BURLINGAME (KPIX 5) – The holidays can really be a challenge for those of us who struggle with our weight, and Diego Ruiz Arvizo is no exception. This Students Rising Above scholar is now using his own weight loss journey as a way to inspire all of us.

On a recent Sunday morning, Ruiz Arvizo loaded his plate with oatmeal, peanut butter protein and eggs. The 17 year old Burlingame High School senior needs the fuel for sports like wrestling and football, but his diet wasn’t always this healthy.

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“A lot of bread, cheeseburgers, just things that I shouldn’t have been eating,” said Ruiz Arvizo. “A lot of butter, a lot of grease, just you know fast food.”

It was a fast food that filled a big void. When Ruiz Arvizo was just six months old, his dad left the family. Ruiz Arvizo was about 7 when he saw his dad again. Their reunion would not last.

“I never really talked to him,” recalled Ruiz Arvizo of his father. “He was like more of a stranger than anything, and I think that is when I kind of really realized that he would like never really have like an impact in my life.”

Not having his father around did impact Ruiz Arvizo, and he began to use food as a way to ease the pain of separation and loss.

“It kind of took a toll on me and I found a lot of comfort in my food,” explained Ruiz Arvizo. “And so eventually like I started accumulating weight and eventually it got really bad. Before I knew it I was almost pre-diabetic and had really high cholesterol.”

Veronica Arvizo, Diego’s mother, was scared.

“The doctors say we need to make him lose weight, that he was pre-diabetes,” said Veronica Arvizo of her son. “I don’t want nothing to happen to him in the future.”

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So while Veronica went to nutrition classes, changed the family’s meal planning and began serve more vegetables with smaller portions, Ruiz Arvizo exercised and his weight dropped.

The pounds crept back on as his old eating habits returned. And when he started eighth grade, Ruiz Arvizo found himself in a familiar spot.

“I think I was 5’3″ and like a hundred and seventy five, or eighty pounds,” said Ruiz Arvizo. “I was in the same position and I kind of realized that like I failed to take anything from my experience.”

So he turned away from junk food again and leaned into education and sports. Wrestling, football, AP classes and leadership roles in school clubs brought his confidence up and his weight down.

As the pandemic hit Veronica hard with money struggles, Ruiz Arvizo lifted her spirits with his can-do attitude.

“He was telling me not to worry, “said Veronica Arvizo. “Everything was going to be okay!”

Now, Ruiz Arvizo is applying to colleges, most are close to home. And while his dad is still absent from the family, Veronica is its center, and Ruiz Arvizo sees his future success as her success too.

“It’s also for my mom,” said Ruiz Arvizo of his future. “Like I want to give her a house one day. So working hard for that.”

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Ruiz Arvizo plans on becoming a pediatrician, he says he was inspired by his doctor who helped him with his health.