Robert A. Hughes

There is a celebrity among us—Robert Hughes, field superintendent, project manager and director of plant operations for J.D. Miles & Sons Inc., Chesapeake, Va., appeared on the Incredible Weight-loss Stories episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show." After the 43-year-old hit 365 pounds (164 kg), he made a decision to get his life in order. Hughes began walking 1 mile (1.6 km) a day and watching what he ate. He read weight-loss magazines to learn how to create a menu plan. Hughes lost 165 pounds (74 kg); he now runs 5 miles (8 km) per day and is a trainer at a local gym.

Professional Roofing: Why did you appear on "The Oprah Winfrey Show"?
Hughes: My appearance on the show was the result of a tremendous amount of meditation, prayer and hard work. My fiancé, Kim Gales, submitted my story in June 2002 in response to the show's request for dramatic life changes linked to personal weight. I didn't hear anything until Jan. 6. Show representatives then called several times every day for an entire week asking all types of questions but always ending the conversation by saying, "We're considering hundreds of people." Then, on Sunday, Jan. 12, the show called to tell me my flight was leaving for Chicago at 7:17 a.m. the next Monday. I was in the gym training a client when I received the call; my client yelled about the show to a local ABC affiliate news anchor also at the gym. The anchor had me come to the studio for an interview before leaving for the airport.

The show aired Feb. 10 and July 21. Although I didn't speak to Oprah off camera, the experience always will be with me. She's a wonderful person, and her entire staff redefined the meaning of first class. For three days, I was treated like Denzel Washington!

What is your most unusual roofing experience?
I was delivering some gravel stop to a new construction site in Hampton, Va., that just had been filled in with dirt. I walked across the dirt and began to sink. Everyone at the job site stopped and watched the incredible sinking man. It took four guys to pull me out, and I lost both boots.

What was your first roofing experience?
June 1, 1994, at the U.S. Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek, Norfolk, Va. I was grossly overweight and had to climb up scaffolding indoors and clean asphalt off painted metal joists.