In spring of 2009 during my (somewhat) annual physical, my doctor informed me I had a hernia. When I asked what the likely cause of this was, he replied something to effect of – “Well, men your age who wear pants that are too tight often develop this condition. Your weight will continue to cause problems like this as you get older – but we can treat them”. The doctor then started talking about medications for cholesterol control. He also started using the term “morbid obese” on my chart.
I was 39 years old, 225 pounds, cholesterol was 225. A little chunky, but hardly morbidly obese by my standards!
I told the doc that I would not be taking the cholesterol medication. He graciously agreed to let me work on the problem with diet and exercise for 6 weeks and then he would insist I start the medication. Don’t you just love it when some skinny doctor has such faith in your ability to control your own destiny?
I left the office that day feeling angry. How dare that doctor call me morbidly obese? How dare he tell me that drugs were my only hope? I would just have to get a new doctor. Then I started to think about things a little deeper. I checked my weight on a BMI calculator – 30 – obese. How did I wind up here? I was 170 pounds when I graduated from college. My wife always said she worried about me when we were dating because I was so skinny (about 190 those days).
14 years later, here I am. Honesty began to set in… My clothes were a little uncomfortable. I had very low energy and could not keep up with my kids. I had gained 50 pounds since college. Maybe I was to blame for some of this – maybe all of this. Damn… the doctor is not just being a jerk.
Now what? Something had to be done. I could fix this.
I joined a “biggest Loser” contest at work. The plan was for all of us to lose some weight in a supportive environment. By participating together, we would encourage each other and hopefully have better success. In order to make it a little interesting, we would each put up some cash and the top 3 losers would win some money.
I ate salad for 10 weeks. I lost 25 pounds. I won $200. No cholesterol medication. Doctor seemed impressed that I wasn’t dead. Life was good.
Fast forward about 1 year – May 2010 – 15 pounds back on, still no energy, clothes getting tighter – so much for real change. To make matters worse, my mother-in-law had moved to the town we live in. She is old and suffers dementia. This was a very stressful time for my wife and our family. I was now witnessing firsthand the effects of long term bad health habits – not just on my mother-in-law, but on my wife, her brother and my kids as we all watched the matriarch decay. Poor health was beginning to affect my wife as well as me.
Time for reflection. What had I done wrong? How did we wind up here? How can I regain control of circumstances? I want to live my life, not have it happen to me.
I joined another “loser” contest starting at work. Maybe I could do this differently this time. I decided to make changes that were sustainable. No more salad only weeks. I would eat good food, but smaller amounts. I will allow myself a cheat day, but I will not go overboard. Food keeps us alive, it is enjoyable, I will not have an adversarial relationship with food, but I will recognize the cost of my choices.
10 weeks later, I am back to 200 pounds – going for 185 by summer 2011. I did not win any money this time around, but I feel like I have made a real change. I eat what I want, but I limit portions. I exercise about 5 days a week on average. I have included my wife and kids in the changes. We are all eating better and getting more exercise and spending more time together. Our overall stress level is beginning to go down.
I think we can keep this up. We are going to be successful.