CAUTION: LENGTHY POST
- “A healthy body is a guest-chamber for the soul; a sick body is a prison.” – Francis Bacon
I’m a big fan of back stories. I’ve really enjoyed watching many of the reboot superhero films of recent years…Batman, Man of Steel, Ironman, etc. It’s always intriguing to see who these characters were prior to taking on their iconic superhero personas. Spoiler alert…they’re all flawed and broken individuals in one way or another…heck…we all are…but they rise up from the ashes and take on their enemies…often times in spectacular fashion. I feel like this is where I am right now with this journey through health reconstruction…in the rising up stage. Trust me though…I’m no vigilante superhero…I cry all too easily…ask my wife.
So now that I’m beginning the process of climbing out of this mess I’ve made over the past couple decades I’ve been looking back over all these years at my own back story…specifically dealing with health, eating, and lifestyle. I’ve gone through times where I’ve begun to make changes but never followed through to the end results…and one word keeps popping up in my head…complacency.
At many stages in my life I’ve discovered that I’ve been very comfortable…satisfied even…with being an overweight guy…I mean…at least I wasn’t heading for some Guinness Record status obesity…but I may as well have been. Up until recent events I felt as though I’d hit my max threshold weight at 300 lbs…that I couldn’t grow any bigger based on my consumption of glorious processed food…and I’d just stay this way…heavy…aging…stressed…and deteriorating…how warped is that I seriously had resigned to this way of thinking?
Last known healthy image…circa 1997
Most of you who know me personally know that I’m fairly laid back with most things in my life…I enjoy having fun…I’m not an insanely competitive person…I avoid conflict at all costs…I’m a go along / get along person…even keeled as some might say. Being complacent with my health was just part of my overall attitude about everything else. I was okay living in denial about being a type II diabetic…and I was more than okay with sitting down for a great meal…and dessert if available…and sweet tea…and maybe just a little more dessert to even things out. Sure…I was a little self-conscious about my weight…but I really was comfortable with who I was. Pretty unbelievable when I really think about it. To fill you in on my back story in a deeper way…I’d like to share a series of honest snippets into my life…I feel as though publicly sharing this information will give me an extra boost of stick-to-itiveness when temptation rears it’s ugly head.
Looking back…one of the first incidents of my looming health issues first reared its head way back around 2001-2002. After being married for a couple of years…and enjoying all that Dallas, Texas has to offer when it comes to food…I apparently had packed on the pounds…because that’s what you do right? My wife and I had taken a trip back home to visit family and visited a church that I grew up attending. As the service ended we were visiting with folks…I make my way over to the pastor…I probably haven’t seen him in a few good years, but we greet and shake hands…after which he steps back…looks at me head to toe and says “Son…you need to learn how to push away from the table!” It was a total gut punch from out of nowhere…I laughed it off and I chalked it up to him just being old school and ribbing me a little. It should have been an effective wake up call…but it wasn’t.
In 2003 another memorable moment comes to mind…an embarrassing tale…at an amusement park no less. I don’t know if you know this…but thrill rides aren’t built to hold big folks…not with any sense of comfort or security anyway. I remember being excited to ride this awesome new roller coaster…it was one where the track is above you and your seat hangs below…it does a bunch of corkscrew turns and loops…you get the picture. As it was our turn to board the ride I snugly squeezed into the ever-so-small seat and pulled the shoulder bar over my head to buckle it into the base of the seat and I realize…this isn’t going to work…no matter how much I sucked my gut in…but I nervously tried to attach the buckle anyway…it was still a good inch or two away. The poor ride attendant even came over…pulled and pushed with much valiant effort to no avail. At this point I politely exited the seat…and waited for my family and friends at the exit…head hung low…until I began scoping out a corn dog stand…perhaps after the corndog we could find a funnel cake stand. You’d think an experience like this would illicit some change…but sadly it didn’t.
Flashback to around 2004, I had ballooned up to a portly 350 pounds…breathe easy though…this is the heaviest I’ve ever been. For the past several years my diet had consisted of fast food, fried chicken, Chinese food, rib-eye steak, Mexican food, and I probably drank a swimming pool full of sweet tea. Anyway, we’d recently moved back to Louisiana and I went to visit a new doctor for a routine checkup and for the first time was labeled a “pre-diabetic.” This was a little unexpected…but I wasn’t surprised with this news at all. After all of this finally sunk in I mustered up some determination and began to work at really losing weight. I was successfully able to drop 50 pounds by simply counting calories and eating a little less…along with some cardio here and there. I counted this as a big victory…and I was feeling like I was taking the bull by the horns…walking on the road to success. At some point after I had made some progress…I simply quit…I honestly cannot remember the reasons why…but I did…and I was back to the old way of doing things.
Big guy with big beard.
By late 2006 I was back up to around 330 pounds and was “officially” diagnosed with type II diabetes. Once again, this was hard news to swallow…but still…I wasn’t completely surprised…it was simply a validation of my lifestyle. Here I was…a 30-year old with a growing family…and now I have…a full blown debilitating DISEASE. I vowed to “get serious” and “take care of myself”…made promises and pledges to my wife to eat right and exercise more. I immediately went and signed up for a gym membership…but that only lasted for a month or two…although I kept paying the membership fee for many more months…just in case I found the time. Once again though complacency set in…and I was comfortably back to being the poster-child of personal responsibility at the McDonalds drive thru…slamming down McDoubles (2-3 depending on how hungry I was)…occasionally I’d switch to McChickens when I was feeling a little health conscious…because those are SO much better for you. This unhealthy way of eating prevailed for a number of years as I was on the road traveling to project job sites. Since that time (going on 7-8 years now) I’ve hovered around 300 pounds…at one point I dropped down to 285 and felt like a champ, but I think it could have been bad Mexican food or a stomach bug. This is getting pretty maddening right?
Fast forward to early 2013…in January I broke my coccyx…but not like Napoleon’s grandma at the dunes (fun movie reference). I broke it by performing the simple task of changing my newborn son’s diaper. I was holding him and went to sit down on the floor…lost my balance and little and fell backwards…from a mere 18 inches off the floor. Anyway, this introduced a new ailment to go along with everything else that is beginning to unfold.
In early February the Super Bowl came around…as it seems to do so on an annual basis…some folks get jazzed about the game and the commercials…I use it as a reason to eat very unhealthy foods…sue me. So as we’re planning what to eat…I come up with a brilliant idea…let’s make a rad pot of chilli…then let’s pile the chilli it atop a sweet cornbread Belgian waffle…then let’s layer on some cheese and sour cream and enjoy the heck out of it…sounds like a winner right? I cannot tell you who won the game…or who was playing…I think it was some bird team…but the next day I was in pain…not heartburn, indigestion, upset stomach, diarrhea…but something internal was giving me very sharp pain on the right side of my abdomen…just underneath my last rib. I scheduled an appointment with the doctor to see what it could be…I had a feeling the news would not be great. I end up getting an ultrasound and they discovered along with my blood-work that it was fatty liver disease.
To combat fatty liver disease…much like type II diabetes…you need to eat healthy and exercise…and hopefully you lose some weight in the process (which helps in reducing the liver levels). I began eating a little bit better for a couple of months…lost about 10 pounds and then it was back to my normal food loving self. Most of you who have read this far down are probably thinking…what is it going to take for this guy to turn it around?
In late September I think the switch was finally flipped for me. I’m a big barbecue fan, and I smoked a big, juicy, fatty, succulent pork shoulder for the family to eat…and continue to eat the leftovers in the coming days. It was a heavy heavy meal…tasted wonderful at the time. Just like before though, I woke up the next day with severe pain on the right side of my abdomen wrapping around to my back…I could barely move.
So back to the doctor I went…he checks me out and has a suspicion that I had appendicitis or that my appendix was on the verge of rupturing…I end up taking a trip to the emergency room…where five minutes from the time I shuffle into the waiting room I’m in a gown with an I.V. started…thinking I’m about to get cut on. To confirm everything, they run a CT scan and report back that it’s not my appendix…but muscle inflammation and that my liver levels were elevated back to where they were last February. Turns out…fatty foods contribute to fatty liver…makes total sense now. I end up spending a couple of days in bed…taking muscle relaxers and pain medication. After a couple of days rest I was almost back to normal. I believe this episode FINALLY pushed me to the breaking point…to make permanent changes. I was so done with being complacent…and I was ready to once and for all take REAL action…become a healthy man…husband…dad…whatever it takes…however drastic the measures are…let’s get on with it.
So to bring the story to present day…this last incident had me reaching out to the “natural doctor” down in Fayetteville. This doctor is known to be a “fixer” of several friends of ours in the past…an analyzer of your present lifestyle…not a prescriber of medications so that you can continue on your way…but it finally came to the point where in order for me to effectively change…I had to try something completely different. The doctor highly recommended that I have a food sensitivity test performed to assess which foods were making me inflamed…sick…tired…and pretty miserable…for some reason this was news to me. One of the major discoveries during the test was learning that I have a high gluten sensitivity (and perhaps celiac disease)…to read the remainder of this part of the story check out “The Food Sensitivity Test” post.
Long story short…I feel like I’ve become a new person…a whole foods person…gasp…and I’m trying to deal with not becoming a fanatic about it. Practically every food I once enjoyed was gluten-filled…or inflamed my system in some way or another. My only options to clear my system and optimize my body was to eat REAL foods. So far, the benefits have been phenomenal…and I’ve only officially been eating this way for a couple of weeks now. I’ve taken the time (not alone by any means…my wife has been a true resource with great meal planning) to think before I eat…eat within the 4-day rotation…eat one plate (no seconds)…stay away from restaurants as much as humanly possible…avoid donuts at the office like the plague…stay away from the office candy drawer…and withdraw from the Friday Biscuit Club.
Two weeks into this health reconstruction journey has yielded some wonderful benefits…I have more energy…I sleep better and longer…and I’m making some great REAL food at home…not to mention losing noticeable weight…I’ve already shed 20 pounds…down to 280…I’m stoked about this! As I wrap up this marathon post…I’d like to leave you with a couple of great quotes regarding healthy living.
- “The only way to keep your health is to eat what you don’t want, drink what you don’t like, and do what you’d rather not.” – Mark Twain
- “I’m not the healthiest, but I am healthy. I’m healthy to the point where there are things that I have to eat that I don’t want to eat, but I eat it because I’m enjoying staying alive.” – Bill Cosby