It was about this time last year that I resumed my seasonal job supervising high school participants in academic summer programs at a nearby university. When I went to check out a van to drive the kids to our evening activity, I was shocked to find that I was unable to fit behind the steering wheel. Had I really gotten that big? In short, the answer was yes.
Growing up in the south, I was raised to take my food very seriously. Food that has been breaded, fried, smothered with cheese and/or gravy, and presented in gargantuan proportions is a staple. I hail from the state that hosts the World Cheese Dip Championship, for crying out loud. When someone is born, we eat. When someone dies, we eat. When someone gets a job, we eat. When someone retires, we eat. It’s not hard to see why my state was firmly ensconced in the top 10 list of most obese states recently.
So there I sat, half-way in a van, already late to pick up my campers. It was my wake-up call. For some, it’s seeing a photograph of themselves. For others, it’s a medical diagnosis. For me, it was not being able to get into a 1997 Dodge Ram Van. I’d had many other wake-up calls in the past, but I kept hitting snooze. Whatever your wake-up call is, it’s time to answer it before things get as far out of hand for you as they had for me.
“Obesity doesn’t run in your family. Nobody runs in your family.”The sedentary child of an obese parent, it was no surprise that I weighed 165 pounds… in the third grade. In the fourth grade, I weighed 209 pounds. By the time I finished high school, our scale at home wouldn’t weigh me. When I got to college, I had a conversation with a nurse in student health services about ways to lose weight. She suggested diet and exercise.
Over my college years I tried every fad diet known to man. I really enjoyed the “Subway Diet,” but it wasn’t in my budget. I tried to eat “Healthy Choice,” but I soon learned that it wasn’t very healthy. For a long while, I lost a lot of weight on ephedra… until the FDA outlawed it. None of the changes I made through those efforts were lifestyle changes. They were quick-fix efforts. The end of the road came when I lost my mother to cancer two weeks before college graduation. I resumed eating then, and I didn’t stop until last November.
After getting my wake-up call, I started researching weight loss options. My employer would pay for gastric bypass surgery because I was morbidly obese, but I have long been afraid of the negative side-effects that I’ve seen in friends who went through the procedure. I could try yet another quick-fix diet, but I knew how it would turn out. I could go to one of the weight loss boutiques that have started popping up in strip malls everywhere, but how could I be certain that their products and services are safe?
I chose the Weight Loss and Metabolic Control Program at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences, which uses Health One Meal Replacements, weekly classes in nutrition and behavior modification, and regular visits with an endocrinologist. I attended the orientation session on a Thursday, visited with the doctor the following Tuesday, and by the next Thursday, I was on the program.
I am so satisfied with the program, the products, and my progress on them. “Is that the one where you just drink shakes?” Nope. I make all sorts of things including pizza, muffins, pudding, waffles, and pretzels. I have shakes, too, but not every day. “Is that the one where you have to eat their stuff forever?” Nope. Once I am released by the endocrinologist, I transition to grocery store foods using the nutrition knowledge I picked up in class, my new relationship with food that comes from the behavior modification classes, and ongoing support from my friends at the clinic.
Motivation to carry on comes from every direction. Simply knowing that I am healthier and likely to live longer as a result of the choices I am making is a huge part. Seeing the looks of disbelief when I run into people who haven’t seen me in a while is also thrilling. Serving as a motivator to my peers both in-person and through my blog is also rewarding. Finally, being able to do the things that I want to do makes it all worth it.
This year’s summer camps have begun, and I am not only driving the vans, but I’m keeping up with — and occasionally outpacing — the students at every turn. I’m happier, healthier, and more energized than I’ve ever been. Am I still obese? Yes. There is no quick fix for obesity, but I know I’ve learned the skills and mastered the tools to live a longer, healthier life thanks to the folks at UAMS and HNT.
To read more about Daniel and his journey with weight loss, visit his personal blog: http://needlesspounds.com/