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LIVESTRONG Helped Dean L. Lose 95 Pounds and Get Off of Diabetes Meds

BY ANN RUSNAK

Name: Dean L.
LIVESTRONG.COM Username: dean5458     
LIVESTRONG.COM Member since: January 7, 2011

STATS:
Age: 57
Height: 5 feet 10 inches

Before Measurements
Weight: 280 pounds
Pant Size: 44

After Measurements
Weight: 185 pounds
Pant Size: 34

B&ADean
Krik Irwin

1. LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your life like before joining LIVESTRONG.COM?
Over the years my wife, Nancy, and I both gradually put on weight, until in our late forties she weighed 300 and I weighed 240 pounds. After carefully considering all of her options (and consulting her doctor), my wife decided to have a gastric bypass. There were challenges along the way, but 10 years later she continues to maintain her weight at around 160 pounds -- almost half of her original weight!

Nancy's results motivated me, and I did try losing weight several times. I had plenty of reasons: Type 2 diabetes, high triglycerides, hypertension and sleep apnea, to name a few. I was even turned down for a life insurance policy because of my health. I had low self-esteem as a result of the constant humiliation being so overweight caused in my day-to-day life. Things like fitting into a restaurant booth or whether or not I would need a seatbelt extender on a flight were constant worries. I let my wife take care of shopping for my clothes so I could avoid acknowledging the need for bigger sizes.

I rarely exercised, and a single flight of stairs was enough to make me lose my breath. My diet was terrible. The Chinese buffet (multiple trips through the line) was a typical lunch, and a snack might consist of an entire bag of potato chips. I skipped breakfast to make up for my bad eating the rest of the day -- it helped me feel like I was at least trying.

In summary, I was a mess!

couple
Kirk Irwin

2. LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your inspiration to make a change?
At past diabetes checkups with my doctor, he would encourage me to lose weight and remind me of the potential consequences if I didn't, including blindness, loss of limbs and an early death. Each visit I'd faithfully promise to start working on it.  Afterward, I would head for the Chinese buffet, rationalizing this as a "last-time splurge" before I started my diet -- tomorrow. When he upped my diabetes medication without the usual suggestion to lose weight at an appointment I felt he had given up on me, and for some reason that left me determined to "show him" and make a change.

Two months later I'd lost more than 20 pounds, but then the pounds started creeping back on as my efforts relaxed. From past yo-yo dieting experiences, I knew where this would end up. Then I remembered our trip to the Grand Canyon the year before, where I'd learned that there is a 200-pound weight limit to take one of the famous mule trips to the bottom of the canyon. On a whim I called for more information, and before I knew it I was committed (to the tune of more than $2,000 once all travel expenses were factored in).

It took a few days to work up the courage to confess my self-indulgence to my wife, but when I did she supported me 100 percent! For the first time in my life I had a major positive inspiration to lose weight. In the past it had always been about addressing a negative -- bad health, nagging family and doctors, etc. Now I had a goal that I desperately wanted to work for, not to mention a fixed deadline and significant financial investment.

3. LIVESTRONG.COM: How did LIVESTRONG.COM help you lose weight?
After investigating a number of health-monitoring apps I chose LIVESTRONG's Calorie Tracker because it included glucose monitoring. I used the Calorie Tracker to determine my calorie intake and log my glucose readings. It was also useful to see the charts of my glucose levels in relation to carbs consumed to help me learn what foods to avoid.

scan
Kirk Irwin

4. LIVESTRONG.COM: What was your support system like?
My wife's support was crucial to my success. Many who lose weight as a result of a gastric bypass regain the weight because they don't adjust their lifestyles in a lasting way, but Nancy developed amazing self-control during her journey. Our dietary needs were different as a result of her surgery and my health conditions. Although it was difficult for both of us at times, having foods in the house that were not good choices for the other's eating plan helped me learn to better deal with temptation (a skill that comes in handy when I'm away from home and faced with similar situations).

Nancy taught me tips and shared helpful advice based on her experience losing weight. For example, she taught me the trick of having my salad dressing on the side and dipping my fork into the dressing before each bite. You get the same flavor using a fraction of the dressing! She bought me a kitchen scale so I could start weighing my food, which was a very eye-opening part of my success.

My primary support came from daily monitoring and tracking. I logged every bite of food into LIVESTRONG.COM's Calorie Tracker. I weighed myself and checked my blood pressure every morning, and I checked my blood sugar before and after every meal and workout. That might seem excessive to some, but I needed that extra accountability to stay focused on my goals.

biking
Kirk Irwin

5. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your favorite way to work out?
In years past, I tried walking and running, which resulted in painful shin splints. I'd also used an elliptical machine in the past, but I can't say I enjoyed it. This time I researched exercise bikes (my wife suggested I add "obsessively") and decided on a recumbent style, which I've been very happy with. 

My favorite exercise is riding my mountain bike (it had spent the past 10 years hanging unused from the garage ceiling). I ride on local trails that are part of the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy, so they're pretty flat. I started out riding just a few miles and now routinely make 25- to 35-mile trips. 

6. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your weekly exercise schedule?
I try to ride my mountain bike 20 to 30 miles or use my exercise bike 45 to 60 minutes every day. That usually ends up happening five times a week due to schedule conflicts. 

After years of focusing only on cardio, I decided to add strength training to help get rid of the final 10 or 20 pounds. On the advice of folks in the LIVESTRONG.COM community, I recently started using LIVESTRONG's free STRONGER workout videos that are available on the website. Wow, I quickly learned that just because I can bike more than 30 miles without a second thought doesn't mean I'm in shape! 

7. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the range of calories you eat per day?
My LIVESTRONG Calorie Tracker goal is set at 1,200 calories per day, but I use it more to serve as a reminder that I'm getting up there. I average around 1,800 calories per day.

track
Kirk Irwin

8. LIVESTRONG.COM: What are the healthy staples that are always in your kitchen?
We try to keep lemons, clementines, strawberries and radishes on hand. I actually like eating peeled lemons -- they are lower in calories and sugar than most fruits. Clementines are a great substitute for regular oranges, sin because they are smaller and lower in calories. Most fruits are high in sugar and carbs, so I don't indulge as much as I'd like.

We usually keep sliced deli turkey and ham and pickles in the fridge. (The pickles are high in sodium, so I have to be careful with those.) My wife also keeps the fridge stocked with cheese: I make sure to keep my slices thin to control the calorie impact. We also keep no-sugar-added popsicles in the freezer. (They are only 15 calories each and low in sugar, so they make a great snack when a craving hits.)

9. LIVESTRONG.COM: How do you strategize for meals?
I eat pretty much the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day. Breakfast is Greek yogurt or hard-boiled eggs, and lunch is a Subway chicken chopped salad or a whey protein bar. My wife cooks dinner. She tries to balance keeping us healthy with not being overly restrictive. Early in the day I find out what she's making and plan ahead using the Calorie Tracker to determine how much I can eat to stay on track. I'm very careful to weigh and measure everything.

When we eat out I also plan ahead, checking the menu online and using the LIVESTRONG Calorie Tracker app to find a meal that fits my calorie and nutrition goals.

sweats
Kirk Irwin

10. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's the biggest challenge you faced?
I really enjoy food, so it's been hard to change the way I eat. The temptation to cheat "just this once" and then "be good" afterwards is always present, which is why I am so diligent with my tracking. Knowing that I will have to step on the scale and check my blood sugar afterward (and record those numbers) has been a great motivator.

The well-meaning comments others make encouraging me to eat more or telling me I don't need to lose more weight can be challenging. On the flip side, being chided by others when I've had a slip-up is also not helpful to me. Although I do sometimes choose to cheat on my diet, I track every bite. That tracking accountability is the only negative feedback I need to get back on course. Losing weight is a very personal journey, and I sometimes found the outside influence of the input of others to be a challenge.

11. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your biggest secret to success that you want to share with others?

No. 1 -- Find your motivation and make it something positive. In my experience, negative motivators like guilt or shame won't sustain you for the long haul. Something bucket-list-worthy with a hard deadline was what worked for me.

No. 2 -- Track your calories, whether in an app like LIVESTRONG's Calorie Tracker or in a notebook: Write it down. Be brutally honest in your tracking. Weigh and measure everything. It is so easy to underestimate your actual calorie intake. Every bite adds up and counts, so track it all!

closeup
Kirk Irwin

12. LIVESTRONG.COM: What's your life like now?
I've kept the weight off for a year now. I'd like to lose another 10 to 15 pounds and get out of the "overweight" BMI category. 

I see my doctor every six months now instead of three. My diabetes is controlled by my diet (no more meds)! My triglycerides, total cholesterol and blood pressure are all in the healthy range now, and the CPAP machine has been retired. I had to replace my entire wardrobe, and I fit into clothes I haven't been able to wear in years (much to the dismay of my more fashion-conscious wife). I can bike 26 miles at a hard pace, and I no longer run out of breath climbing a flight of stairs. I even had to get a new driver's license and passport because I don't look anything like my old photos!

I still use the LIVESTRONG Calorie Tracker app every day to record my meals. I also started reading the Community message boards on LIVESTRONG.COM and even adding my two cents when I think it might be helpful.

Best of all, I just completed my second trip into the Grand Canyon on a mule this spring. I weighed in at 192 pounds fully clothed -- only one pound more than last year. I have plans to go again in 2016 with my daughter. Just the motivation I need to keep the weight off another year!

Ann Rusnak is LIVESTRONG's Sr. Community Manager. Her quest to lose the "baby weight" before the "baby" finished elementary school sparked an interest in health and fitness that continues to be a passion to this day. She loves hiking and yoga, and thinks the best exercise is one you can do with a good friend. Over the years, Ann's desire to fit into a certain size has evolved into what she feels is the more important goal of feeling good and having energy to live life to its fullest.

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