Name: Michael P.
LIVESTRONG.COM Username: Parigod123
LIVESTRONG.COM Member since: 2014
Weight: 360 pounds
Dress/Pant Size: 48
Weight: 233 pounds
Dress/Pant Size: 36
1. LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Before LIVESTRONG my life was complete misery. At my heaviest I weighed 360 pounds. I was unable to walk to the mailbox and back without getting fatigued and short of breath. I was on daily breathing treatments for asthma and COPD. My medical history is extensive: four heart attacks and five stents, brain surgery to remove a pituitary tumor, two arthroscopic knee surgeries and chronic back pain. Through all of that I was a heavy smoker, heavy drinker and morbidly obese.
I stopped smoking and made a few lifestyle changes after my last heart attack in 2010. My weight has been a lifelong problem, and I had never been able to lose enough to make a difference in my health. I hated what I looked like and how I felt. I constantly asked my wife if she thought I was overweight, and I was insanely jealous because I was so insecure about myself. I hated myself, so how could anyone really love me.
My average meal was a McDonald's Big Mac, fish sandwich, two double cheeseburgers, supersize french fries and a large sweet tea. In addition, I would also buy about four or five extra sandwiches that I would eat before the night was over. A sit-down, home-cooked meal might consist of three fried pork chops, french fries and bread. That doesn't include the frequent snacks of chips, cakes, candy and candy bars that I ate throughout the day and night.
2. LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
My wife is an occupational nurse at one of the local plants and promotes health and wellness in her position there. Her work sponsors a weight-loss program throughout the year. She is paid to lose 5 percent of her body weight and maintain it through the year. She had gained a few pounds since the previous quarter and was starting to diet and exercise. We joined a gym. And after my wife was unable to find any friends willing to work out with her, I told her I would do my best to exercise with her, but I was making no promises. That was the start of my weight-loss journey.
3. LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
When I first joined LIVESTRONG.COM and started using the MyPlate Calorie Tracker app, I would visit the community message boards and just read posts from other members. I found this very helpful because I enjoyed reading about other members' success stories as well as how other people tracked their diets and advice they shared about what had worked for them. Nowadays I'm actively involved in the community -- both posting my own questions and answering others when I think my own input might help someone else.
After I started using MyPlate I became obsessed with tracking all of my calories, and I quickly began to realize why I was obese. I became more committed and started tracking my progress more closely in July. A milestone moment was when I asked my wife not to prepare my favorite birthday cake this year because I was trying to lose weight and wanted to stick to my program.
4. LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
When I informed my family that we were all going to start eating healthier, my son replied, "It's about time, Dad." My family had already started eating healthy a long time ago. I had noticed that I was the only person who ate some of the meals I prepared, but I didn't realize why. My wife and kids would only eat the healthy foods on their plates and never touched the fried, unhealthy options. Throughout this journey my family has supported me 100 percent. My first weight goal was 250 pounds, and the look of pride I saw on the faces of my family inspired and motivated me to continue trying to reach more goals.
To my surprise, I was also able to find a lot of support from other members on the LIVESTRONG.COM community message boards.
5. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your favorite way to work out?
My wife is my workout partner, and every evening we walk a minimum of five miles through our neighborhood and a local park. We enjoy these walks and spending time with each other while also getting healthier.
6. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
I go to the gym three days a week -- usually Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday mornings. I usually walk five miles every afternoon with my wife if weather permits. If the weather doesn't cooperate we usually go to the gym. On the weekends we enjoy visiting area state parks and walking on different nature trails. On weekends our walks average between seven and 10 miles. Because of my past surgeries I have to be careful not to overwork my knees or back. I also use the weights at the gym for strength training.
7. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's a typical day of meals and snacks?
I have a protein shake for breakfast, a salad for lunch and usually do the cooking for dinner. I try to prepare healthy balanced meals with plenty of vegetables (usually steamed) and a healthy protein (typically chicken). I am a big fan of chicken and have collected many recipes for healthy chicken dinners. Over time I have learned ways to tweak most recipes and turn them into healthy meals.
My between-meal snacks usually consist of fruit, nuts and raw vegetables. I do not eat or snack after 8 p.m. My drinks of choice are bottled water and sugar-free tea. My best food tip is that, with a little effort, you can create a healthy meal out of almost any foods.
8. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the range of calories you eat per day?
At first I was aiming for 2,000 calories a day, but the weight was not coming off like I wanted, so I decreased my goal to 1,500 calories per day. I have found that with added exercise I am able to increase my calorie intake and still lose weight consistently while remaining healthy.
9. LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
I keep an ample supply of fresh fruit, peanut butter, nuts, cheese, dill pickles, whole-wheat bread and wheat crackers in my pantry at all times. When it's cold outside, I also enjoy parching peanuts in the shell (it's a Southern thing) to snack on at night while watching television with my wife (while always paying attention to portion control, of course). The peanuts have replaced potato chips for us.
10. LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
I do the grocery shopping for our family once a week. I plan out each of our daily meals for the week before I go shopping, and I make a weekly shopping list based on that plan. I do not stray from my list while at the store, which helps me to avoid buying a lot of unhealthy items. That said, I have college-age children, and I do buy some snacks for them that are not on my healthy diet plan. I avoid those with good old-fashioned willpower or by grabbing a healthy snack instead.
11. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the biggest challenge you faced?
There have been two major challenges I've faced in my journey. First, I've always felt that I am deficient in the hormone that lets you know when you have had enough to eat. Before starting this journey, I always ate until everything on my plate was gone. Now I use smaller plates, and after I have finished a portion of my meal I pause and wait a few minutes and try to focus on whether or not I feel full. Regardless, I only eat what I put on my plate the first time -- no second helpings.
The second obstacle was my poor health. It is very hard to find motivation to exercise when you don't feel well, and I had never been successful at pushing past that long enough to start feeling better and improving my health in the past. This time I started slow. I walked on the treadmill at 1.5 miles per hour and for short periods of time at first because I couldn't breathe. I gradually increased my speed and endurance until I was able to walk for 30 minutes. After that milestone I noticed that I was improving more rapidly and that I could breathe. A big moment was when I caught myself singing along with the radio, which I had stopped doing because it took too much energy and breath.
These days I'm able to walk for 10 miles and keep a pace of about four miles per hour. I recently started jogging and am taking that slowly. My current goal is to be able to jog an entire mile without stopping, and I'm determined to get there. So far, I'm able to jog about a quarter of a mile. My health is slowly improving, and I am determined to keep heading in the right direction and eventually become very active!
12. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?
If I had to share with someone my secret of success, it would be that it is never too late for a lifestyle change. Even at the age of 52 and with all my past health problems, I'm making it happen. Getting healthy is not just a temporary change of diet, it's a way of life. You can lose weight with diet, but it won't be as beneficial as it could be if you're not willing to make a permanent lifestyle change.
13. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your life like now?
My life has changed in so many ways. I feel better and have more energy. I have reduced some of my medications, and I'm looking forward to my next doctor appointment because he said he might be able to eliminate even more. I no longer shy away from mirrors because I like the new me. I will continue to use LIVESTRONG.COM's resources to monitor my progress. Since I don't have the mechanism that lets me know when I'm full, I will continue to track my diet and exercise on MyPlate. I believe this will help develop good lifelong habits for my future. To put it simply, LIVESTRONG has been a great lifesaving resource, and I would like to thank LIVESTRONG.COM for giving me my life back.
Written by: Ann Rusnak