Weight Loss Journey

Yoyo_rougeReaders know I struggle with weight loss. There was never a time in my life when I wasn’t bigger than everybody else. I inwardly smiled when the one guy in school larger than me was in my class. In 6th grade, I hit 160 pounds. As an adult I tried every weight loss option, including surgery, that was available. some worked for a while but ultimately they all failed and I yo-yoed right back up the scales.

A year ago, something changed.

Starting Point

In February 2014, I weighed 317 pounds. I was taking multiple medications for blood pressure, two pills for diabetes (type II) and 180 units of Lantus, a long-acting insulin, every day. My A1c was literally off the chart. My MD said the scale ended at 12.5. I was diagnosed with an aortic heart valve disorder which did not do well with my weight.

My activity level was poor. I’d walk only when I had too and silently griped every time I couldn’t find a close parking place at Walmart. I’d go to work, an office career, daily but come home at lunch for a two-hour nap. I was 52 years old and walked like a 70-year-old. I was probably in more trouble than I knew.


That was down from 350+ two years earlier but still not good and not improving. I traveled with friends on an annual mission trip to the grasslands of Guyana in South America. Typically I would lose 4 or 5 pounds a week while there. I vaguely thought that this could be a good time to kickstart my weight loss.

While in Guyana, we walk a lot. It’s hot and our meals are simple. We drink water with an occasional soda. So when we returned to Georgetown, in preparation for returning to the USA, a good meal was always ahead.

The Pegasus is one of the finer hotels and restaurants in Georgetown. They have a burger that I had dreamed of while in the interior. Three of us studied the menu. Mark order the burger, I ordered the burger and Terri, looking straight at me, said “I’ll have the chef salad with dressing on the side.” Something clicked. I changed my order to the salad as well.

Hours later, arriving in Miami, we skipped the McDonalds and again ate something healthier. I arrived home that evening and was greeted with a loss of 8 pounds for the trip.

The Hard Work

Back at home I was surrounded with the usual American diet. Processed foods everywhere, fast food on each corner and a fully stocked pantry and ‘fridge at home.  This was not going to be easy.

Oddly enough, I remained focused. It wasn’t easy, but I stuck with healthy eating for the first week and then the second. Challenges abounded, but I stuck with it.

I was losing at an astounding rate. I was doing all the things that mattered and it was working. In March, I broke the 300 barrier. In June, I blasted through 275 which was the smallest I had been since junior high. In October, I hit my low of 260.5.

Two questions I’ll answer tomorrow and Thursday: How did I do it? Where am I now? Join me!

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Planning Weight Loss

old scaleThe devil is in the details, or so they say. It’s the little things that matter when it comes to success. Weight loss is no different. How many times have we shipwrecked on the shores of distraction or poor planning. How many weight loss journeys have ended because we got off track or fell off the wagon?

Several years ago I began a walking program. I was up to about 4 1/2 miles every day. This was a hilly course through my neighborhood. Even on days when I would work back-to-back doubles at the hospital I would still walk before sleeping.

Then, it happened. I caught a really nasty cold with whole package of fever, aches, pains, stuffy nose and generally miserable feelings.

I missed a day.

I never returned to my walking program.

Weight loss also requires dedication. The smallest bump can send you reeling into excess calories and another failed attempt at loosing pounds.

There is an answer.

Planning is Essential

Here are 5 tips to keep you focused.

  1. Plan TODAY for TOMORROW. As much as possible, know what you will be eating at least a day in advance. Make sure you have the needed foods in the house. Pencil your eating into your app or diary and know now what you will eat and how those foods will affect your plan.
  2. Leave NOTHING to Chance. Pack your lunch. It will save you money over fast food and is almost guaranteed to be healthier than the junk passed through the drive-through window. Make sure to pack plenty of volume so that you stay full. See #3 next.
  3. Some foods are much more FILLING. Eat them. You are probably different from me but I find that apples fill me up and keep me full longer than any other food. A salad is probably number 2. If you maintain fullness you will be less likely to randomly gobble down something your neither need nor want. There may be some other food that is filling to you. Take it with you and stay satisfied.
  4. AVOID food traps like the PLAGUE. I once had a job where my desk faced a candy machine not 20 feet away. That’s disaster waiting to happen. If candy machines tempt you, stay out of the break room. If a Big Mac calls to you then don’t buy coffee from McDonald’s. If you have a powerful sweet tooth stay away from the “Seasonal aisle” at Walmart. Don’t put yourself in an unwinnable situation.
  5. Shop when you are FULL. It is well known that shopping on an empty stomach is hazardous to both your pocketbook and your waistline. Know the foods you will eat in the coming week and shop for them, with a list, when you are full. You will be less likely to succumb to impulse eating.

I believe you can eat anything you want – nothing is off limits – as long as you account for it in your daily plans. But it is vital to be prepared to face every day. This is not a game. It is real life. A little planing will go a very long way.

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Why Read the BellyMonster?

It is a good question. You are busy and there are a million sites calling for your attention. The sites are authored by experts in every corner of the health and fitness market. These guys have studied the material and are happy to tell you how to diet and work-out. So why would you come here?

1. I am Real

I am a 52 year old male who hasn’t been in shape in decades. I am overweight and my health is dangerously close to failing. I am diabetic, hypertensive and totally inactive. I am a slob.

But I know what needs to be done and am trying. I understand the temptations and the failures. I know how good tiny victories feel. I am the real deal.

You will not get a varnished pretty picture of weight loss. I will not claim to know everything nor will I tell you what you have to do to loose weight. I will try and provide insight and guidance.

2. I Struggle

To borrow a phrase, “if it were easy, everyone would do it.” That is, if it were easy to loose weight nobody would be fat. But most of us are fat or very close to it. Loosing weight is hard work. It takes time, intelligence and much effort.

It would be one thing to stay on course for a day or two but for some of us, it will take close to a year to reform our health. That’s a very long time.

I’ve been fighting the battle for years. I still fight. And I struggle. Sometimes that pizza just calls and calls out to me until I fail. You and I are no different. Struggle is our destiny.

3. I am Experienced

Don’t you love for some slim chick to tell you what you are doing wrong with your eating? Or the swaggering stud in the gym who rolls his eyes because your form is not perfect on some exercise.

In many cases these people have no idea about loosing weight. Face it. There is a massive difference between the man who needs to drop 5 pounds after the holidays and the guy who needs to drop 100 pounds.

I’ve been there. I know what the long road looks like. I know the pitfalls and can shine a light on the obstacles we all face. I’ve lost over 200 pounds in my life. The problem is that I have gained most of it back. But I know what to do and, maybe most importantly, I know why I failed. Experience makes a big difference.

4. I Don’t Trust the Media

Reporters are about making a big splash. They will take a story and craft it in such a way as to attract the biggest audience. Unfortunately, the facts sometimes are lost in the sensationalism.

I spend 10 years in broadcast journalism. I spent another 10 years in nursing as an RN in a major Critical Care facility. I can sort through the science and the rumors and deliver thoughtful material.

5. It’s All About You

My success with Bellymonster is irrelevant to your success. It is most important for you to win. I know that your victories will produce victories here.

You have to be at the center of my universe, otherwise, we both fail.

So subscribe and check back often. Share your comments with me. I look forward to he;ping you as you help me.


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Health Goal #1

A “friend” once told me that losing a pound was, for me, like Mt. Everest loosing a pebble. He may be right. But that’s no reason to delay health improvement. We don’t have to do it all in one day. Sure, the looks of a movie star and the stamina of an Ironman might be nice but it is not necessary. At least it is not necessary today. Start with small, achievable goals and build from there.

My Goal #1

My first goal is very simple and very fast. I am surrounded by fast food establishments. Within a short distance of my office I find every imaginable fast food and plenty of decent restaurants. While they are diverse in their character they all share one thing in common: They are bad for my health.

Oh, I know, many have “healthy choices” on the menu but I simply cannot eat there. I will end up with a truck load of trans fats and sodium. I have no more business in a fast food establishment than an alcoholic in a liquor store.

They also have a second characteristic which I just don’t understand. They all want my money! I can eat lunch on less than $10 a day which sounds acceptable. But multiply that by 20 work days a month and now you are up to $200 for calorie dense, nutrient poor food.

These two factors, unhealthy products and economics make this first goal pretty easy:

I will not eat at a fast food restaurant for one week. For the next 7 days I will not darken the door of McDonalds or cross the threshold of Burger King. The chickens of Chik-Fil-A are safe,

One week isn’t long I know, but it is an achievable goal for me. Of course after one week I can aim for a second and then a third.

To help me along I have down two important things. One, I told my two young sons about it. They will ask and pester me about it all week. They make me accountable. Second, I have told you and I will report my success or failure to you so stay tuned!

I wonder, what do you think about this goal?

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Getting Serious About Health…Again!

Well here I am in a new year and still in about the same health condition I was in last year. It’s time to do better. To help, I’m reigniting the Belly Monster Blog in hopes of encouraging you and, hopefully, to be encouraged by you.

Comments are wide open, anti-spam software is in place, so let’s talk about your thoughts on improving health.

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What It Takes

The sidewalks around the gym are usually full of people running ad walking. They prefer to be outside and save the inside work for throwing around the iron. I noticed something today that impressed me.

Four women were walking, not too fast but faster than a stroll. All four were quite large. Just behind them was a fifth woman. She was running and soon passed the four large women. Number 5 was smaller, younger woman. She was light on her feet and obviously very fit.

I appreciate her long fitness work but I was most impressed by the four bigger women. Their walk was probably more taxing than the young woman’s run. They were fighting a battle and were winning. How easy for them to stay home. But they were out and were doing something for their health.

Don’t misunderstand, I respect the young fit woman. But these ladies were heroes for overcoming the tendency to stay put. They were working. They were not comparing themselves to anyone else. If they keep it up, they will succeed.  Will you?

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There’s A Reason It’s Called Junk Food

We love junk food – at least I do. Nothing is more soothing than a Krispy Kreme doughnut and a cup of coffee. The glaze just sends me soaring!

Of course it also sends my blood sugar soaring too. There is a reason why some foods are labeled “junk.” In finance, some bonds are labeled “junk” too. These are obligations that are high in risk and high in interest. Junk foods are likewise high in risk and high in comfort. We need to be very careful about our junk inventory.

Junk Foods Are Full of Calories

No surprise here. 1 2 ounce Snickers bar has 271 calories. That doesn’t sound too bad until you realize that those are hollow, almost useless calories. Of the 271 calories, 122 calories (45%) are just fat. While it is true that we need some fat in our diets, we don’t need that much from a single source.

Junk Foods Are Full of Sodium

Junk foods are typically high in sodium. Salt is everywhere in our food. For example, a Big Mac has 1,000mg of sodium in each burger. That is almost 1/2 teaspoon of table salt poured into every Big Mac. Viewed differently, you get almost 1/2 of your daily salt recommended intake from one hamburger.

That sweet tasting Krispy Kreme doughnut? It has over 300mg of salt in it or almost 13% of your daily needs. Salt in processed foods is ubiquitous, it’s there whether you taste it or not.

Junk Foods Are Full of Unneeded Chemicals

I think this one bothers me almost as much as the other two. Many junk foods are produced and then shipped to the stores over a long period of time. Manufacturers must include preservatives to keep the food appearing fresh. Officially, the chemicals used to preserve the foods are safe and are monitored by various government agencies. But why add any chemical to your diet that you do not need?

Simple eating is best although it can be a bit more inconvenient. But by avoiding junk foods we take in the calories we need and exclude the empty calories that only add weight and alter metabolism.

The Challenge

Are you up to a challenge? Try to avoid all junk food for just one day. That means no soft drinks, no fast food and no candy bars or chips. It takes a little planning and some self discipline but it is doable.

After a day without junk, aim for a second day and then a third. Before you know it you will be free of junk. I’d like to hear from you as you take the challenge. Leave a comment below and let me know how you’re doing.


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The Power of A Habit

Healthy living is a habit. Spontaneity may be more fun but predictable, on-going habits ensure a more healthful lifestyle.

Good Habits

Good habits can do as much to help as bad habits can do harm. It takes a deliberate intent and plan to form those good habits. Continue reading

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Should I Stop Taking Avandia?

“Should I stop taking Avandia?” is probably the top question among diabetics prescribed the drug. The question arises on the heels of the FDA decision to restrict the medication and require documentation of the explanation of risks to the patient.

According to  the FDA there is no strong link between Avandia and heart disease although there are many questions which need to be answered. Therefore the government has decided to restrict its availability.

If you are taking Avandia you should not suddenly stop taking it. Instead, contact your prescriber as soon as possible and seek guidance from him. It may be that your condition is such that Avandia is a wise choice. Of course it is also possible that you can change. But it is very important that your decision be made with your health care provider.

This is a perfect example of the need to cooperatively manage your own health with the assistance of your health care professional.

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Avandia Restricted

Diabetics should know that Avandia (rosiglitazone) has been restricted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and by European regulators. Concern over the type 2 diabetes drug have been mounting due to apparent cardiovascular complications that could develop in users of the drug. The evidence is not clear but until better safety evidence is provided the FDA has restricted its use. Present users should not suddenly stop  the drug but should consult their health care providers immediately to determine a safe course of action.

From the FDA’s Janet Woodcock, MD, Director of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research:

“The evidence pointing to a cardiovascular ischemic risk with rosiglitazone is not robust or consistent (see Discussion of Available Safety Data below). Nevertheless, there are multiple signals of concern, from varied sources of data, without reliable evidence that refutes them. Additionally, evidence available to date, including a randomized trial in high-risk individuals4, does not reveal a signal of cardiovascular ischemic risk with the other thiazolidinedione (TZD)-class drug available on the US market, pioglitazone. Therefore, based on this safety information, it is necessary to restrict access to rosiglitazone until more substantial evidence of its safety becomes available.”

The FDA decision does not prevent users from continuing to take Avandia but does require that physicians explain and document the risks of taking the drug.

Avandia’s manufacturer, GlaxoSmithKline had the following response from GSK Cheif Medical Officer Dr. Ellen Strahlman:

“The company continues to believe that Avandia is an important treatment for patients with type 2 diabetes and is now working with the FDA and EMA to implement the required actions.  GSK will also work closely with other regulatory agencies to comply with any decisions made by them regarding rosiglitazone-containing medicines. GSK will voluntarily cease promotion of Avandia in all the countries in which it operates and will continue to respond to requests for information and support from healthcare professionals and patients.”

Avandia can be prescribed alone or in combination with the generic metformin in a product called Avandamet. There is no apparent issue with metformin when taken alone but combined with Avandia warrants a call to your prescriber.

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