Feisty Dino Fudoli disappeared from politics last November after a crushing loss in his campaign for re-election as Lancaster town supervisor.
He said his time in politics – first as county legislator and then as the Republican supervisor of a heavily Democratic town – left him disillusioned.
"I was in politics for six years," he said. "Not one single person who was on that town board with me was there for the people. They were there for their own paychecks and how many family members they could get on the town rolls. I don't even belong to the Republican committee anymore. I don't do anything in politics. I don't go to board meetings. I pulled that chapter and started a new one."
Instead of running a town – and having run-ins with everyone from the Lancaster School District's Board of Education to the town police to unions representing town workers – Fudoli is now a competitive bodybuilder and personal trainer.
And judging from the Mr./Ms. Buffalo bodybuilding competition earlier this month in Niagara Falls, where Fudoli won three trophies, Fudoli's muscle flexing upsets fewer people now than when he was a politician.
"I wasn't crazy about getting on stage in Speedos at age 46," said Fudoli. "Your skin isn't as tight as it used to be when you were 20. It wasn't until I was halfway through my diet that someone told me: 'You're still built like a bodybuilder. You need to get on stage.' When I came in as tight as I did, I didn't hesitate at all. A lot of the judges even said my legs were some of the best in the show."
"I've put (personal training) clients on the stage before," he said. "I decided it was time to take that leap myself. I did the show to build my business. I wanted to challenge myself. Can I do this and be successful?"
Bodybuilding is a short man's sport, say the short men who seem to excel at it. They say it's easier to put on muscle when you're less than tall.
At 5 feet 3 inches and 162 pounds, Fudoli thrives on athleticism. He works out seven days a week at Maximum Impact, the gym he owns on Transit Road in Depew. "There is no such thing as overtraining. There is undereating, but I like to eat," said Fudoli. "I'm Italian."
How much does Fudoli eat? Try 6,000 calories a day consumed in meals containing 500 to 600 calories each. That's two to three times what the average person eats daily. To accomplish that, Fudoli said he chows down 3 to 4 pounds of chicken a day.
"I cook six pounds at a time on my George Foreman Grill – enough for two days," he said. "I love that thing. In the morning I work out on an empty stomach and then eat a bowl of oatmeal and a protein shake. That's my breakfast. I don't even know what Tim Hortons or Starbucks tastes like."
Fudoli said he doesn't know how much weight he can lift. "I don't lift for weight anymore," he said. "I lift until I can't."
Fudoli said he advocates the natural form of bodybuilding, shunning steroids and any other artificial means of muscle-pumping.
"I don't know if the others are all natural or not," he said. "I don't know what other competitors are doing. That's not my business. I just know that I am. I pay attention to what I do. My thing is sound nutrition. A lot of protein shakes. I eat a lot."
As a NESTA (National Exercise and Sports Trainers Association) certified personal trainer, Fudoli's forte is nutrition counseling, which is precisely why Diane Rodriguez sought him out. At age 40, Rodriguez struggled for a decade with eating disorders.
"I had exercise anorexia," Rodriguez said. "I overexercised and ate less. It grew into a monster. I got super skinny, became bulimic – one thing after another."
Fudoli recommended reverse dieting and Rodriguez bought in to his idea. "It all entails eating more, but I never allowed myself to eat," she said.
And this is when Fudoli, known for his combative nature, showed another side, said Rodriguez. "His motivation, his encouragement," said Rodriguez. "He checked on me daily. Every morning he would text: 'How are you doing?' He was very supportive and caring. I struggled with my weight for a long time."
Maybe it was the competitive nature in Fudoli that wanted his client to triumph over others. As a child, he was drawn by competitive sports, recalled his mother, Madeline Fudoli.
"He was always getting into different sports from bungee jumping to triathalons to bike riding," said Madeline Fudoli. "The only thing he never got in to was golf because it was too time-consuming. He was determined and strong-willed.
"When he was 16, he wanted to get his driver's license but the only driving experience he had was on our tractor cutting grass. 'I'll take it anyway,' he said, 'and if I don't make it, I'll try again.' I was just so amazed when he passed."
On April 1, when Fudoli's mom and her three grandsons – Brandon, 18, Dino, 16, and Marco, 13 – sat in the audience to watch Fudoli on stage competing in bodybuilding for the first time in 20 years, she was excited.
"I was really proud of him," said Madeline Fudoli. "At his age, there's not too many going out for that. It requires a lot of discipline."
Backstage at the Mr./Ms. Buffalo bodybuilding competition, Fudoli and his client Rodriguez were supporting each other – applying posing oil and exchanging encouragement. Fudoli walked on stage to a song he selected by Metallica called "Don't Tread on Me." But the CD player malfunctioned. The music kept skipping, he said, because he got posing oil all over the CD.
"I basically did my routine with no music," he said. "The crowd was kind of laughing, and I'm a crowd kind of guy."