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Category: Health and Wellness

Can I Really Do This? Reverse a Lifetime of Being Overweight?

“Starting today, I’m going to change my life. And I’m going to do it publicly, right out here where you all can see me and keep me honest.”

Let’s find out together, shall we?

In these pages, you’ve seen me write pretty openly about my personal struggles with weight here and here. You’ve seen me agonize over lost friends who died way too young from chronic conditions, especially here. You’ve heard me fuss at you to go to the doctor, get your blood pressure and cholesterol checked, and stay alive for your family. I’ve been pretty vocal about it.

Well, I just celebrated my 56th birthday, and I’m going to try right now to put my money where my mouth is.

I want to be clear, I’ve been seeing my primary care provider (PCP) twice a year, sometimes more, and taking the meds he’s prescribed for my blood pressure, high cholesterol and insulin resistance. I do take my pills as directed, every single day.

What I haven’t done is any of the eating or lifestyle changes that have been recommended to me for at least the past 10 years. As I said in an earlier post, I haven’t so much “battled” obesity all my life as kind of surrendered to it. And I’m in a state of full surrender right now, not exercising, eating whatever I want and daring to be surprised when my 5’11” frame creeps towards 300 pounds. I must be crazy!

Time for a Change
Think I’m joking? I started writing down what I eat in a day to see how bad it really is. So, here is my actual, consumed diet from Thursday, Aug. 3, 2017:

Time

Item Description

Calories

Fat

Carbs

6:45 a.m. Fast food sausage, egg and cheese biscuit

550

32g

45g

Hash browns

150

9g

16g

Large diet soda

0

0g

0g

10:30 a.m. 2 chunks pineapple

50

0g

9g

2 large strawberries

49

0.5g

11g

20 grapes

60

0g

15g

1:45 p.m. Fast food bacon cheeseburger (single)

550

32g

36g

Medium fries

420

19g

56g

Large diet soda

0

0g

0g

7 p.m. 1 slab homemade lasagna

672

24g

70g

9 p.m. 1 ice cream sandwich

380

15g

57g

TOTALS

2,881

131.5g

315g

How has my body not just exploded? I mean, come on! Not only did I eat a little under 3,000 calories in a day, but it’s what’s in those calories counts, too. 131 grams of fat? 300 grams of carbs? Stark absence of vegetables in there as well. And, full disclosure: The only reason I had the fruit is because I went to a meeting, and there it was. I had nothing to do with acquiring it.

And yes, all that fast food came straight from the drive-through. That’s my life — spending hours in traffic while traveling to speaking events, with never enough time in the day to do things right (or so I tell myself). Driving 35,000+ miles a year to speaking events and workshops is not conducive to good eating habits, I tell myself. But, at least I drank nothing but diet soda all day. Yeah, there’s that to feel good about …

Is any of this starting to hit home with any of you? And you might be thinking, “Well, I exercised today, so I can eat what I want!” Wrong answer. As my doc puts it, you cannot exercise away bad nutrition. You can’t outrun your fork! I’m living proof of that!

“So Mike, why are you dragging us down with your problems? Don’t we have enough problems of our own?”

Great point. I’ve been telling you for years now about how Louisiana’s got lower-than-average life expectancies and why we lag so far behind the health of other states. I’ve lived here for all of my 56 years, and I’m a shining example of why that is. SO (I can’t believe I’m going to do this), I’m going to put my money where my mouth is (and also put a lot less food in there).

Change Starts Here
Starting today, I’m going to change my life. And I’m going to do it publicly, right out here where you all can see me and keep me honest. I’m not going to get preachy, or fuss or shame anyone. And no, I’m not going to have surgery or do anything physically radical. I’m going the old-fashioned route: Changing my eating habits and hopefully my exercise habits as well. And I’m going to keep you in the loop on my progress to make sure you know I’m serious.

And then, you can join me. But my Dad always says, “never give anyone a job you haven’t done yourself,” so me first.

Starting Out: I Enrolled in a Diabetes Prevention Program
To assist me in my quest to avoid full-blown Type 2 diabetes, Blue Cross (as my employer) has partnered with a lifestyle management company called Omada, which has a diabetes prevention program that’s available to me as a covered member. I signed up a couple of weeks ago, and began the program on Sunday, Aug. 13.

Omada’s program is pretty cool. First, you are entered into a “team” with other people (more than 10, fewer than 20) who are also doing the program and have the same goals you do. We are all in the life improvement program together, as a shared experience. We have our own chat group, which is led by an Omada lifestyle consultant to coach us along. They have asked us to focus on four areas during the first phase, which is an intense, 16-week re-education course:

  1. Making better dietary choices
  2. Moving around a bit more
  3. Removing obstacles to a good night’s sleep every night
  4. Managing and keeping stress out of our lives.

The initial 16-week goal is to lose seven percent of your body weight. Turns out losing only that much weight cuts your chances of moving from pre-diabetic to fully Type 2 diabetic by more than half!

My initial weigh-in came in at 300.5 pounds (ouch!). So, to lose 7 percent of my body weight, I’ll be aiming to drop just over 21 pounds over the next four months.

My Game Plan
Starting out, I’ve made the following changes to my life:

  1. I’ve eliminated diet soda. There is increasing evidence linking consumption of diet soda in large quantities to obesity and diabetes, and I probably put away half a gallon to a gallon per day. I’m switching to water and skim milk. (On my fourth day of this change, as I write this, I’m not really missing it too much. But, the first day or two was ugly.)
  2. I’ve almost totally eliminated caffeine. (This change went along with all the diet soda, plus at least one large, fully caffeinated coffee per day). This really hurt for a couple of days, and I still get drowsy in the afternoons. But, I’ve noticed an immediate change in my sleep patterns: I fall asleep earlier, sleep more soundly and don’t wake up hunting for the coffee pot.
  3. I’m forcing myself to get up earlier and eat a little breakfast. That’s something I never did in the past. This was easier today, for example, than it was a few days ago. I’m focusing on fiber at breakfast, which was sorely missing from my diet before. Going with oatmeal or a high-fiber cereal, in a measured quantity (not just filling up whatever gargantuan bowl I happen to grab) and one cup of skim milk to go with it. I make a large decaf coffee, still allow myself two sugars, and drink that in my 45-minute ride to work.
  4. I’m walking as soon as I wake up. I’m actually doing 15 minutes on my treadmill (with my disability, it will take time for me to build up to longer walks) as soon as my eyes open in the morning and before my shower or breakfast. This is to loosen up my joints and wake up my metabolism. You should have seen the dust fly off the treadmill the first day I did this! This is the hardest of everything on my list.
  5. I’m packing my lunch. I’ve noticed that when I’m at work, I tend to get really engrossed in whatever I’m doing and eat lunch as a complete afterthought. This always leads me to bad choices (tasty, but BAD!) that I wolf down without even tasting them most of the time. By doing a little planning ahead, grocery shopping on the way home the night before and packing foods I know I like that give me control over the fat, carbs, sodium, etc., I’m hoping that I will get some long-run relief. Of course, the very first day I packed my lunch, I got invited to go out and eat (their treat!) at a restaurant I love that serves killer pizzas and pasta! “No thanks!” I said with a smile, knowing this would happen.
  6. I’m writing it down! I’m recording everything through the Omada app, everything I eat, when I eat it, everything I drink. It’s automatically picking up my steps through my smartphone and loading that into my records as well. This is my honest effort to turn eating into something I do CONSCIOUSLY, not automatically. It’s sort of a pain at first, but I’m really getting the hang of it.
  7. I’m weighing myself daily. The Omada folks sent me this whiz-bang scale that uses the cellular network to transmit my weight readings to their system and link it to the Omada app on my phone. So, my coach can see I weighed myself and exactly how I’m doing. I traditionally have avoided every scale I’ve seen until now. I’m going to try to do this at the same time (first thing in the morning) every day to get some consistency. I actually started doing that about five days ago when the scale showed up, and I was shocked at how much my weight fluctuates in a single day, between three to four pounds from morning to afternoon.
  8. I’m setting the timer on my TV in the evenings. Turns out that falling asleep in front of a 55” flashing TV is bad for you! Who would have thunk it? So when I feel myself getting sleepy, I either shut it off and go to bed OR set the timer so it will turn itself off in a few minutes, as a cue to sleep. More research is emerging that particular wavelengths of light flashed at you while you are trying to sleep interrupt your REM cycles and screw up your brain chemistry. Nobody needs that!
  9. I’m telling myself I can do it, that this time is going to be different! I’ve been overweight nearly my entire life and have rarely found any motivation to do anything about it. I used to joke around “maybe after that first heart attack, I’ll take it seriously.” But, as you’ve read in these pages, you don’t always get a second chance after that first heart attack. So, I’m going to make myself accountable this time to my wife, my children, my Omada coach and to YOU, my dear readers, as I fight to put my money where my mouth was, so to speak, and follow through on this.

Keep Me Honest!
So officially, it’s only been a few days, but I’m getting the hang of it. I’ve already lost five pounds (shows you how out of whack my body really was), which is nice. But, I’m trying to focus more on how I feel than what the scale says, and I feel good.
Mentally, physically, emotionally, there is strength in knowing you are doing something about your lifestyle, instead of letting it just order you around. I like that. Hope I can keep it up!!

Send your prayers, and wish me luck!

21 comments on “Can I Really Do This? Reverse a Lifetime of Being Overweight?

  1. Alice Womble

    Wow. Kudos to you on the steps you’ve already taken to improve your health. Good luck and I look forward to reading about your progress!

    Reply
  2. Michael Bertaut

    I just want to take this opportunity to thank EVERYONE! The level of support I’m receiving in my efforts here are just off the chart, amazing, and more than I could ever imagine!

    Blessings to everyone!…..mrb

    Reply
  3. J. Merritt

    Mike, I commend you. I too have had to make drastic changes – for less drastic health issues than you. I truly want to grow old though, and as gracefully as possible. I urge you, please, watch this documentary and find the doctor willing to discuss its findings with you (if your current one wont). Not all doctors are created equally! Watch: What the Health. Its free on Netflix, or you can find it on the internet. Best of luck to you. May you reach all your goals!

    Reply
  4. Wanda Bourg

    Good for you! I am cheering you on as I was thinking of eating fast food today. I think I will cancel that myself. Walking is the best way to help get going while eating the right foods. I know I lost 20 lbs doing so and my numbers lowered as well.

    Reply
  5. Norman C Hingle Jr CLU

    I never thought that you weighed anywhere near 300 lbs, Once you get in the routine of walking everyday and changing what you eat, the weight will fall off of you. I did it and I know you can if you put your mind to it!!!

    Reply
  6. Wesley Watkins

    Way to go Mike! unsweet green tea helps to wake up in the am without much side effects. Stick with your program my friend, your body and family will benefit! I’ll buy your healthy lunch the next time your in Alexandria!

    Reply
    • Michael Bertaut

      You know, I love Green Tea, but it blocks one of my blood pressure meds from working, so I had to give it up a few years ago. Pretty serious!

      Reply
  7. Michael Bertaut

    Thanks so much everyone! Your support really keeps me going!
    Stay tuned for some fun “what could possibly go wrong?” stories about changing my lifestyle. We’ve gotta keep the humor in it, very important!

    mrb

    Reply

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