RHONJ's Joe Giudice Lost Weight in Prison by Working Out and Not Drinking, Source Says

Joe Giudice is a free man — with a new look.

On Friday, PEOPLE confirmed that the Real Housewives of New Jersey star, 47, was freed from ICE custody and flew to Rome, where he will continue to appeal his deportation order.

After his release, Joe looked noticeably slimmer in photos posted to social media by his family. A source tells PEOPLE that his new physique is due to the lifestyle change he underwent while behind bars for mail, wire and bankruptcy fraud.

“He lost the weight from changing his diet, working out and no drinking,” the source says.

Before going to prison in March 2016, Joe told PEOPLE he was looking forward to quitting drinking while serving his time after he found himself developing bad habits while wife Teresa Guidice was completing her own prison sentence for the same crimes.

“I am not going to be able to drink for a while, which is good because I don’t even know when it’s been since I haven’t had a drink,” he told PEOPLE in February 2016. “It’s been a long time.”

And in September 2016, Teresa told PEOPLE that Joe kept busy in prison by working out, revealing that he lost about 35 lbs. in the first six months of his 41-month sentence.

“He’s running, he’s doing 1,000 sit-ups a day,” she told PEOPLE. “So he lifts weights and that’s what he’s doing. Just running, working out and then a lot of push-ups and sit-ups. He’s doing over 1,000 sit-ups.”

Joe used his workouts as an escape during his time behind bars, his wife said.

“I said just get your mind and body in check. It’ll be good for you,” Teresa explained. “He’s been through a lot with losing his dad and then me gone, it’s a lot.”

On the day of Joe’s release, his daughters shared sweet photos of their dad on social media.

His eldest child, Gia Giudice, posted a throwback photo of herself giving her dad a hug.

“Facetime you soon daddy❤️🙏🏻,” Gia, 18, captioned the post.

Meanwhile, Gia’s sister Milania Giudice, 14, shared a family photo of Joe and his four daughters to her Instagram Story, writing, “love you forever.”

On Saturday morning, Gia shared an update, posting a screenshot of a FaceTime conversation with Joe to her Instagram Story.

“One of the happiest moments of my life!” she captioned the image, which is the first new photo of Joe in over three years. “Love you so much daddy, so happy your [sic] free! see you so soon.”

After Joe was released on Friday, his lawyer James J. Leonard Jr. told PEOPLE in a statement that he called Teresa and Gia from the plane.

“He is en route to Italy right now. He spoke to Teresa and Gia from the plane and he is extremely happy to be released, more than words can describe,” Leonard said.

He added that they will continue to appeal Joe’s deportation order while he is in Italy: “We are still fighting and it is his desire to return home to the United States to be reunited with his family.”

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