fb-pixel Skip to main content

Diet advice for Pablo — whether he wants it or not

Pablo Sandoval, left, said hello to new teammate Chris Young during his first day at spring training on Sunday.Jim Davis/Globe Staff

Samantha Nadeau, an assessment specialist with the Transportation Security Administration, and Pablo Sandoval, a third baseman with the Red Sox, wouldn’t seem to have much in common. But with her wedding in Peabody just three months away, and his opener in Cleveland less than six weeks from now, they’re both staring down a weight-loss deadline — one self-imposed, the other demanded by Red Sox Nation.

Nadeau is trying to lose 15 pounds. “I’ve been engaged for over two years, but now I’m freaking out,” she said.

Sandoval is decidedly not freaking out, at least not publicly. But since he showed up at spring training with his gut front and center, Red Sox fans have worked themselves in a state of righteous outrage: He has the chutzpah to show up with a belly like that when we’re paying him $95 million?


The fans aren’t the only ones concerned by Sandoval’s current shape. On Tuesday, in a radio interview, Sox chairman Tom Werner said he, too, was disappointed in the player’s condition.

“But I think the most important thing — and I think we’d all agree on this — is how is he going to be on April 4 and how is he going to be on May 4?” Werner said on WEEI.

Sandoval, 29, signed a five-year deal with the Red Sox in 2014, and last year racked up the kind of lousy stats that make fans turn on a player. So before he “eats himself out of the league” — to use the term of art used by those who have watched some pro athletes grow and grow — what should Sandoval do?

John Kruk, a baseball analyst with ESPN — and a former player who took heat for his own weight issues — sees two choices for Sandoval.

One involves better eating. “He’s just got to work harder, you know?” said Kruk, who spent most of his career with the Philadelphia Phillies.


The second option involves playing better so no one cares about his weight. “If he goes out and hits .320 and drives in 80 or 90 runs, people will say, ‘He’s OK the way he is,’ ” Kruk added.

Former Sox nutritionist Tara Mardigan points out that a person’s problems with food can be bigger than themselves.

The “eating environment” can play a role, too, she said.

As she tells her current clients, at Fruit Street, a telemedicine firm based in New York: If your drive to work takes you past a Dunkin’ Donuts and you often stop in for a doughnut or three, change your route.

Consider Sandoval’s work day. As a pro athlete who often works the 7:05 p.m. shift, he faces a challenge that is familiar to students pulling all-nighters. It is the lure of the pizza.

“Think about what’s available [to eat] late at night,” Mardigan said.

In 2010, Sandoval reportedly weighed in at 278 pounds — which got him benched in the postseason when he was playing for the San Francisco Giants.

He brought that reputation to the Red Sox, along with a nickname or two: Kung Fu Panda and Round Mound of Pound.

How much weight does Sandoval need to lose, anyway? His current weight is unknown, but John Wayman, the owner of Beantown Bootcamp , estimates Sandoval needs to lose about 30 or 40 pounds, “at least,” and says that six weeks isn’t enough time to do it safely.

“The American College of Sports Medicine would say that 2.2 pounds per week is the most anyone should lose,” he said.

Pablo, if you’re reading this: Don’t do the math.


Wayman recommends that Sandoval avoid white flour, white pasta, sugar, and bad fats, and load up on lean protein and fruit and vegetables.

Gregg D’Andrea a “health solutions specialist” at gstarfit, a Needham personal training and spinning studio, says he’d put Sandoval on the Paleo program — a diet presumed to be like the one eaten by early humans consisting mainly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit.

“A guy like that has an insatiable appetite,” D’Andrea said. “I would feed him a diet rich in grass-fed red meats, free-range chicken, free-range turkey, tons of veggies. I would get rid of all of his soy if he has any. I would get rid of almost all of his dairy. I’d get rid of nuts and grains. I would use a certain amount of fruits, mostly berries.”

Sandoval seems unbothered by his rotundity. But if the fans demanding he slim down do get inside his head, a former Bruins Ice Girl, Nicole Murphy, advised against trying for fast weight loss.

She regularly put herself on “crazy” diets ahead of the annual photo shoot for the Bruins website, and the results were temporary, at best.

“I would try diet pills that didn’t really work,” she recalled. “I would try and go tanning, thinking that if I’m tanner I’ll look skinnier. I tried a juice cleanse and a soup diet. I did one diet where the theory was you drank a lot of water and then stopped drinking water two days before the photo shoot and somehow it would make you slim down.”


Sandoval has not said he wants to lose weight. In fact, last March he told USA Today that one of the reasons he didn’t want to stay with the Giants was the nagging.

“If I had signed [with the Giants], I knew I would be under a [weight] regimen for five years,” he said, “and I’m not going to be happy someplace where I’m under that kind of regimen, where I can’t be myself.”

The reality is that Sandoval has excelled as an extra large. Perhaps we are not seeing the situation clearly.

As D’Andrea of gstarfit put it: “What you see is not who he is. He is an athlete inside.”

Beth Teitell can be reached at bteitell@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @bethteitell.