"Taking a Swing at Weight Loss - Update #20"
01 October 2002
To those I am honored to call Family and Friends,
I pray you are at peace and I thank you for your continued interest and support as reflected by your willingness to take the time to read this. I sincerely appreciate it. Were it not for the daily requests I get for a website update, I am not sure I would have taken the time to do it. I cannot believe that exactly six months have passed since the last one. In some ways, with a measure of routine normalcy having returned to my existence, I do not feel worthy of even having you spend the time to ponder my rambling thoughts. On the other hand, I know that there are many out there who have been skeptical about what I have been able to accomplish and how and IF I am able to maintain my current state of health. I can honestly say now that loosing the weight the way I did was easy! I am so blessed to have come up with the idea of combining doing something good for my health with doing something that I totally enjoyed. As I look back on the fantasy I lived through last year, loosing weight was very doable!! Keeping it off and making it a permanent reality in some ways is much more difficult! Gone are the weekly celebrations as I step up on the scale with the positive reinforcement of additional pounds melting off my body. Maintaining the same weight is not quite as exciting!!! It is very important for me to confess that. My whole motivation for sharing the experience so openly this way is to make myself available as a testimony and even a potential source of encouragement in the lives of others. Ultimately, what greater honor could I have but to be blessed with the possibility to encourage and motivate others through my own struggles, triumphs and ongoing challenges. And so I offer a few transparent morsels and pearls of what is currently happening as I strive to maintain my health and in my quest to be a balanced man who is honoring God with his life!
With that in mind, another motivation is the fact that today is actually a monumental day of significance in my life and may actually be the anniversary of when the concept and convictions for this whole adventure were first conceived! Being the emotional, reflective and sappy guy that I am, its days like these that force me to pause, reflect and ponder the ultimate significance of my existence. In the midst of this heart felt day of reflection I find it helpful to try to capture and quantify a few of the thoughts bouncing off the walls of my heart and mind. It was on October 1, 1997 at the age of 31 that for the first time in my life I faced my human mortality head on. A day when death was on my mind. A day that I had to face the possibility that my life could be cut short. The powerful realization that life itself and my personal health were God's precious gifts to me and not things that I could any longer take for granted. Five years ago today a knife was brought against my skin
and part of me was cut away. Cancer had to be removed from my body. It was five years ago today that I had surgery for testicular cancer. This day medically is very important in terms of long term prognosis and survival. Being alive and well and in full remission five years after the initial diagnosis of cancer is cause for celebration!!! It is a very important medical milestone. And so I share with you yet another day of heartfelt celebration and my heart of thanksgiving towards God! Thank you Lord God for my health!! It was through that whole experience that my heart started to churn with the conviction that I needed to be more deliberate with choices in my life that could have direct bearing on my health and physical well being. Having cancer was not something per se that I had direct control over. My weight and the higher risk associated with it for heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and high blood pressure was something that I could actually change. And so, the genesis of my decision to finally do something radical to address my need for weight loss was right around that time. How quickly the time can fly!!
As for where I am with my physical health at this moment: I have now lost a total of 270 pounds having gone from an initial weight of 467 pounds to my current weight of 197. In loosing 270 pounds and with each pound having an equivalent of 3500 calories of stored energy, my body has burned off nearly a million extra calories! 945,000 calories to be exact have been consumed from 270 pounds of fat melting away!!! That is the equivalent caloric content of 1575 Big Macs, 6655 slices of bacon, 8590 bananas or 93,256 animal cookies! I have gone from a size 60 waist down to comfortably fitting into some size 32 pants. I am still diligently spending at least two hours a day on average at the local YMCA gym with the time being evenly split between aerobic exercise and weight
lifting/muscle building. The loose skin which so many people seem to be so curious about is slowly improving and everyone tells me that they can't even see evidence of any loose skin around my face and arms. Of course certain parts of the body are looser than others but then again my goal in life is not to be a speedo model so I have no intentions of surgical intervention for what seems to be a mild cosmetic issue.
Two weeks ago I was able to do something that two years ago would have only been a dream. Having struggled in the past to make it up a flight of steps, I was able hike to the peak of the tallest mountain in the continental United States! It is my good friend Dr. Jim Schultz (who took over my role as medical director at the network of clinics I had spent 8 years with) that came up with the suggestion for the ultimate backpacking trip. It is a wise thing to always have a goal of some sort especially with regard to physical fitness. I was eager to have something to motivate me to maintain healthy habits besides getting up on a scale in the morning and seeing the same weight recorded day after day. And so I, my brother John, Jim, and three of Jim's friends from church spent 6 days and 5 nights backpacking and hiking a nearly 50 mile loop in the High Sierras of California including the peak of MT. Whitney which is the tallest mountain in the continental United States at 14,497 feet. Though I was quite anxious about my ability to make it or at least make it without pushing myself to the edge of my body's physical capacity, the hike was almost easy. The many hours at the gym over the past year paid off in a big way and I was very comfortable doing something physically that not long ago I could not have even considered being a part of. There is a whole new array of activities and recreational options that in the past I was excluded from participating in. Drinking pumped stream water, going a week without a shower, eating dehydrated food and dealing with below freezing temperatures at night proved to be much bigger challenges than the physical exertion needed to conquer a mountain peak!!
God has recently provided some very unique and fun venues in which to share my story and weight loss adventure with others. Besides many word of mouth inquiries through friends and family and through the website, I have had hundreds of emails from people eager to receive advice and counsel with regard to their own weight, fitness and health issues. I have had so many people tell me to write a book or get a publicist but I have decided to just have a wait and see attitude with regard to what if anything unfolds. Well, I recently received a call from a very unlikely media source. The National Enquirer called me after they had received a tip from a local resident who had heard me speak and who had been following my journey through the local media for quite some time. She sent in a scrap book of sorts and the editors decided to pursue the story. Despite my disbelief about the legitimacy of the request and the magazine's motivation and interest in my story, after seeking advice from my family and pastor I decided to go ahead and share my recent experiences with them. Although all of the spiritual aspects and the emphasis of my reliance on God was left completely out of the feature article, it was otherwise amazingly right on and fully accurate. What a unique experience to see yourself on the pages of a publication like that! It is actually supposedly the most widely read newspaper in the world! As a result of the article there have been other secondary media opportunities that have since come up in the last month. One of the largest German TV stations flew out a crew to shoot about 10 hours of footage with me last Saturday that will be used for a prime time show sometime this month that will be broadcast across the whole European Continent. All of this has been for free and besides being a lot of fun may open up some even further opportunities to share my testimony and be used strategically by God in the lives of others. I have also had my first inquiry from a book publisher and will soon begin discussions about the possibility of publishing my story. I would sincerely request your prayer in these matters that my motives would be pure, that if things do develop that it would be to God's glory and that it would not be a source of distraction or temptation towards the wrong things. There are several other inquires that I have recently received including from the Los Angeles Times and a couple Christian Publications and Magazines as well. Obesity is certainly a relevant public health issue in both the United States and in many other developed nations so how my story could be used as a testimony to others is something that is quite exciting to me.
As for how I currently spend my time, as already mentioned exercise is a very important part of my daily routine and schedule. I am enjoying the time that I have on a daily basis to be able to focus on my personal fitness and am excited with the slow but steady improvement with my body's shape and composition. My brother Paul recently joined the same gym and so its been fun to spend the time working out with him and other friends who join me or who I have gotten to know at the YMCA. My sister Pauline has become quite the fitness goddess herself as she too spends time almost daily at the gym and has been doing lots of running and is preparing to run in the Chicago Marathon later this month. Work wise, I have been so blessed to continue serving in several key consulting and clinical positions. My main job has been as Medical Consultant with North County Collaboratives which is a non profit local agency involved with all kinds of strategic community initiatives. My friend and boss Brad Wiscons and I have been fortunate in improving the services received by local foster kids, with victims of domestic violence, with the health care needs of some of our rural communities, and with the housing needs for the local homeless population just to name a few. I am also very excited about the possibility of serving as a liaison between local government and social service agencies with some of the larger churches and faith communities in the area. I still enjoy seeing patients a couple days a week back at the network of clinics where I use to serve as medical director. Its quite the change to be a medical mercenary who comes in to do a job and then leaves without all the administrative responsibilities which were such a time consuming commitment in the past. My brother Phil is still caring for a majority of the patients I use to have and its great to still be able to see some of them on occasion. Its funny how many of them claim to miss the big old jolly Dr. Nick!!! A few have jokingly accused me of being an impostor!!
I have become very involved with the Christian medical students at UCSD serving as their advisor as they strive to integrate their faith in the context of the intensities of their medical education. Its a very strategic opportunity for me to be able to serve as a role model, mentor and source of encouragement and accountability to them as the proceed in the process of going from being students to doctors. Finally, I spend a lot of time giving lectures about my weight loss or with emailing or visiting with folks who have struggles with their own weight and poor health. Not only is it a joy to be able to encourage others but also a source of accountability and encouragement back to me as I make the daily decisions that are necessary to maintain my current state of health. All the healthy habits have not yet become a "natural way of life" and I am not sure that they ever will. The challenge and responsibility I have been given to encourage others in turn is something that encourages and challenges me. Here is part of an email that just came in literally as I was typing this paragraph:
"Also, I really liked what you had to say about your faith and the role that God played in your journey. I know that I go with God as I do this and I hope that I can make the same connection that you did to bring clarity to my life. I would like to be able to keep in contact if that is alright with you. I think it would be good for me to have somebody who has "walked the walk" to have in my corner. You really have inspired me and I hope to have some little "steps" to be able to share soon."
This gentleman whom I have never met, I feel so blessed to be able to share what I can with and to pray for him at the same time. Ultimately it helps me to stay accountable and if my experience can be an encouragement to others, I thank God for that as well.
Thank you for your willingness to spend the time to have read this. I close with a BIG favor. Please pray for my father George as this coming Monday, October 7th he is scheduled to have his knees replaced because of severe degenerative arthritis. He will be having BOTH done at the same time which will be quite a challenging and physically painful experience. Ultimately, the pain he has struggled with on a daily basis with his arthritis will hopefully be gone but he will have quite the valley of surgical pain to deal with before reaching the mountain top of pain free knees!!!! Thank you so very much for your consideration.
I do not know if I will do another update. As the Lord leads and as the requests come in, I will then make the decision. I pray you are richly blessed and I would love to hear from you. Thank you yet again for all the prayer, support, encouragement and cheers!!! They have been a vital part of my success to this point and I sincerely appreciate them all.
Less than half the man I once was,
"I rejoice greatly in the Lord that at last you have renewed your concern for me....I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength." --Philippians 4: 10a, 11-13.