My New Lifestyle
Taking his doctor’s advice seriously, Jamesmessick has managed to control his diabetes, high blood pressure and cholesterol by losing over 50lbs. In his story, he shares his weight loss experience as well as some tips on the necessity of making a lifestyle change, not merely going on a diet.
He contacted us through our Share Your Story feature and provided the following answers to our questionnaire.
1. What made you decide to lose weight this time?
I have been overweight for most of my life. I'm 47 years old and the only time I was ever "skinny" was for a brief period when I was a freshman in college when I basically starved myself to lose weight. I developed Type II Diabetes about 5 years ago. I also had high blood pressure and high cholesterol. I quit smoking but didn't really lose weight. At one point I quit taking my medication because I had no insurance and couldn't really afford the doctor's visits and medications I was on. On top of this I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, and as much as I wanted. Last July I was feeling so bad, I could hardly get moving in the morning. I tested my sugar which was coming up at 300 and 400 so I knew I had to go back to the doctor. I went to my local urgent care where I was given prescriptions for my medications and referred to an Endocrinologist. Fortunately they also referred me to a program which helped me get insurance, at least temporarily. The Endocrinologist told me that I would need to start taking insulin shots twice a day. He also said "go to the gym 5 days a week."
I don't know if he was serious or if he really expected me to follow his advice but I took it to heart. I already had a gym membership, though I probably hadn't been in months. I began to exercise seven days a week. I also began to track my calories and exercise with the goal of losing weight. Of course adding the calories that I burned while exercising to my daily calorie goal meant that I could eat more, which made it easier to be satisfied and stay under my daily goal. I never was much of an athlete but I always liked the elliptical machine, so I would spend about 45 minutes on that. The machines at my gym showed the calories you burned, which I liked. I was able to slowly increase the speed and resistance so that I could burn 400-500 calories in a session. I also began to add strength training to my regimen, and I watched The Biggest Loser Australia. The Australian version included much more information on exercise and nutrition than the US version does, and one that thing stuck with me was that you burn calories at an increased rate after resistance training, and that exercising and building muscle also increases your metabolism. I also learned to "mix up" my workouts so that they don't become boring. I have always hated running, but I even added walking and jogging on the treadmill. One day I decided to run for an entire mile non-stop and I managed to do it. What a feeling of accomplishment. I still don't feel like a natural runner, but I enjoy moving now and I'll frequently have short jogs throughout my day.
The other factor in my success, probably the most important one, is food. I cook most of my food, and since I live alone I have control over the food that is around most of the time. I made a conscious effort to reduce the amount of fat and processed food in my diet and I learned to make healthier versions of some unhealthy things I loved, like General Tso's Chicken. I've greatly reduced sweets, but still find ways to enjoy them. There are good diet-friendly frozen treats available at the grocery store, and I visit the frozen yogurt store at least once per week. Also small treats like a few Junior Mints or Coconut MM's pack a lot of flavor.
After five months I finally reached my initial goal weight of 188. My "ideal weight" for my height is 172 which seemed impossible to me at 235, but 188 was barely within the "normal" weight range. I am not about 182 pounds and while 172 might be achievable I don't really think this is a healthy or realistic goal for me. I just want to maintain my weight and increase my fitness even more. At 47 I am more of an athlete than I have ever been. I know that it is partly because I am in better shape and partly because I'm not lugging around an extra 50-60 pounds (my lifetime max was 250 lbs, 68 pounds more than I now weigh!) My entire attitude on physical activity has changed. Now I see all activity as part of a healthy, active life. Even yard work, once just a chore, is now something that I pursue with pleasure. Oh, and I went off my insulin shots and blood pressure medicines about six weeks ago. I saw my Endo and was told that I should stay on a few meds because of my past inclination towards Diabetes. My blood sugar levels are under control, as is my blood pressure, and my total cholesterol is an astounding 112!
Now that I am healthy I feel like a dummy for taking so long to embrace the wonderful lifestyle that I now live. I see so many people who need what I now have and am hoping to be able to move into a career helping those with a desire to move to a healthier lifestyle.
2. What other "diets" (programs, products, plans, or services) had you tried in the past?
No real diet program other than a combination of fasting and "normal" eating when I was 18. I've tried "natural" supplements several times without much success. When I was first diagnosed as a Diabetic I met several times with a nutritionist. Unfortunately the attitude of the health care industry seems to be to "manage" disease instead of curing it (by losing weight, in my case) so the nutritionist' counseling was on counting carbs, not losing weight.
3. What changes did you make to your usual diet, activity, lifestyle, and attitude?
I have basically given up fast food. I rarely drink soda anymore, where I used to go through a large bottle in a day or two. I've reduced the portions of meat that I eat, as well as the amounts of bread, pasta, and cheese that I consume. I eat more vegetables and have tried more new foods like Couscous. I now eat more oatmeal. I still have eggs and bacon or sausage for breakfast on occasion, but before I would easily eat 3 eggs with breakfast meat on a daily basis, with the occasional break for pancakes. I eat much more fresh fruit now, also.
4. How did Calorie Count help you to lose weight?
Tracking my calories helped me keep focused so that I made regular progress. I didn't crash diet but pursued a healthy new lifestyle which I can and will continue to follow. My philosophy was "I'm not on a diet, I'm counting calories. I can eat whatever I want, I just keep track of the calories." Of course this did mean more salads and less french fries, but it all worked out right.
5. What was most challenging about losing weight?
The most challenging thing was when I had to eat out at a restaurant or a catered event where I had no control over what foods were available. There's usually something good at a restaurant to eat, though, and I'll often cut my entree in half and bring the extra portion home for the next day's lunch.
6. How long did it take you to see results?
I immediatley saw results. My weight loss was steady. I actually went past my weight loss goal of 188 lbs on a day when I did not expect too.
7. When did you realize that you were a success?
No particular moment comes to mind, but when I last stepped on the scale at the doctor's office I realized that the base setting for the scale wasn't 200 lbs any more. For the first time in my adult life the base setting was 150, and will be from now on.
8. How do you prevent relapse?
We've all heard about people who lose their weight just to put it all back on and more, and I think that fear is in the minds of everyone who has just lost a large amount of weight. While I do sometimes wish that I could eat with the reckless abandon that I used to it now makes me physically uncomfortable to over-indulge. Plus, I do not feel deprived or hungry. I eat delicious food and probably snack 2-4 times per day. I continue to weigh every morning just to remind myself of where I am and where I've come from.
9. How has your life changed now that you've lost weight?
Before I was accepting of my overweight, unhealthy, sedentary lifestyle. I now think my body is more attractive and I have never felt better, and that's the truth. I feel like a 20 year-old and just want to enjoy living in this body instead of the old slow, tired body that I used to wear.
10. What five tips do you have for other dieters?
- Count everything you eat and don't lie to yourself. Err on the side of over-counting because cheating on your diet is only cheating yourself.
- Stick with real food. Preparing your own food from fresh, frozen or canned is best.
- In addition to a bathroom scale you need to get a food scale and use it with some sort of program to log your calories accurately. Figure out the calories for dishes you prepare and add those to your food tracker as well.
- Move every day and find exercise that is right for you. Personally I try to include some sort of cardio or aerobic activity every day and also do strength training several days a week, but I also enjoy hiking and mountain biking, yard work, and daily dog walks. You must find things that you enjoy so that you will continue to exercise.
- Enjoy the process and the new lifestyle that you are developing. The days, weeks, months, years after you reach your goal shouldn't be that different from the last day before you reach your goal because your new lifestyle isn't something that you abandon once you reach your goal and then start up after you put the weight back on. The main thing is to find what works for you. Some people can do the same exercise and eat the same food every day, but I need variety in my food and in my activity. Keep focus on your goal and you can achieve it in a realistic amount of time. Once you reach it then re-access your goals and see if you want to do more of if you want to maintain.
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