I tipped the scale at 400 pounds the first day I weighed in at the Weight and Wellness Center just over 27 months ago.
I was 62 years old and had finally made up my mind that I was going to drop some weight because, to be candid, I wanted to live a little longer and, at that weight, my path was shortening.
I am a twin, but also the youngest of six children. My twin sister was born three minutes before me. Growing up we were lucky, because my parents were good providers and we always had real food -- meat, potatoes and vegetables -- on the table each night, and you were expected to finish your plate.
As a matter of routine, my mother, God bless her, would circle the crowded kitchen table every night doling out the food right from the pans she had cooked it in. I was always last in line and, instead of just a spoonful of this and a spoonful of that, I got the remainder of whatever was left in the pan, every pan. It was always more that everyone else got but, I won’t lie, I loved it.
However, that practice gave me an enormous appetite. I won’t go into particulars but, to quote the late Elizabeth Taylor, “my capacities were frightening”. I like feeling full to the brim.
So, of course, I was a chubby kid at first. But soon I fell in love with basketball and would play all day if possible and every available minute if otherwise. I slimmed down but still ate endlessly. My first real jobs were unloading trucks in the old Faneuil Hall afternoons and nights after high school classes and then, later, construction jobs. This was hard physical labor and I stayed fairly slim despite eating, at very least, four big meals every day and drinking a lot of beer.
By age 23, I moved into and around Boston and took my first office job at a newspaper. I worked at four different papers. At first, I remained active, on my feet a lot. I was no longer a gym rat but I didn’t really pack on the pounds. As I got older and into my 30s, basketball became a fond memory and my metabolism changed. I did eventually gain about 40 pounds but stayed around 230 pounds for about two decades.
Referred to Weight and Wellness Center
I did make a couple of attempts to lose some weight, not fad diets but ones grounded in common sense, and I was successful. But, once I had achieved my goal weight, it was right back on the chuck wagon and I would pack the weight back on in short order.
You see, I not only knew how to lose weight but also knew right where to find it again.
As the years went on, my job became more supervisory and I didn’t have to move around as much, so I began to really load on the pounds. Lucky for me, I am not big on sugary stuff, tonics, cakes, candy and such, just a real meat and potatoes guy, or my weight gain could have been much worse.
My primary care doctor here at Tufts, Dr. Joan Kross, for years had begged, cajoled and pleaded with me to lose weight and offered her help many times but, for a variety of reasons, surgery was never high on my list as a solution to this problem.
Finally, as I rapidly approached that magic 400-pound mark, I eventually agreed to meet with a surgeon, Dr. Sajani Shah. If you have spoken to Dr. Shah, then you know she is very confident and persuasive and so I decided to take a flyer and have the sleeve surgery.
As I began that part of my journey, on June 27, 2017, I was introduced to Dietitian Jillian Reece and Clinical Social Worker Laura Paradis, two very wise women working wonders at the Weight and Wellness Center here at Tufts MC.
Honestly, at that point, I didn’t understand caloric intake or any of the technical jargon associated with safe dietary practices. But, as I talked to Jillian, I soon realized that my intake on a normal day was about 6,000-7,000 calories and my lifestyle, because of my weight, was very sedentary.
Jillian taught me in simple terms that eating more frequent but smaller meals would keep me feeling just as full as I desired. I still eat the foods I like, just less of them and in a more controlled manner. Soon I was on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet and liked it, amazingly enough. With Laura’s consistent counseling, I kept a proper frame of mind during this period and gradually I became more active too.
After six weeks, I had lost 19 pounds and, in another five weeks I lost 11 more pounds. I was on the right path and realized then that surgery was now just one option, not a necessity nor an eventuality.
Jillian helped me sharpen and hone my diet to introduce some healthier and oftentimes tastier options and, by the one-year anniversary of starting at the Wellness Center, I had lost 64 pounds. On the second anniversary, it was 112 pounds. Just under two months ago it was 125 pounds down.
Why visit the Weight and Wellness Center?
As to any advice or suggestions I might have for others, it would be:
- To seek the professional help offered at the center.
- Make a plan and stick to it, keeping up your daily routine.
- Practice patience with yourself. After all, Rome wasn’t built in just one day.
- And, should you find yourself on occasion to be at a celebration of some sort involving food, just think about your upcoming intake and prepare, eating somewhat less before and after the event. Try to stay in bounds on your calorie count for the day.
- A lifestyle change like this does not mean you can’t have fun and enjoy yourself. Just keep aware of your intake and realize when enough is enough. Should you overdo it one day, just make sure to go back on your routine the next day and keep at it.
- I found that I enjoy the measuring and weighing of my meals and recording them on the Bariatric app on my phone. I believe the app to be an invaluable tool and I think of the process as an equation, a problem to be worked on and solved.
- I don’t weigh myself each day. Instead I try to stick to the low-calorie count, save the weigh-ins for visits to the Wellness Center every couple of months, and enjoy the progress. Sometimes I can’t wait to get on the scale. Imagine that.
- I also now take the long route to any destination, walking more to get more steps in. Take it from me, more steps really help.
Thank goodness, I packed away my skinnier clothes and didn’t just toss them. I am very happy now when I put them on. I plan to keep descending the weight ladder and employ these smaller sizes as, hopefully, this progress continues.
My goal is to lose about 180 pounds. I’d love to get back on the basketball court, but I don’t want to get too ahead of myself. I am over two-thirds of the way to my goal and plan to attain it. Honestly, it’s not that hard if you stick to the plan. And it’s the smart play.