Losing weight for all the right reasons

This post was written by Peter Partin, client engagement manager.

I have been morbidly obese for most of my adult life, though you would never know it to look at me. On my first visit to my primary care provider, she was shocked at how much I weighed and told me that I carried my weight well. (I guess coming from a family of “big-boned” people contributes to the overall weight.) I wasn’t always heavy. When I was in high school, I was as skinny as a rail at 6’5” tall and holding steady at 199 pounds. I was so thin back then that my grandmother jokingly told me that if I turned sideways and stuck out my tongue, I looked just like a zipper.

After suffering through a bad marriage for almost a decade, I went from 199 pounds to 350 pounds. By that time, I had developed horrible eating habits and often turned to food as an emotional crutch to make me feel better. I rarely exercised and when I did, it was never for very long. By the time my divorce was final in 2003, I was probably in the worst shape of my life up to that point. I spent the following summer renewing my spiritual relationship with God and healing myself. Over the next year and a half, I found happiness within myself and honestly would have been content if I never had another relationship for the rest of my life. Of course, it is when you reach that point that you finally meet that one person that completes you. That was certainly the case for me. I met my wife Melanie in October 2004 and it was one of those magical moments where we were instantly comfortable with each other even on our very first date. We were married five months later. We now have two beautiful daughters, Ariana and Megan, and four cats.

I hit my stride both spiritually and emotionally, but I didn’t change my diet or exercise regimen.  On January 9, 2009, my life changed forever. It was a cold, snowy day in Bloomington, Ind., and I had an appointment with my nurse practitioner for a rash that had been bothering me. Aside from the rash, and despite the fact that I had ballooned up to 405 pounds, I felt fine. They did a finger prick test and my blood glucose was 550. To give you a basis of comparison, a normal blood glucose level is 80 – 120. She couldn’t believe that I wasn’t in a coma. I had Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.

Over the next few years, I added several prescription medications to my medicine cabinet. I tried different diets, I tried to exercise, but found it was difficult to do much with the painful shin splints I’d developed. I couldn’t walk for more than a few minutes without my legs feeling like they were going to give out on me. I tried to change for so many reasons and with my physician’s encouragement, but it was just no use. Nothing was working. My weight would yo-yo back and forth. I would lose 10-20 pounds, but then gain it back shortly thereafter. My doctor told me that I needed to eat better and exercise if I wanted to be around for my wife and daughters. It was a very valued and noble purpose, but even though I wanted to change, it just wasn’t happening.

In January 2014 I was hospitalized for pancreatitis and was put on insulin. Prior to that, I had been attempting to control my diabetes solely with medications. The insulin didn’t work and my numbers went even higher to an average blood glucose of 230-250. My physician took me off of the insulin and put me on more medications for diabetes and an injectable drug, BYETTA®, which has the curious side effect of helping with weight loss. Even with all of that, still my health did not improve. Finally, in July 2016, things reached a breaking point. I was going to have to go back on insulin because nothing seemed to be working. My A1C had reached 8.9.

I pleaded to not be put back on insulin and made a deal with the PA that I would try the Parkview Weight Management Center. He had told me about the ORBERA® balloon, a non-surgical strategy for weight loss in which a balloon would be inserted into the stomach through the esophagus and then filled with saline solution. This would help me feel full with less food and therefore would help me lose weight.

My interest was piqued enough that I agreed to be referred and check it out. On my first visit I learned in order to get the ORBERA® balloon, I had to reduce my BMI to 40. When I first started going to the Weight Management Center, my BMI was 46.9.

The first time I met with Jenna Walker, MS, RD, CD, Certified Weight Management Educator, we discussed my eating habits and exercise regimen. For most of my adult life, I had eaten little or no breakfast, a moderate lunch, and I would splurge at dinner and always have a big meal. The first thing she pointed out was that I needed to eat more food. I was so confused by that because it seemed so counterintuitive. Eat more food to lose weight? Honestly, I thought she was a little crazy, but I wanted to be true to my effort so I took her advice. I started eating a big breakfast, moderate lunch, and most importantly a moderate dinner. I added a mid-morning and mid-afternoon healthy snack as well. In addition to this, she encouraged me to start walking. Remember, this had always been a problem because of my painful shin splints. Still, I wanted to give it a full-faith effort, so I started by walking ½ mile a day.

Almost immediately, I started to lose weight. I felt better, slept better, and my shin splints started hurting less and less. I couldn’t believe it. I also started tracking my food and exercise. A friend and coworker had talked me into trying it once before, but I gave up after about a couple weeks because at that time, I thought it was a hassle and I just didn’t have time for it. This time, though, I was determined to make it work.

I stuck with the plan and between July and October, I have lost almost 30 pounds, 2 inches around my neck and 8 inches around my waist! Most importantly, I reduced my A1C from 8.9 to 6.2 (5.9 is considered in the normal range for non-diabetics).

In addition to the weight loss, I have increased my walking from ½ mile to 3 – 5 miles a day, 5 days a week. My shin splints no longer hurt at all. My doctor has been so pleased with my progress that she has taken me off one of my diabetes medications and I expect her to take me off even more at my next office visit. For the past two months, almost every time I check my blood glucose, it is between 100 and 120, which is in the normal range. My wife has embarked on this journey with me and she has lost almost 30 pounds as well. She is very competitive, so it helps us hold each other accountable through friendly competition.

Jenna, Stephanie, RD, and Jolynn Wann, NP, have helped me realize that every time I had attempted to lose weight and improve my health previously, I had been doing it for the wrong reasons. As noble as it is to use my wife and daughters as motivation, the real reason that I need to lose weight and become healthier is a selfish one. I want to do it for myself. For the first time since I have been overweight, I can look in the mirror in the morning and I can actually picture myself skinny again. That never happened before on any of my attempts. Jenna and Stephanie ask me at each visit what my goals are. I want to ride roller coasters again (I haven’t been able to fit in a roller coaster for many years and I have even been embarrassed by having to exit a roller coaster because I couldn’t get the lap bar down). I want to do Fort4Fitness. I want to do the Muddy Trail Run. I want to do a 5K and maybe someday even a mini marathon.

I notice a slimmer me when I look in the mirror and I’ve received numerous comments and compliments from those around me, but when it really hit home for me was a few weeks ago when I stopped at Pizza Hut with my family for a personal pan pizza. I haven’t been able to sit in a booth for years because of my stomach. I always had to opt for a table. Not only was I able to sit in the booth, I actually had a few inches of room leftover!

I am only four months along in my journey and I know I have a long way to go, but with the help of the Parkview Weight Management Center and my family and friends, I am more confident than ever that I will be successful on my journey to better health and well-being. The greatest joy for me is knowing that I am inspiring others around me to improve their health as well.

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