Monday, June 09, 2008

A DIFFERENT KIND OF JOURNEY

For those of you that know me know that I’ve been overweight for years. That’s putting it nicely, actually I’ve been fat since the early 70’s. Medically speaking I was obese. I carried my weight well so most people really never knew how much I actually weighed. I used to try to fool myself by saying it was “fighting weight”, but over the years, my weight continued to rise until in this past January I weighed 308 lbs. Yes, that’s right, it’s not a typo. How many of you could have guessed that?

Actually 9 months earlier, after a physical, I decided to finally get serious about getting rid of all those extra pounds. A couple of things pushed me to finally get serious and do something. One was a photograph of me taken on a flight to Maui. I looked terrible with a big fat face and neck. The second incident was another airplane ride a week after returning from Maui. I was flying to New Mexico and in order to get the seatbelt buckled, I had to suck in my gut. I was not about to suffer the embarrassment and ask for an extension.

I was lucky that up to that point, I was still relatively healthy. No high blood pressure or Diabetes. I was also pretty active until I injured my shoulder in 2006, then I put on more pounds. With corrective surgery in May of 2007 I figured now was the time to make my move. Those two airplane rides did it for me.

My health insurance carrier is Kaiser Permanente and my doctor told me about a weight loss program they had at their “Positive Choice Wellness Center” in San Diego. It’s a liquid diet involving “Opitfast” protein shakes. They don’t just give you the shakes and send you on your way, but you’re required to attending a weekly meeting (read group therapy), weigh in each week and take a blood test every two weeks. The program which is medically supervised lasts 20 weeks or longer, depending on how much weight one needs to loose. You initially meet with a nurse for body weight and measurements, and decide on a weight loss goal. They are pretty realistic and the goal is arrived at taking into consideration your weight, health and age. For me the goal was 200 pounds, a loss of 108 pounds! A pretty daunting figure, but if I wanted to live long enough so my children had to change my diapers, it was now or never.

I actually tried to start the program in July of 2007, but because of our upcoming trip to New England in the fall, they wouldn’t let me. They said I had to commit to at least 6 months, so the start of the program had to wait until January.

By the time January rolled around, and having gained more while in New England, I was really motivated to get started. The first meeting of the program was really just a get to know the other participants meeting. That’s the day I weighed in at 308 lbs. On the occasion of the second meeting, you get what’s going to be your “food” for sometime to come. You get five protein shakes and two instant chicken soups (broth) for each day for a total of 510 calories a day. NO FOOD. You go cold turkey. No turkey either, just liquid. Oh, you do get to drink at least 3 to 5 quarts of water a day! I don’t know about most of you, but for me that’s a whole lot of water. In fact as it turned out that was the hardest part for me. I got a lot of exercise in during the night with about 5 visits to the bathroom each night.

The shakes come in three flavors, orange, vanilla and chocolate, so the first morning I figured I would go with orange, you know, breakfast drink. It was pretty disgusting and I had to gag it down. Luckily you are allowed to enhance the flavor of the shake with sugar free syrups, so right after that first “breakfast”, I headed to the local Smart and Final and bought several flavors of Torani Syrups. By adding an ounce of syrup to the shake it not only made them palatable but very tasty.

The first two days on the diet I had a headache, but believe it or not, I wasn’t really hungry. In fact I was never hungry during the entire program. The shakes are really quite satisfying and by using different flavored syrups I had enough variety to make it interesting.

After a week on the supplement, the true test came when I weighed in. 12 pounds lost the 1st week. Wow, this stuff really works. But would I keep with it and would it keep working? The second weigh in, 6 pounds, the third 7 more pounds. With these kinds of results, it was easy to keep motivated. One of the things we did in our group was to sign in each week with our weight loss for the week. Everyone in the group agreed that this exercise helped to keep you honest. Speaking of exercise, it was walking for me. At first I experienced some weakness and got out of breath walking up hills, but within about 4 weeks I was walking 4.5 miles a day, hills included, 6 to 7 days a week. I later modified this to four days a week walking to riding my bike for 1 hour twice a week.

With the addition of exercise, the weight continued to come off until after 24 weeks I had lost 105 pounds, within 3 pounds of my goal. When I was within 10 pounds of my goal, I was able to start a transition back to solid food. 3 ounces of lean meat for the 1st week, and then gradually adding, salads, vegetables, fruit and the rest of the food groups, while cutting back on the shakes.

Now that I’m within 3 pounds of my goal of 200 pounds the next phase of the program begins. The maintenance component lasts 10 additional weeks and is probably more important than the actual diet. During this time participants are taught how to read food labels, what food to buy, how to cook it, and maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle.

The difficulties I experienced during the diet phase were insignificant in relation to the results. Some of the minor problems were, bad breath, go figure, you don’t eat anything and you get bad breath, constipation, again, no food but you’re constipated, and being really cold. I was so cold at times that when in the car, I would turn the heater on full blast even though it was in the 70’s outside. Being around food and others while they were eating really didn’t bother me. In fact I even cooked dinner on several occasions for family and friends. But the aroma of food, oh those smells. You know, garlic, Mexican, barbeque, that was the most difficult part.

Some good things about the diet were that you didn’t have to decide what to eat each day and food preparation was a breeze. Also there are no dishes to wash. One of the fun things was running into people I hadn’t seen since I started the diet. Many times they didn’t know who I was.

Now the most important part and perhaps the most difficult. Keeping the weight off. I’m determined to do just that.
Here's a link to the Kaiser's Positive Choice Wellness Center with more information about the weight loss program.

http://www.positivechoice.org/


2 comments:

Nick said...

That is an amazing transformation. I don't recall a time you weren't heavy. With the will power you've exhibited so far, I know you have it in you to keep it off. Can't wait to see it in person.

You Dog.

Chris said...

Dana, When I saw your Alaska pix, I said, that's not, Dana....then I read your adventures and saw your weight loss story...good job man! Chris VonO