could lead to bingeing.
“Unless there is breaking news, we don’t allow TV watching at home while we’re eating,” Al explained on Today. “I also try not to read and eat, and interestingly, since I stopped that habit, my comprehension is even better.”