Around Spring Break of 2012, I was invited by some friends of mine to go to an Engine 2 Potluck. I hadn't realized how much weight I had gained, and when my I started to try on some clothes, I realized I was unable to fit into my 5X jersey from my friend who plays for the San Francisco 49ers. I had been living in overalls for years and was at 571 lbs. After deciding not to go to the potluck, I despairingly emailed my friend that night, who responded within an hour, and she put me in contact with Dr. Carney and her husband Sean.
I sent them a link to a You-tube documentary (that has been in progress for years) called "Wrestling Demons". It focuses on my journey over the last several years with my first awakening to becoming sober in January 2009, becoming a vegetarian, meeting my girlfriend, and turning into a professional wrestler. Now it's really coming full-circle over the last year with my vegan lifestyle, writing a book, starting my business, becoming a motivational speaker and lecturer, and helping other people who are looking to lose weight. I'm a living testimony to Dr. Carney's Starch-Smart® program.
Within a couple of days, I had an appointment with Dr. Carney. After she put the stethoscope to my heart during my first appointment, she took a step back and said, "This can be fixed." Whatever it was, I was willing to do it. I was probably a couple of months away from having a heart-attack or stroke. I was drinking four pots of coffee a day, a few energy drinks, and some prescription Ritalin. It took me a week to detox and I began cold turkey, even though Dr. Carney didn't even ask me to quit Ritalin at the time. I decided on my own to quit Ritalin & caffeine and just really clean up my health. That's when the magic started happening.
I've always been big and I was always athletic. During my 20s, I was training for the Strong Man Competition, which is a test to see who is the strongest man in the world. Right before the competition, I was hit by a car in a parking lot in Tennessee. I took a lot of the impact near my ribs and tore some cartilage. A year after this accident, I was at 450 lbs., and then I was up to 500 lbs. after another year or so. I was in a band and we would go through drive-thru restaurants where I would order 15 burgers as one meal as we drove to our next gig.
I decided to come off the drugs and alcohol in January 2009, as that is when my health began to noticeably deteriorate. On March 31, 2009, I became vegetarian and since I was no longer eating meat, I began to increase the amount of dairy that I ate. I would take diuretics and drop 20 lbs. in a week, but when I became vegan in June of 2010, I began eating vegan junk food, high in fats and oils. It took me almost two years to become vegan. In January 2012, I was up to 571 lbs. But then I met Dr. Carney in March 2012 and found out how to lose weight the logical way. As of February 2013, I lost over 130 lbs. since meeting Dr. Carney and starting to eat according to her plan. In February 2013 I now weigh 445 lbs. and am still losing towards my goal weight.
She diagnosed me as a pre-diabetic, discovered a heart murmur, explained my damaged liver enzymes, and counseled me for my anxiety and depression. After a month, I was a completely different person. I was climbing a mountain in Wimberly, going for walks with my family, and deciding to start my own business as a personal trainer in my own gym, Bonebreaker Barbell. I felt like I was 20 years old again with no health problems. That's how much the beans, greens, squash, and yams have improved my health!
Within the first week, I had lunch with Dr. Carney and her husband Sean, and they showed me the foods that I would be eating and what they will do for me. The plates they fixed for me were piled high with yams, lentils, quinoa, squashes, and greens. My first incredulous thought was, "I'm going to lose weight eating all this much quantity?!" These portions were ridiculously LARGE and yet, it not only worked GREAT but I'm STILL eating this way, three times a day. This is the only diet in the world that you can eat this much three times a day and still lose weight. Over time, my needs for the large proportions have decreased and sometimes I would only eat twice a day...simply because my food cravings are mostly gone and I don't feel the need for as much food anymore, even though I love what I eat. My breakfast would now be large in volume of foods and I'd still be feeling full through lunch. By dinner time, I would eat some oat groats with some fruit, which helped me sleep better. That's how my diet has been since March 2012. I've fallen off the wagon a few times, but the diet has given me the energy to exercise again.
I suspect I may never really beat all my food addictions, but I have learned to manage them, because of how the plant-based diet changes your taste buds. Whenever you get to the point that you think you've beat your food cravings forever, you could relapse. An emotional trigger could make me eat something bad. I now have learned to see the food as FUEL for my body. This fuel allows me to move thousands of pounds as a weight-lifter in my gym every day. I was expecting weight loss to be quicker in the beginning, but once I lost the first 70 lbs., there were plateaus.
It's tough to get in all the meals, go to bed earlier, and work in all of my exercise, but when I follow Dr. Carney's advice to a T, I do see more results. When you are suffering from so much pain, it's tough to believe a whole foods, plant-based diet could work for you, but it's been working great for me. The energy, weight loss, and mental clarity have been the greatest benefits. Most people are looking for a quick fix, but with this diet, you can expect to lose weight, have much more energy, and glow from the inside out.
My life has improved in so many aspects and ways I didn't even think it could. I am now able to go upstairs to see my step-son's toy collection, put on socks and shoes, and get out of my chair without feeling hurt or dizzy. I now have the ability to do countless little everyday things that most people take for granted. I feel like there will be some big changes that I will be able to help others make, just by sharing with them the knowledge that Dr. Carney has shared with me. I haven't even begun to see all of the benefits of this diet and I'm still in the baby steps of this program. Yet I'm already power-lifting like never before.
In Austin, you can get more vegan junk food than vegan health food and that's amazing to me, to see how much oil and refined sugar is available in vegan junk food. The challenge is to stay consistent, eat healthy, and not let your emotions get to you. I still have those emotional reactions and crave things, although I don't know why. In the first month, I lost nearly 40 lbs., then fell off the program, and got back on again. When I am Starch-Smart®, that is when I see more changes.
When I was younger, I would split my head open and wouldn't go to the hospital. I wouldn't go if I had chest pain either and I didn't have insurance for trips to the doctor. I would self-medicate and I was my own doctor. I grew up in a town where most people ate fried chicken, buttery mashed potatoes, and oil-filled gravy. Traditional doctors will tell you to eat meat, dairy, and eggs for all the vitamins and minerals that you need, but Dr. Carney suggests a plant-based diet of whole, unprocessed foods. She offers something unique to her patients and is at the forefront of the oil-free plant-based movement. When she told me what caffeine could do to damage me and how the food that I would eat could energize the way I feel naturally, I was amazed at how my health seemed to drastically change so quickly.
I walked in to Dr. Carney's office at a point in my health where I was about to keel over and now my health has improved greatly. I would spend whole afternoons at the office on the treadmill or elliptical in her office while watching all of the educational DVDs she provides at no cost to her patients.
Through my website, Big Bald Mike, I'm sharing this information and inspiring people with my story. People are starving for good information from trusted sources. One of my clients at my gym has now also become a patient of Dr. Carney and has seen some great improvement in her health. My girlfriend, a vegetarian for nearly 20 years, has also benefited and learned things as I do, and she's eating more plant-based. I think I speak for the silent majority and hope to take my message to many people. I'll be one of the first people to lose nearly 300 lbs. while eating Starch-Smart® whole grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables and training for huge feats of strength.
If you are considering this lifestyle, do all the research for yourself, starting right here at www.DrCarney.com. You have to be careful where you look for this information and it's easy to get confused with all of it. Take a scholarly approach and do the homework yourself, by reading the books she recommends on her website. You have to develop a desire to be educated and open minded. Come to her office to watch the DVDs for free. She makes these DVDs available even for people who are not her patients, and these are world-class DVDs, by the stars of "Forks Over Knives" like Rip Esselstyn, Jeff Novick MS RD, T. Colin Campbell, PhD, John McDougall MD, and Caldwell Esselstyn, MD. Don't let one differing opinion discourage you. This lifestyle requires consistency and this isn't a 'diet' that you "go on" for a little while. If you slip up, get right back on track. Not the next day, but the next meal. If you drink plenty of water in between your meals, exercise, eat your greens, fruit, beans, sweet potatoes, and squash, then the weight will come off consistently. Getting involved with other people that like to eat the same way as you is also a key to your success. Find others to be in your support group and tell them how important it is that they are lending their support to you. I did the plant-based lifestyle mostly on my own for a while, but now that my girlfriend is eating like me, it's so much easier.
Above all, it's most important that you feel great. I've also noticed that eating without meat, dairy, & oil provides me constant energy and then this translates into me doing more of the things that I want to do. If someone is really organized in their life, if they eat this way, they will be able to focus their energy and do whatever they want to do. I have ADD where I would have trouble following through on things. In the last ten months, anything that I have set out to do, I have been able to accomplish it. I wouldn't be able to do all of these things without the energy that I now have in my life. Energy leads to drive, which leads to purpose, which leads to satisfaction. I'm a competitive lifter, moving thousands of pounds of weight in a day, and I can't even imagine the energy and strength I WILL have when I reach my goal weight of 275 lbs.