The following is taken from David's original post that can be found on his website here http://thecountyfare.net/2014/11/08/my-health-transformation/
I debated whether to make this post — I know everybody’s suspicious of before and after pictures and with good reason (see this post on how we know what we know!). But in order to explain my health transformation and to provide some visual evidence that I’ve figured out a thing or two about nutrition, I’ll subdue my reluctance to share some pictures that I’d rather forget.
First, a picture of me on my honeymoon back in 2002. I’m 6 foot 6, and this was me at 28 years old and I’d guess about 330 pounds. I’m a big guy, and I used to lift a lot of weights, but there isn’t a whole lot of muscle left at this point.
At this stage in life I had a very typical American diet. Meat at just about every meal. Huge portions. Lots of calories from beverages. They say the human body is about 60% water. I’d say I was about 45% soda back then. I wish I were kidding.
Exercise? Sometimes. I didn’t make a point of it, but it wasn’t zero. Basically, I was enjoying my 20’s and not paying a whole lot of attention to my health. Not in the knuckle headed teenager way of thinking I was immortal, but in the 20-something way of navigating the world and thinking about other things besides food. I felt okay most of the time, although doctors were already warning me that I needed to lose weight.
Very little had changed with respect to my diet. I had ignored the doctors’ advice (not to mention my wife’s advice), because I was 37, in the prime of my life, and I’d eat what I want — thank you very much.
Yet by this time, I wasn’t feeling so okay. Plantar fasciitis left me with nearly debilitating pain in my right foot most of the time. I was easily winded, had very little energy and my level of activity was beginning to diminish. Not because I didn’t have things that I wanted to do, but because I was tired all the time and it hurt too much. And at this point, I’m not sure I’d managed to stay awake for an entire movie in years. I’d seen the first half of just about everything on Netflix.
So what happened? On a lovely weekend in early 2012, it finally caught up to me. Persistent chest pains. Uh oh. This ain’t good. It hit me in the early afternoon, and because I can be a stubborn blockhead when I want to be, I tried to ignore it and see if it would go away.
It didn’t. After an hour or so, my wife figured out that something was wrong. After being menaced with a cast iron skillet, I was “persuaded” that I should go to the ER. Now this wasn’t the elephant-sitting-on-your-chest kind of pain that you hear about, but it wasn’t indigestion either. It was different, and a little scary.
After a trip to the ER that took the rest of the day (they ran every test in the world and I’m pretty sure they made up a few on the spot), we decided that I had not had a heart attack. That was the good news.
But there was some bad news. As a result of the testing, we learned that I had dangerously high A1c levels (in the 11’s). Great — I was diabetic. High blood pressure. High cholesterol. Fatty liver. Severe sleep apnea. Frequent heartburn. The hits just kept coming.
Now, in my family, we know a thing or two about diabetes. I’ve watched many of my loved ones suffer from the symptoms of type 2 diabetes. I’ve watched as we’ve gone from medication to medication, enduring horrible side effects in a futile attempt to stave off even more horrible complications.
I was at a crossroads. One path led to a lifetime of medication and a severe decline in health and quality of life. I’d seen where that road led and I didn’t want any part of it. The other path? A total reevaluation of my lifestyle. Was it possible to treat this disease with diet and exercise? I didn’t know at the time, but after a few weeks on Metformin (one of the milder diabetes drugs with respect to side effects (for many people)), I was ready to give it a try.
After all, it wasn’t just “me” anymore. Now I was responsible not only for myself, but also responsible for (or possibly accountable to?) my wife and my two young sons — I liked to think all of them wanted me to stick around for awhile (remember, Dear, I’m moderating the comments!!). Diabetes was bad enough by itself, but the immediate danger was a high risk for heart attack. And I had just about every risk factor there is. Scary stuff.
So I read a lot. And then I read some more. And when I was done with that, I read even more. I learned everything I could about nutrition. I tried to figure out which habits had gotten me to this juncture (I should direct you to my “formula for nutrition” post). Obviously a diet consisting of 135% red meat and 275% soda had been a bad idea. But why? And what other food choices set me up for higher risks of bad things?
And then what about exercise, which had fallen by the wayside once I began my working life, and even moreso once I became a father? When you’re in your late 30’s and have weighed over 300 pounds for years and years, jogging or crossfit isn’t in the cards. High impact exercise just is not a realistic option when one is navigating that much pain. So in addition to studying nutrition, I rethought my perspective on exercise. How do you consistently and predictably elevate your heartrate, while improving strength, flexibility and core strength? For me, the answer was yoga. DDP Yoga, in particular, is wonderful in that it allows me to accomplish my goals without making me feel ridiculous while doing it.
I made the choice to change everything all at once, rather than go piecemeal. I was facing a health emergency, and I was going to try everything I could before I succumbed to medication and decline. I started exercising regularly. I reduced my portion sizes. I eliminated alcohol. I nearly-eliminated added sugar. I learned to cook. I stopped eating out until I figured out how to do it healthily. I started exercising consistently. And most importantly, I stopped eating animal products of any kind.
So how does the story end? Well, I don’t know for sure. But I do know that I lost over 100 pounds and have managed to keep it off for over 2 years now. I feel better than I ever have. It’s cliche (wordpress doesn’t want me to make an accent mark!!), but it’s true. I’m capable of things I haven’t been able to do in years.
Most importantly, I’m still alive. And that wasn’t a certainty given the way I ate. And that matters — it really matters – because at the end of the day, I’m not doing this for myself. I’m doing it for the three folks with whom I share my life every day.
How many times have you heard a parent say “I’d die for my kids, if need be?” Now think about how many times you’ve heard a parent say “I’ll live for my kids. I’ll really live?” In my opinion, one is as important as the other. And then consider, when it comes to the kids, what health habits do I want to pass along to them? If I don’t figure this stuff out, what are the chances they’re going to be obese, unhealthy and perhaps even diabetic in their 30s? Just about everything I do in life, I do for my kids. This is no different. And that’s what’s given me the motivation to see it through.