Wellness Journey — how I got lean again.

In June 2010, following another routine physical exam, my MD hit me with a recommendation that pushed me over the cliff.  The trend in my blood sugar was not looking good – my HbA1c had crept up to 7.6.  I’d been told that Diabetes generally gets worse with age and, at that time – contrary to today — I wasn’t getting any younger.  Medical science had come up with a wonderful new “cure” for what ailed me.  My MD was skeptical about my continued promises to do better and actually get my blood sugar down.  He suggested that I try this promising new breakthrough – Byetta, by Amylin Pharmaceuticals.  Byetta was acclaimed to drop my HbA1c by a full point and, also, help control diet.  Byetta is based on an enzyme contained in Gila monster saliva.  All I had to do was inject this miracle drug into my belly twice a day – once in the morning an hour before breakfast, then a second injection an hour before evening meal, and keep the potient refrigerated; like magic, I’d get my blood sugar right.  For me, that was it.  The prescription sounded horrible.  I rebelled.  But I realized that with all of my medical history, my MD was right.  I really needed to fix that blood sugar and all the other cardiovascular related imbalances.  However, I “knew” that I could get the same result if I’d simply lose 20-pounds.

Losing weight and keeping it off is much easier said than done.  Nevertheless, twice a day belly injections was abhorrent and I vowed to adopt a permanent lifestyle change and do what it took to avoid the unpleasant alternatives.  My MD was justifiably skeptical.  I made so many promises so many times before.  Statistics are terrible on weight change strategies.  The vast majority of dieters fail to achieve significant results and to top that, of those dieters that temporarily succeed, more than 85% gain the lost weight back immediately and then some.  I did not want that.  I intended a permanent lifestyle change.

I knew that if I got too hungry that I would eat – probably too much.  I determined that I was not going to suffer; that I’d not get too hungry.  My MD suggested that I try a smart phone App, “LoseIt”, recommended by one of his patients – to log & monitor calories in and out.  I’d downloaded that App onto my phone months earlier but hadn’t started to use it earlier.  I started on the program that very day.  Logged in my weight – which was then 195 pounds – and set a goal of 175 within 40-weeks.  I’d set a low-bar – only ½ pound weight loss per week.  But I was determined to make a permanent lifestyle change and avoid a crash diet that would have me yo-yoing my weight.  I’d taken over 20-years to pile on that excess 20-pounds; 40 weeks didn’t seem unreasonable time to take it off permanently.  The App made it very easy to log in calories of each bite I ate; it made me conscious of what I was eating.  I followed that regime religiously for about 4-months until I learned to eat “right”.  I did adopt several simple rules.  Abstain from sugar, processed foods, “junk” food, Dr. Ann Kulze’s “Great White Hazards” – simple white carbohydrates devoid of most nutrients but loaded with calories – such as white flower, white bread, white rice, white potatoes.  The “MyFitnessPal” App is acclaimed by some as better.  They work basically the same and make it very easy to become aware of what you’re eating and what impact it will have on your fitness goals.  I monitored every meal, learned what foods were high calorie and not.  I stuck to my daily net calorie budget.  I’d read many books and articles that provided great guidance and I went back to re-read several for continued inspiration:

Dr. Ann Kulze’s, Eat Right for Life.  A succinct guide to basic food.

Younger Next Year, by Chris Crowley and Henry Lodge, MD. In spite of it’s breezy entertaining manner, a very provocative insightful and inspiring motivator.  This book helped me change my life.   I do actually feel younger than I was 16 years ago!

Why We Get Fat and What to Do About it, by Gary Taubes.  An insightful rigorous skeptical assessment of underlying causes of our primary health issue.

So, I cut the sugar, cut processed foods, cut white foods. I cut simple carbs that go straight to sugar in the gut.  I’m still a fan of Dr. Ann.  Her diet recommendations are on point.  Chris Crowley and Dr. Henry Lodge distill a lot of wisdom in their entertaining little book.  It’s absolutely not “younger next week”, but “younger next year”!  I didn’t discover Gary Taubes until recently.  Taubes’ counsel is wise.  More on him, his associate Peter Attia and their new mission in later articles.

Develop a sound program and stick with it.  I did stick with my program and steadily lost ½ pound per week for forty weeks.  My average blood sugar dropped steadily, as did my blood pressure and “bad” cholesterol.  After reaching my initial 175-pound goal, I figured I could stand to lose another 10-pounds and get my Body Mass Index (BMI) below 25 so that I’d no longer fall in the “overweight” class.  I, also, wanted done with all the meds.  I figured that if I kept up my “Younger Next Year” program that I could dispense with most, if not all, of those crutches.  That revised goal took another 20-weeks and with my weight down to 165-pounds, my HbA1c was down to 6.0, blood pressure was about 110/70, and cholesterol readings were excellent. With the OK of my MD, I dropped all those drugs, felt great and continue to feel great.  I’m writing this first blog article while flying back from a biking adventure with my 16-year old grandson from Amsterdam to Bruges.  This was a Backroads.com luxury jaunt.

We biked from 20 to 43-miles per day for 6-days – a delightful adventure.  I seriously doubt that I’d be up to that adventure 35-pounds ago.  As of today, I strongly endorse the “Younger Next Year” program.  It is absolutely worth it.

In my next article, I discuss an ongoing nutrition revolution.

6 comments

  1. […] His first two posts: How I got fat and How I got lean again. […]

  2. More than a delightful adventure rather a life changing experience. I am really glad we were able to enjoy the trip together!

  3. So what you’re saying is all we have to do is eat right and exercise and we can stay off meds? Count me in!
    Seriously though Tom, you are a poster child for my other patients. You really did it and you should be proud. Since your success story, I regualrly threaten my patients with needles. I’m glad you finally told your story. Keep it up!

  4. Mark Turner · · Reply

    Tom, You look great! I’m glad to see that you’re doing well.

  5. John Ford · · Reply

    Wow – this is great inspiration – thanks so much for posting this! I will definitely check the books out and hope to remain steady…

  6. […] written earlier about my own wellness journey in Wellness Journey — how I got fat. and Wellness Journey — how I got lean again.  My weight round trip wasn’t spectacular.  My maximum weight was “only” 210 […]

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