Adventure Theatre’s Michael Bobbitt decided he was done being overweight and unhappy. He lost more than 90 pounds, and the change hasn’t just been physical.
Michael Bobbitt distinctly remembers May 9, 2016, as the day he chose to be happy. The moment he opened his eyes, a desperate craving to feel joy consumed him. That’s when he resolved to shed all the bad stuff—the pounds he’d gained at an alarming rate in his 30s, the pain that came at the end of a 19-year relationship in his 40s, and the lifelong patterns that had enabled it all to happen. The fear of doing things the way he’d always done them became scarier than the prospect of a major life change. “Something had to give,” Bobbitt says.
A series of problems with his live-in partner at the time had come to a head by then, plunging Bobbitt into a state of crisis. His usual self-soothing techniques failed him. Burying himself in work didn’t help; neither did watching television. Even food, his most reliable escape, was no longer satisfying. At nearly 300 pounds, the former dancer and model could barely recognize his 6-foot-2-inch frame in the mirror.
He’d already been trying to eat better and exercise, but that morning Bobbitt realized he needed to make time to do more, even if that meant giving up the job he’d held and cherished since 2007. As the artistic director of Adventure Theatre MTC, which has locations in Glen Echo and Rockville, Bobbitt had transformed what was once a small volunteer-run organization into a nationally recognized professional children’s theater. Under his leadership, the company won its first Helen Hayes Award in 2011, and the theater has racked up 56 nominations and eight more wins.
But Bobbitt, then 43, put it all on the line. Later that May he reached out to the theater’s board of directors to say he needed time to work on himself, and he floated three options. “I told them I could take a sabbatical, or come to work when I wanted to for three months, or leave,” he says. The board chose the middle ground, allowing him the flexible schedule he wanted. Bobbitt then went about disentangling himself from other work obligations. He withdrew from a show he was choreographing at 1st Stage in Tysons Corner, Virginia. William Yanesh, a close friend and music director who was collaborating with him on that production, says Bobbitt cited personal reasons and promptly found a replacement. Then he basically disappeared.
Nearly two months later, after the production opened, Yanesh saw his wife in the lobby after a show. A tall black man stood beside her. The man said hello, and Yanesh did a double take: “Michael?”
There’s a rack full of dietary supplements next to the refrigerator at Bobbitt’s home in Bethesda: probiotics and digestive enzymes to boost gut health, fish oil for the heart, turmeric to help combat inflammation, magnesium and Hawaiian astaxanthin to help tighten saggy skin, a relic of his 90-pound weight loss. Now that the fat has melted off, Bobbitt wants to pump his body full of the nutrients it needs as it continues to heal. He’s planning to wean himself off most of them soon, he says, but for now he’s sticking with the pills and the smoothie he’s concocted—a blend of coconut milk, banana, kale and spinach that he tosses into his NutriBullet with some chlorella, spirulina, trace minerals, bone broth protein, matcha tea, and chia and flax seeds. He gulps one down three times a week.
Bobbitt’s weight dropped so fast at first that it alarmed some of his friends. He was 55 pounds lighter by late July 2016. When new publicity shots of Bobbitt appeared online around that time, about 10 people messaged him. Are you OK? You look so skinny.
“I think people who didn’t know what was going on were taken aback. They didn’t know what they were looking at,” says Roberta Gasbarre, a close friend Bobbitt describes as his second mom. “They saw him as wasting away. He was coming from a place of strength, but they didn’t know that yet.”
To reassure friends that he wasn’t sick, Bobbitt wrote a Facebook post on July 20, 2016, explaining that the weight loss was intentional—accomplished with the support of doctors, therapists, coaches, trainers and nutritionists, along with exercise, mindfulness and diet. He summed up his thinking with a hashtag: #feelinglikemy20s.
It wasn’t exactly how Bobbitt had envisioned the big unveil. “Part of me wanted to disappear and come back all fabulous,” he says. “I wanted a coming-out party.” He’s kidding, kind of, the way he often did in his periodic online updates about his progress. A few days after he went public about his journey, Bobbitt took to Facebook again, this time with a selfie of the left side of his face: “Whew…found my jawbone. It’s been missing since 2003. Still looking for my abs.”
He has since found them. Today, Bobbitt is in much better shape, both physically and mentally, after revamping his diet, working with therapists and taking a deep dive into yoga, meditation and the practice of forgiveness. He’s moved out of the Glen Echo home he shared with his former partner and their son, Sang, 17, who was adopted from Vietnam by the two men in 2002. (They share joint custody of the teenager.) Bobbitt and Sang now live in a snug two-bedroom apartment, and Bobbitt—who realized in college that he was gay—has a new love, Steve Miller. They met in September 2016 through the online dating service OkCupid, and with Sang’s blessing, the couple moved in together soon after their one-year anniversary. Bobbitt, now 46, describes his home life as “chill” and “full of laughter.” Sometimes that laughter comes at his expense.
On an evening this past March, the three are gathered around the dinner table for takeout from a Thai restaurant. Tomorrow they’re heading to Paris for Sang’s spring break, their first trip abroad together. Miller and Sang talk about croque-monsieur and baguettes, feigning over-the-top cravings for French delicacies that Bobbitt can’t touch. “I’m going to eat huge amounts of cheese and bread,” Miller teases, “big warm pieces of bread.” Sang chuckles. His father’s transformation has inspired him to eat more vegetables, drink more water and lay off the processed foods. With Bobbitt’s guidance, the varsity wrestler at Walt Whitman High School even knocked off a few pounds this past season without starving himself or getting dehydrated. But he won’t give up Girl Scout cookies, even for his father’s sake.
Bobbitt, who gave up gluten and dairy two years ago after finding out he’s allergic to both, shrugs off Miller’s joke. “I’m not jealous,” he says. “I don’t miss it. I really don’t.”