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"Taking a Swing at Weight Loss - Update #16" 

02 December 2001

Tickets to 109 Major League Baseball Games:        $7,243

2800 Gallons of gas to drive all over America:         $4,290

Used RV and travel expenses for trip companions:  $17,734

The look on my mother's face when she opened the door and first saw
me:  PRICELESS!!!!!

To those who have been faithful virtual companions throughout the trip,

Home has never been sweeter.  My appreciation and adoration of God have never been deeper.   The generous love and support of my family and friends has never been more important. 

After eight most amazing months of wandering around the country and being mesmerized with God's glory as displayed in nature, I am back home. After attending 109 baseball games in every Major League Ballpark and visiting 49 of 50 American states, reality now returns as an active part of my daily existence.  After loosing 218 pounds during this period of a dream like fantasy experience, I have just started the process to "be half the man I once was."  Of course that is half the man I once was physically.  As many have kindly pointed out, spiritually and emotionally I have gained a lot of "size and weight" and I hunger to be more of a Godly man that I once was.

It has been a fascinating and joyful three weeks since the last update.  After leaving the NY/NJ area I arrived in the tranquil and relaxed environment of rural Virginia.  It was so great to just veg out with family there while enjoying hunting, hiking and running around with my grandfather.  He became my local publicist lining up an interview with the local newspaper and a speaking engagement to about 35 senior citizens at the local Community Center of Bedford, Virginia.  What a confirmation of God's gifting me with this experience to be able to share it with a very enthusiastic group of mature folks who seemed so excited to hear of my journey.  It was while in Virginia that I decided to add to the shock value of my weight loss and have some fun with a make over!  Through a local institute where my cousin-in-law Fran Pfaff teaches, I had my goatee removed and my hair chopped and bleached.  My hair had not been cut for about a year as it took on a spiritual and symbolic significance.  Just like Samson in the Old Testament who was set apart by God for a special purpose and his hair was a public symbol of that, so too has this time in my life been set apart for a special purpose and I wanted my hair to be a symbol of my reliance on God for strength to accomplish my goals. It got to be quite long and I have the remnants in a bag to prove it!  I will be donating it to a charity that makes wigs for children with cancer.  Cutting it led to quite the change in my physical appearance.  Add a little bleach, remove some facial hair and loose 218 pounds and I am still doing double takes when passing in front of a mirror.  My loved ones in Virginia that had seen me an hour before the make over, were left momentarily clueless as to who I was and speechless about what I had just done.  I knew that great fun with my homecoming was in store!

After collecting nearly a full set of "hand me over" clothes from my cousin Darren, cousin-in-law Martin and my Gramps I felt styling!  My Gramps even gave me a couple suits which are something I have not worn for many years.  There has always been a fashion irony in my life because with my size, I never could afford to pay the monumental prices for customized "big boy" suits and oversized nice digs that I could fit into.
 I always had a very casual dress "with whatever fits" style which often was out of sync with the leadership and public advocacy positions I was blessed to serve in.  For example, a couple years ago I met President papa George Bush while I was wearing an informal sweater and even had a picture taken with him.  It was no big thing for me but I know some others took it as almost disrespectful.   I guess just one of the many
benefits of loosing all this weight is being able to shop at the normal stores and pay normal prices and pillage my brother's closets when they have something that looks good!   A genuine warning for my male friends: Don't be surprised or offended if you see me going through your closets checking to see what might fit me and look gooood!  Smile.

After a great week of relaxing transition in Virginia, Gramps and I set out for my last cross country drive of 3300 miles through 14 states on the way home for Thanksgiving.  We were blessed to see my good friend from residency Dr. Howie Spegman and family in Wisconsin, and my cousin Peter Janaros as we blew through Colorado.  In preparing for the final drive home, my grandfather expressed  that he has always wanted to see
MT. Rushmore.  Even though I had been there in late June with my dad, I gladly drove there again taking a very round about route back to California.  We were blessed with crystal clear spectacular weather and enjoyed the congestion free environment of late November tourism.  We were also amazed with the splendor of Bryce Canyon National Park and Zion National Park both in SW Utah.  Both Parks involving some of the most
amazing rock and earth formations I have ever seen with access and proximity that impressed me much more than my previous visits to the Grand Canyon.  I felt like we had a chance to visit God's personal carving studios.   From Utah, we drove through Nevada and spent a night in Las Vegas.  The fellowship on the open road with my grandfather was a
rich experience and a neat time for both of us.  Having lost his wife (and my dear grandmother) of nearly 60 years this past spring, he was so excited to see things he never thought he would have a chance to.  In the meantime, I was just bursting with excitement at the dream I was about to wake up from.  While in Las Vegas media interest started churning and I knew that homecoming was going to be quite the experience.

Driving south from Nevada on Highway 15, I was in a daze.  From San Bernardino to home in Escondido the tears were free flowing.  A soup of emotions were bouncing off the walls of my heart seasoned with an overwhelming sense of thankful appreciation.  Coming home after 8 months on the road would normally be exciting enough.  Coming home as a new physical person with a TV crew following you to the front door was
amazing!  I had told my family that I would be home right at noon the day before Thanksgiving as I had some phone interviews soon thereafter.  Most of the immediate family was assembled along with some neighbors and friends.  The moment that door opened was such a euphoric moment of elation and shock that I will never forget it.  With the camera rolling and the newspaper photographers and reporters capturing the moment, my hopes of surprising my family were surpassed beyond my wildest expectations.  Its hard to adequately describe the range of reaction from screams of joy, to tears of thanksgiving, to "who the heck is that", to the nieces and nephews who literally had no idea who this was.  To see the look on their face as they heard a familiar voice coming out of a
stranger's body was unbelievable.  It took them quite a while to assimilate it all.  It was a feast of joy and celebration that I had fantasized about for many months.  Being able to watch it over again on the 6 PM and 10 PM News was a lot of fun for the whole family and added to the overdose of excitement.

Thanksgiving is by far my favorite day of the year.  The one holiday that seems to have escaped commercial exploitation struggles to retain its purpose as a set aside time of expressing appreciation to God for His blessings.  I get nauseous when I hear it referred to as "turkey day." Say that around me and you will get an earful I promise!  I pray that God
enables me to maintain the attitude I have now that every day is Thanksgiving Day for me.   The day was of course extra special this year and our family assembled at Phil and Betsy's new house for the celebration.  Having a TV crew join in the festivities was like extra
sugar in an already very sweet day.  They were there to capture my first bite of "real" food in 8 months.  It was a real unique situation that we all thoroughly enjoyed.  At the moment  I bit into my grilled portobello mushroom, I flipped backwards in my chair with excitement.    Watching our family Thanksgiving celebration and worship on the news that night was a real trip!   Veggies have never tasted so yummy!   As a matter of fact, I have decided to be a vegetarian until Christmas at which time I will have my first bite of meat which will be turkey!  I thought about becoming a permanent vegetarian for about 5 minutes as I was having my first plate of food but when the turkey platter went by, that plan was quickly and definitively rejected.

And so, reality has quickly become a part of my daily existence.  I have had a great time running into loved ones and am blessed with the joy and enthusiasm that everyone so generously shares with what has happened.  It cracks me up to see how people react to the change in my appearance.  The ones who are clueless about who is standing before them are the most entertaining.   Its hard to believe, but more than half of the folks I encounter have no idea who I am.  So many are generously making themselves available to do what they can with helping me continue the progress I have been blessed with.  Thanksgiving weekend the sports miracles kept flowing as my colleague and good friend Dr. Ken Morris invited me to join him for a San Diego Chargers football game.  It was very timely and deeply appreciated as I was going through some massive sports withdrawal!  Two days later I was taken on my first hike to the peak of MT. Bernardo, the highest point in Escondido, by my friend George Dill.  He is a veteran of the "weight loss wars" and I suspect fully enjoyed taking me right to the edge of my body's capacity during our 8 mile hike.  Pastor Pat Kenney has committed to working out with me at least three times a week.  Columnist Jeff Frank shared his personal work out routine with me and my friends Alex and Alberto are going to give me some body building pointers as well.  The family has been so thoughtful and I am very enthusiastic and humbled with all this support.  I know it will all be needed.

So what are the plans now?  I still have 18 pounds to go before reaching my goal of 230 pounds.  I suspect that I will be reach it right around Christmas Day.  Though what I have accomplished has been very significant, I am fully aware that keeping the weight off and making permanent changes will be even tougher challenges.  While overwhelmed with thanksgiving and excitement on the progress thus far, I am humbled with the task that still lies ahead.   Practically, I plan on working only about 20 hours a week including 10 hours of clinical care at my previous clinic and 10 hours consulting for a local nonprofit agency serving the needs of foster children who are at risk for or who have been taken out of their homes for sexual or physical abuse.  I am so thankful to be able to still serve those in our community who need it most and advocate for those who are the most underserved.  Added to the blessing is that the man who runs the agency has lost 160 pounds on the same exact diet and has been successful in keeping it off!!!  Talk about built-in accountability!  I am really excited to be working with Brad and to be in a position to really encourage and support each other.  I hope to spend at least a couple hours a day either at the gym or outdoors doing some type of strenuous physical activity.  The next 6-9 months I view as a transition time of setting new habits and developing a new personal approach to fitness and health.

I humbly ask that you who have been praying for me, would continue doing so and specifically for this transition phase back to a new routine, a new schedule, a new lifestyle and a new way of eating.  I am in need of a completely new paradigm!  I willingly accept your assistance in keeping me accountable and I have no reservations with intrusive and even aggressive challenges if there is any evidence that you see of unhealthy behavior in me.  I need your help so BRING IT ON!!!!!

Jesus Christ in John 15: 5,7 and 8 says:  " I am the vine; you are the branches.  If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.  If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.  This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit."

As a branch clinging to its vine,

dr. Nick

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