NEW YORK >> Rex Ryan still loves Mexican food.
Before, he’d eat as many as 12 tacos in one sitting. These days, it’s more like one.
The New York Jets coach with the big, boisterous personality never hid that he underwent weight-loss surgery in March 2010. Normally happy to talk — and talk — about anything, Ryan was tight-lipped about the details for more than two years. He wanted to reach the milestone of shedding 100 pounds before he opened that famous mouth.
From a peak of 348 pounds, Ryan is now down to about 243.
Even Jets fans sometimes don’t recognize the new, slim Rex.
“I feel good because I know l look better than I did,” he said Thursday, before quickly adding in typical fashion, “which is not saying much.”
“But it wasn’t about that for me,” Ryan continued. “I’ve been married for 25 years. I wasn’t looking for the young girlfriend or whoever. … I wanted to be healthier and live a long, healthy life.”
At a high in his coaching career, he was also hitting a high on the scales. The Jets were about to face the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC championship game after the 2009 season when Ryan happened to weigh himself. He would get short of breath going up stairs but never expected to see the number that left him “mortified”: 348.
The 58-year-old Ryan thought a fellow coach was playing a trick on him, putting pressure on the scale while he stood on it.
“There was nobody there. It was just me,” Ryan said. “I was shocked. I thought I was about 300 to maybe 310.”
He had tried all sorts of diets in the past, losing lots of weight only to gain it all back — and more. Ryan decided to have Lap-Band surgery after hearing the success stories of former players Jamie Dukes and Tony Siragusa.
The device makes him feel full after eating, say, that one taco, forcing him to practice portion control. Ryan acknowledged he didn’t necessarily eat much healthier — just less.
“If I want pizza, instead of eating a whole pizza like I used to, I’ll eat a slice of pizza, if even that,” he said.
The device can be adjusted, so Ryan had it loosened a bit when he and his wife recently went to Paris for their 25th anniversary so he could fully sample the French cuisine.