HAWTHORNE, N.J. — Alex Varelis of Hawthorne makes quick work of the punching bag at his gym.
Boxing has done more than help the Garfield native shed 130 pounds over the course of three years: it’s helped rid him of his demons.
“It’s a release,” said Varelis, 25, a construction worker.
It’s how I get away.
That hasn’t always been the case for Varelis, a member of Retro Fitness Hackensack, who for years used food to cope with his feelings.
It all came to a head in 2014, as his dreams of owning a restaurant — particularly The Red Chimney in Clifton — crumbled at his feet.
"My business was basically failing,” Varelis said. “I had an argument with the landlord and decided to shut the restaurant down.”
He was living alone at the time, which made isolating himself with food fairly easy. It wasn’t long before Varelis ballooned to 295 pounds.
Fearful of losing his apartment, Varelis moved into a place in Elmwood Park with a friend, Billy Kuzmanovski, now of Paramus, who brought him along to the gym.
Seeing results only made Varelis want to work harder. He picked up boxing and cleaned up his diet, slowly but surely changing his life.
“I always wanted to change but never really went about it the right way,” he said. “[Kuzmanovski] pushed me in the right direction.”
It's all still sinking in.
"Whenever old pictures pop up of me it's always a bit of a shock," he said.
Every now and then I walk past a mirror or reflection and do a double take and I smile a bit.
Dropping the weight wasn’t easy, and Varelis says there’s no special secret. It comes down to one thing.
“Dedication,” he said.
You’ve got to be willing to get down and put in the work.
“Stay positive, stay grinding and believe in the process.”
FOLLOW ALEX VARELIS ON INSTAGRAM: @LEXLOWKEY