I don’t much like doctors. In fact, I only made the appointment with Dr. Carney because I needed some medication before heading on a trip out of the country. I had no idea that this one appointment was going to change everything in my life.
I’m 6’1” and at the time I weighed about 344 pounds. I certainly knew that I needed to lose some weight, but to be honest, I never thought that would really happen for me. However, I’d also been dealing with high blood pressure for a while, so when Dr. Carney gently pushed for a follow up appointment, I agreed to come back after my trip. Returning from Malaysia, I got the bloodwork done, then showed up to my appointment to get the results. Of course, she said it all very nicely, but basically Dr. Carney told me that I had high blood pressure, was morbidly obese, had type 2 diabetes, and that I probably was not going to live a very long life due to these conditions. I got the message; I knew I was in trouble. But then Dr. Carney said something that really got my attention: “We can fix this.”
Dr. Carney sat down with me, and together we came up with a plan to get me healthy again. It included a serious diet makeover, exercise, some medication, and getting to bed on time. Everyone thinks that the diet was the hard part, but I didn’t think so. For me, the exercise and bedtime were the hardest. Between work and family, I’m pretty busy. I try to get to bed on time so I can get in eight to nine hours of sleep, but it’s hard sometimes. However, I’m starting to do pretty good at finding ways to include exercise. For one thing, I’m able to eat lunch at my desk, so some days I go walking over my lunch break. I’m now walking three miles in about 40 minutes. I feel great about that! Before, well … I can’t even say how long that would have taken me. I probably just wouldn’t have done it. But now, I wake up in the morning, and I think about how I’m going to get exercise in my day. It’s become almost like another meal for me. Like, we all plan to eat every day; now, I plan to exercise every day. Even on busy days, I try to do a little, even if it’s not much. The truth is, it’s just gotten easier. I simply find myself moving more than I used to — like I take the stairs even though I don’t have to.
The biggest change in my life is something I didn’t expect at all: my personality is different. I’m still me, of course. But I’m not moody. I’m not living for my next hit of caffeine. I don’t get angry like I used to. My emotions are more on an even keel and even my thinking process is better.
What means the most to me is how all of these changes have affected my marriage and family life. Looking back, I feel like I deprived my wife for years; I deprived her of a good looking husband. That’s kinda hard to admit, but I think it’s true. I just didn’t realize how much being fat affected my marriage. My wife is proud of how I’ve changed, and my kids are, too. It was a big day in our family when my 13-year-old daughter discovered that she could give me a hug and get her arms all the way around me. It makes me laugh because my son is looking forward to doing that now. He’s only eight, so I think it’s more about him growing than about my weight! I love playing with my kids, which is something I just didn’t have the energy to do before. But hands-down the best thing is that I feel really proud of the way I’m providing for my family. I’m providing them a husband and a dad who’s going to be there for the long haul. I now have the maximum in years. Not just physically, but in mental clarity, too. Unless there’s a car accident, I’ve got a long life ahead of me to give to my family.
The weight loss is, of course, what most people comment on. I’ve lost 125 pounds in less than 11 months. I’ve had people at work come up to me and kinda whisper, “It’s easier with the surgery, isn’t it?” They think I had a gastric bypass! In general, I found that people are very supportive. One of the directors at work was shocked at the changes in me and wanted to know how it had happened. The thing is, when people see you turning your life around, they are curious. It says something about you, about your character. I’ve found that I get a lot of respect because people recognize the effort it takes to lose a large amount of weight.
I never thought the weight would come off so quickly. Since it had come on rather slowly, I expected it would take two or three years to lose all the excess pounds. But the change has been so dramatic that people who haven’t seen me in a while sometimes don’t even recognize me. My favorite story is about my aunt. This woman has known me my whole life; she used to change my diapers! A few months ago we went back to Oklahoma to visit. My wife and kids and I were sitting in the pew at church. My aunt came in and was going down the row greeting everyone by name. Then she skipped me and greeted my wife. It wasn’t until my uncle came in and said, “Hey there, Nephew,” that she did a double take. She just about fell over. She hadn’t recognized me, and I hadn’t even lost as much weight then as I’ve lost now.
I’m now at 219, and I can say that I’ve actually enjoyed the process of losing weight. It’s meant a lot to me. And the best part is that I don’t have cravings anymore. Food isn’t an obsession like it used to be. I used to get “hangry” -- you know, hungry and angry. And now I like fruits and vegetables. A bowl of chips doesn’t really tempt me; I thrill when I see a plate of crudités. I actually enjoy eating “clean.” I like to look for recipes on Yummly because I can search for vegan options with fresh ingredients. And now that I know how to substitute, I’ve got more choices. If I want to make a cake, I know that I can substitute applesauce for oil, soy milk for cow’s milk, and ground flax mixed with water for eggs. And if I want to go out, it’s not really a problem. We don’t do it as much as we used to, but when we do I know how to make better choices. Chinese and Indian restaurants are usually pretty good, the Chipotle franchise is always an option, and since most any restaurant has a salad, I find eating out isn’t a major hurdle.
Initially, some of the diet changes were hard. I cheated a few times, especially the first month. But I have to credit God for my success. I prayed and asked God for help and wisdom. I even prayed while I exercised. I can say that God came through and worked in several areas of my life to make this change possible. I never thought this could happen for me. It’s the hardest, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. Weight is like a hole, a hole for a grave. I didn’t think I’d ever have the willpower or strength of mind to accomplish something like this. But if I can do this, anybody can. You just have to be willing to give it a try, and if you slip up and have some meat or chips, just get up and go again.
I still don’t like doctors very much, but I thank God for Dr. Carney. She is probably 100 times better than other physicians. She’s not interested in just getting you in and out to collect an insurance payment. I’ve not met another doctor like her. She was concerned for me. She saw me as an individual and used her knowledge to help me. Because of that, I’m half the man — and twice the man — I used to be.
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