In October of 2005 I felt the pain that got me started on this journey. I came home from work and looked through the stack of mail on the counter. I found a letter from an insurance company about a life insurance policy that I had recently applied for. I was a little anxious, because I had issues getting insurance a few years earlier and ended up being put into a higher risk category, that just meant I had to pay more for the coverage. I actually had to pay about 6 times as much as my wife, for the same coverage. It was a bummer, but I paid it and was covered.
I opened the letter, and there it was. Denied. Nothing mentioned about going into another risk category, or follow-up medical assessment, just denied. This company would not sell me a 20-year term life insurance policy. It might as well have said no thank you, as much as we would love to take your money every month, you are not worth it. Internally, I immediately translated this into a 20-year death sentence. This huge company, with all of the data in the world, ran the numbers and doesn’t think I’m going to make it another 20 years. It hit me hard. I can still feel it, being told I had less than 20 years to live. Especially at a stage in life where I should have felt like I was just getting started.
As I stood there, 33 years old, on medication for high blood pressure, weighing 360+ pounds, with a 54-inch waist, I felt depressed and hopeless. Thinking to myself, how did this happen? Why did this happen? I’m not a bad guy. My life isn’t so bad. I’m not so unhealthy, am I? Or, maybe I am…
Looking back, there were lots of good things happening in my life. My wife and I were married, in love, living in our dream home, and starting a family. We already had one 18 month old son, and our second was on the way. I had a good job that I actually enjoyed. We did lots of fun things like snowboarding, biking, skateboarding, and spent lots of time with friends. At the same time, there were things that were difficult for me. At 6 feet 4 inches tall, and weighing 360 pounds, it was painful for me to sit in arm chairs in the conference rooms at work. I overflowed my seat on airplanes when I had to travel, and I had to ask the flight attendant for the seat belt extension just so I could buckle up. I couldn’t shop for clothes in regular stores, everything had to be ordered. And, I had to buy heavy duty everything from ladders to do work around the house, to oversized kitchen and dining room chairs. I couldn’t even weigh myself on a standard bathroom scale.
I shrugged off all of those things with a simple statement – I was a giant. and I just went about living my life. Being both tall and fat, I somehow justified it as me just being bigger, taller and wider, than everyone else. I’m sure others saw right through that, and I now know that as a classic victim mindset, but at the time it was enough for me to brush it off and not really do anything about it. Until one day, at the local fair…
Late in the summer of 2005, I was walking around the local church fair with my wife Cathy, and 18 month old son Evan. I was carrying Evan against my chest, like dads do, and we were pointing out the rides and games, with all the flashing lights and ringing bells. I’m not sure what Evan was thinking, he seems to just be curiously taking it all in, and not sure what to think. As we walked around one corner though, his eyes lit up! Evan spotted it. There, right in front of him, was Thomas the train. I actually don’t even remember if it was really Thomas or not, but to Evan it was definitely him. His face immediately lit up, and he started squirming in my arms, and pointing at the train anxiously. He was getting really excited, and that got me excited for him. We walked straight toward the train and as we got close, I started to pull Evan from my chest to hand him to Cathy, so she could take him on the ride. But, as I did that, he held on to my shirt and tugged. He was pulling on my shirt, and didn’t want to let go. He didn’t want to be handed off to Cathy. I could tell, he really wanted me to take him on the Thomas the train ride. I took a deep breath, and pulled him off my chest anyway, and put him in Cathy’s arms. The truth is, there was no way in the world that I would fit on that train. At 6 feet 4 inches tall, having a 54 inch waist, and weighing over 360 pounds, they simply didn’t make rides for people my size. Certainly not a children’s ride.
Anyway, after pulling him off my chest, Evan refocused and was back to being excited about getting on the train! They handed their tickets to the conductor (ride attendant!), and climbed aboard. Both Cathy and my son were getting ready for the ride of his life.
What happened next, literally changed my life forever. While I was standing there with a smile on my face and watching them climb aboard, the attendant asked me to please step aside and wait behind the railing. That’s when it hit me. I looked down, and there I was, literally, standing behind a metal barrier and just watching, as my wife and son circled the track. They were giggling, smiling, laughing, pointing, and having a great time. And, I was standing there, outside the fence, watching. Literally watching. Like an outsider, or an observer, who wasn’t allowed in to participate in my own life. I was physically unable to do something that I REALLY wanted to do. Something that my 18 month old son really wanted me to do. And, as they went around and around, I just stared, and thought, and I asked myself – is this the kind of dad I am? Is this the kind of father that I’m going to be? Is this the kind of husband that I have become? What else is my wife going to have to do for us, because I’m not able to do it? Is this really the the kind of life that I have made for myself?
I knew the answers to those questions were yes. What I was experiencing standing outside that ride, on that day, was exactly the life that I created for myself, and I wasn’t happy about it at all.
Combine my experience at the fair, all of the little annoyances that were starting to add up, and now being denied a 20-year term life insurance policy, and I was ready to change, again. You see, I grew up heavy. I was always the fat kid. And, I had tried to lose weight, several times during my life. Sometimes it worked for a few months, or even a year, and then before I knew it the weight would be back. I was so determined at this point though. I wanted to do it and I wanted it to be different. I wanted to be healthy, and I wanted it to last! The only problem, was I didn’t know what to do. Obviously, I had not yet found anything that would work for me, but I started anyway.
It was December now, and I was going to make 2006 my year. I set a new year’s resolution to lose 50 pounds in 2006. I immediately gave up sweets and soda, and was going to figure out how to just eat less. I did that, for a few months. I didn’t eat any sweets, I didn’t drink any soda, and I was keeping myself hungry. And, I saw absolutely zero results. I had not lost a single pound. That was another tough one to take. It was depressing. I still had time though, so I kept searching for something that was going to work.
In March of 2006, I found it! While searching Amazon for weight loss books, I came across Dr. Fuhrman’s book Eat to Live. I read the description, and it made a lot of sense to me. I read the reviews, and it sounded like it worked for a lot of people. They were getting results, so why not me? I ordered the book, started reading it, and changing my diet immediately. I focused on eating more, lots more. More fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and seeds, and less of everything and anything else. I did not make hard rules in the beginning about the things I would not eat. I really did focus on eating more vegetables and fruit, and letting that crowd out the bad stuff. It was a good plan for me. There were no feelings of failure, and I woke up every day on a mission to eat more healthy vegetables and fruit than I had the day before, and it worked.
By the time my second son Henry was born, on May 2, 2006, just 2 months after buying Eat to Live, I was already down 30 pounds! I couldn’t believe it, but I loved it, and that was all the motivation I needed to keep pushing.
I continued, eating more and more vegetables, fruits, beans nuts and seeds, and cutting out everything else, including oil, breads, flour, sauces, sweeteners, and even pizza. I ate huge salads, and tons of greens. I made big batches of bean chili with mushrooms and kale. I made delicious soups with broccoli and roasted red peppers. I ate everything over steamed spinach, kale, broccoli, or other greens, and usually with a side of steamed asparagus or some other vegetable. I snacked on fresh fruit, carrots, and celery. I seriously ate more vegetables and fruit than I thought was possible. And, it was working.
After those first two months of big weight loss, I settled in, and was losing almost exactly 8 pounds every month. It didn’t come off evenly, at 2 pounds a week though. Sometimes it would start slow and then drop in a few days, and other months it would be more even. Either way, I did watch the scale daily to see, learn, and understand what was happening with my weight. I really liked what I was seeing, and I was noticing it in other areas as well.
I started going to see my doctor every few weeks, so she could help me track these changes, and she started ramping down my blood pressure medication. I also started having fewer migraine headaches. She was also very impressed with the rate I was losing the weight, and told me to keep doing what I was doing. I really liked hearing that. It was a totally different experience than the doctors visits I was used to.
By December of 2006, one year into this attempt to lose weight and get healthy, 10 months after reading Eat to Live and switching to a whole food plant based nutritarian diet, my blood pressure was normal without medication, I was no longer experiencing migraine headaches, and I had lost a total of 90 pounds – completely blowing away my goal of losing 50 pounds for the year! I felt amazing!
It was the end of the year again, and time for another new year’s resolution. What was I going to do though, other than just continue? This was working great, but now, for the first time in my life, I decided that I wanted to start exercising.
It’s worth taking a second here, to point out that I lost more than 90 pounds without exercising at all. I mean nothing. I never went for a walk around the block. I never went for a bike ride. I didn’t step foot into a gym, nothing, absolutely nothing. I want to make that crystal clear, to highlight the power of my new diet. However, now, with 90 pounds gone and my body being healthier than ever, I had energy, more energy than ever, and I actually wanted to do something with it. I decided that I was going to start running.
I had never played sports or exercised in my life. I was active, riding bicycles, skateboarding, and snowboarding, but I never exercised specifically. That was about to change. I didn’t follow a plan, but my wife had a treadmill in the basement, and I went down to give it a try. I started walking and then I would run for 30 seconds or so until I lost my breath, and then I’d go back to walking. I did that for a half hour, every day, and just kept trying to run a little longer each time. I progressed pretty quickly, to the point where I could run a minute, then a quarter-mile, then a half-mile, then eventually I could run for a full mile. I would warm up, run a mile, take a walk break, and run another. I just continued and the runs got longer and the walk breaks got shorter, until I could run a few miles in a row.
In March, I signed up to run my first 5k race, and it was the coolest. Being out there with everyone hustling around the registration area, signing up, getting bibs, warming up, it was like a swarm of bees all moving in different directions getting ready for the same thing, and I couldn’t believe that I was actually a part of it. After that race, I was hooked! I was hooked on living a truly healthy lifestyle that included eating a purely whole foods plant based nutritarian diet, and running.
I continued progressing with both in 2007. I kept eating more and more vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and seeds, and almost nothing else. I also kept increasing my running, by trying to extending my longer runs a little farther and farther every time. Even with adding all of this exercise, I continued losing almost exactly 8 pounds a month, every single month, until September 2007 when my weight loss stopped just as suddenly as it began.
My new life
At that point, I had lost a total of 160 pounds with new weight of 197, my blood pressure, triglycerides, and cholesterol were all ideal without medication, I was no longer getting migraine headaches, I was down 18 inches to a 36-inch waist, and I re-applied and got that life insurance policy. In the preferred category!
On top of that, the piece of mind that I have now, knowing that I am truly healthy on the inside means a lot to me. Bing a very active part of my kids’ lives, and knowing that I am going to be with them for a very long time, really means the world to me.
Growing up, I always wanted to lose weight so I would look good. When I was starting a family, I cared less about the weight and looks, and really just wanted to be healthy. Now, that I have my health, and the weight is gone, I want to continue because of the incredible life that I have now! I literally feel good and have fun every day, and am especially proud to be a positive role model for my family, and others that I care about. The feeling I get from truly living life, the way that I do now, is beyond my wildest dreams. There is nothing that would ever make me want to make me give that up.
To sum it up, my new life is totally amazing! Oh, and yes, now I do fit on the trains. Even the kiddie ones.