Hansons are big people. Not so much in height as in girth. Grandma was always heavy, grandpa was built like a utility truck. Dad was morbidly obese and mom was plump. What a nice word, plump. “Fat” sounds so judgmental. Plump sounds cozy, like when I was a small boy and just wanted to snuggle into grandma’s soft, round, plump belly and fall asleep. Growing into men, grandma was concerned that we would go out in the world and settle for skinny Minnies who we “couldn’t find under the sheets.” Instead, she suggested we find good eaters for our mates. God forbid, I once brought a girlfriend around who had the nerve to pick around at the dinner in front of her. After grandma saw this, that woman had to go!
For many years I was a runner. I ran because I liked it…and maybe because I knew where my genes would take me if I let them. I ran my last marathon on my 38th birthday in St. Paul, Minnesota. Just prior to the Med City Marathon I had met Sara, a 6′ 2″ German gal who I had decided would be a great partner to raise three boys with. Although grandma would be pleased that I knew how to locate my mate, the trouble was that Sara is a mighty fine cook. I stopped running and starting eating. Before I knew what happened, I was packing 282 lbs. onto a 5’9″ frame and feeling pretty lousy about it. As it turns out, I made a miserable fat guy. I got winded walking up two flights of stairs. I would feel sciatica shoot down my leg from my back. I sweated on relatively cool days. I had to wear BIPAP when I slept so I did not stop breathing for long periods of time.
To make matters worse, in July of 2013 I saw a rheumatologist who diagnosed me with osteoarthritis in both hips. I began to pay attention to the hip x-rays put on the PACS screen at work in the emergency department. There were 91 year old women with healthier hip joints than I had. I was referred to an orthopedic surgeon who popped up the AP film of my hips and said “Your hips are shot! At 46–what in the hell did you do to your hips?” I ran for many years, I have been in health care all my adult life, and I love to ski–all had taken a toll on my hip joints. “Big guys like you aren’t suppose to run!” the ortho guy exclaimed. “Save that for those wispy-chested Nigerians who are built for distance running.”
Now that I was grinding bone on bone in each hip, my choices to lose weight were suddenly quite limited. Cutting out my tongue seemed too extreme so I took a long look at the habits I had formed to get me to 282 pounds. I hate the word ‘diet’–implicit in that word is an ebb and flow I am not comfortable with. Or maybe, that’s what the word has come to include in our society. Inevitably the wane of dieting is followed by the wax of gaining all the weight back the moment behavior resorts back to what is was before. Options limited, I had to achieve weight loss in the most basic way possible: fewer calories in, compared to calories burned throughout the day. No longer could I just go out and increase my running to burn off weight gain.
1. I stopped eating out of boredom. If I wasn’t hungry, I didn’t eat. I’m not sure when I started eating due to boredom, but I had somewhere along the line.
2. I started cutting down on my portion size and asking my wife to do the same when she served my plate. Although I grew up with a scarcity of food and leftovers were something we never had, it became okay to push my plate away when I had enough. I had to reassure my wife there was nothing wrong with supper, it was just that I had enough.
3. I stopped using social gatherings like birthdays, holidays, big games, deer hunting season, and other celebrations as an excuse to pig out. Instead, I would try a single bite-size of something I really liked just for a taste, then quit. This takes tremendous will power.
4. I stopped eating a big meal right before bed. I have been a night shift worker for 28 years so my bed time is variable, depending upon my work schedule. No matter when I was going to bed, 10 p.m. or 10 a.m., I would have a simple sandwich or apple–just so my stomach didn’t growl while trying to fall asleep.
5. I began to curb my intake of red wine. I love a nice chianti or sangiovese on my night off, but at 7 kcals per gram, the weight gain from alcohol adds up fast. Drinking my calories was no different than eating a big meal right before laying down.
6. I started drinking a lot more water–the recommended eight 8 oz. glasses per day. In doing so, I replaced my usual diet Coke with water–the caffeine being an appetite stimulant and in its absence, I was not as hungry any more.
I had also moved from the float pool as an RN to the emergency room. ER nurses run their butts off, as a rule. By contrast, when I was in the float pool I often enjoyed a banker’s lunch. In the ER, I was lucky to have two minutes to wolf down a PB & J. This is a very unhealthy eating practice, but at least I was burning calories in my new role. Say what you will, but a year and a half after moving to the ER, I am down from 282 lbs. to 232 lbs–A fifty pounds weight loss by using ONLY these 6 easy steps!