Guest Post: The First 100 Pounds

Monday, March 26, 2012

I don’t have an exact date of the diagnosis. It was somewhere between 2005 and 2006. It came about because I had to change primary doctors. My old doctor was going back to school to specialize in cardiology. He had been content to “keep an eye” on my high blood pressure. He never said anything about my weight, which was over 400 pounds. When I switched to my new doctor, I had no idea of the awakening I was about to go through. Dr. M. took one look at me and sent me for tests.

The tests came back with high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and Type II diabetes. I dove into problem-solving mode. I had a daughter. I had just had my first back surgery . I had a knee scoped. I have arthritis in my back due to a combination of genetics, abusing my body with football (American) and weight. The knee problem was mostly weight. I was a mess. I went on offense.

The first thing you learn about with Diabetes is the amount of sugar in EVERYTHING. It is insane. Diabetes health care people want you to regulate your carbohydrate intake. Carbs equal sugar. This forces you to adjust your diet. It forces you to try to control your blood sugar throughout the course of a day. And, just for fun, everybody is different. Their bodies react in different ways to high and low blood sugar. I, for example, can never eat another jelly bean again. Other people can strap on a bag of Jelly Belly’s and go crazy.

I now take an assortment of pills every day. One for cholesterol, one for blood pressure, two (combined) for diabetes. The diabetes “medicine” causes you to retain weight if not outright gain it.

The health care people don’t take a holistic approach. They don’t even talk about calories really. They don’t talk about the Glycemic Index. I was looking for a more holistic approach. I started reading. I found Dr. Andrew Weil. I’ve read a lot of his books. I don’t know which one I read first:

Eating Well for Optimum Health
Eating Well For Optimum Health: The Essential Guide to Bringing Health and Pleasure Back to Eating
Eating Well For Optimum Health: The Essential Guide to Food, Diet and Nutrition


8 Weeks to Optimum Health
Eight Weeks to Optimum Health, Revised Edition: A Proven Program for Taking Full Advantage of Your Body's Natural Healing Power

Both do a really good job of explaining Weil’s holistic approach to wellness. He takes an “anti-inflammatory” approach to diet. Bad food causes inflammation in your various body parts. Inflammation leads to sickness. I am WAY oversimplifying his approach. Eating Well is a must read. It will BLOW YOUR MIND. He takes a clinical/scientific approach to the fuel your body needs: protein, fats, carbs, etc.

In 8 Weeks, he lays out a plan for you. Diet, Exercise, Mind. I love it. I cycle through it still. The changes he gradually introduces are now a standard part of my approach to living. I still can’t kick diet soda. But I am trying.

I dropped 100 pounds in about 2 years after switching to Dr M. I had gone through a series of rough career patches, ok, maybe one long rough patch. I started exercising a lot. Through the encouragement of Dr. Weil, I found yoga. For exercise, he recommends walking every day and some strength training and some stretching. I was unemployed so I started a twice a week yoga practice. If you are out of work and are not already exercising, start walking. Thirty minutes a day. Go to the library, get a yoga DVD. Or - use the internets. (I actually wrote a blog post about all the things I learned while being unemployed:

I LOVED it. Me and a crop of retirees. I approached it like I approached lifting for high school football. All business. I also needed to strengthen my core. I knew I had on-going issues in my back. Yoga worked me. I have seen it bring gym rats literally to their knees. It will kick your butt. I started a job at a startup and spent way too much time working and not enough time doing any kind of exercise.

I put on weight - 30 pounds. My back started giving me a lot of trouble again. I went through a series of spinal injections. Not fun. I went to a neuro-surgeon. I wanted a different opinion. He showed me the vertebrae crumbling in my lower back. He showed me the arthritis climbing its way up my spine. In September, I had 6 titantium screws put in my lower back along with 2 spacers where discs had once been. This is a spinal fusion. Three vertebrae fused together. I am still recovering (March 2012) and will be for another six months. My recovery has been pretty simple: walk 30 minutes (a little over a mile for me) and get in the pool once or twice a week. I walk in the pool. I still can’t generate enough power in my legs to even use a kickboard effectively, but I will get there.

In the hospital, my heart rate was JACKED. They worried that I was having a heart attack or going to at any time. My primary doctor - Dr. M. - got involved. Love that guy. Seriously. Find a doctor that you love. And make sure that it is love based on the fact that he or she will tell you the real deal and not cut you any slack.

I had gained another 20 pounds in the hospital and the first couple of weeks of being home. (Pain meds make you constipated. Let’s just leave it at that.) At this point I am up 50-60 pounds from my low.

Unacceptable. Time to get to work.
I went back to Dr. Weil as soon as I had recovered. I got an infection after the surgery which set me back with exercise and eating?. With diabetes you don’t heal as quickly as a normal person. And you can easily get infections. Even with taking precautions, I got an infection. It destroyed me. I could not move around because I had zero energy. I couldn’t keep food down/in. I was doing everything I could to fuel my body. When I got stable, I broke out the 8 Week Plan and got to work.

I started walking. S.l.o.w.l.y. Crawling really. But one foot in front of the other. I changed my diet. Weil is all about not eating processed food. Cut out the junk. And there is a LOT of junky food out there. I started counting calories. I got some meals together that I really like. I know the calorie counts of those meals. I eat 5 to 6 times a day. It regulates my blood sugar. Small meals. Portion size is critical. You have to put all these things together: calories, portion size, quality of food you are eating, when you eat, exercise.

I just got weighed yesterday at the surgeon during a follow up visit. I am at 303. That is the lightest I have been in 15-20 years. My goal is 290 by June. I go back to my primary doctor then. When I get under 300 I can stop taking the meds. Well, I can start to wean off them. You can’t go cold turkey. I am stoked.

It has been a long journey. And it will be a continuing journey. My ultimate goal is somewhere around 225. I am a big guy - 6’ 2”. Broad shoulders. Giant head. You look at certain literature and it will point me to 170 - 180 as being my “ideal” weight. It is about overall wellness for me. Not just weight. Plus I think I would look like a freak that skinny. Or, as Mollie says, a bobble-head. :)

Mike lives in Western, NY where he drives by a farm every day. He married Karen at the Flamingo in Las Vegas (yes, Elvis was there) in 1998. In 2001, they had Erin, who decided she was going to be 72 days (11 weeks) early. He works as a project manager with a software development team in a telecommunications firm. You can find out more at, LinkedIn, google+ and Twitter.

1 comment:

  1. Dietitians live and breathe calories and the GI.. why not ask for an appointment with one? Interesting read Mollie!


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