A physician's weight loss journey

By Mark R Greenwood M D

My challenge to all of us is to focus more on adopting an attitude and lifestyle of health. Eat less, eat better, stop smoking, and exercise more.​

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​These days, January and Weight Watchers commercials go together like Charlie Brown and Christmas.  And let’s face it; most people do not pay attention to these commercials.  I know, because I used to be one of those people.  Healthy lifestyle was right up on my priority list with reading every word of the Affordable Care Act.
 
But in May of 2011, I was forced to face reality.  For me, it came as I prepared to scrub for surgery and couldn’t get my wedding ring off my chubby finger.  With the help of a little soap, the wedding ring came off…and a light went on!  I realized I had a big problem, and it wasn’t that my ring that had gotten smaller! 
 
I decided to join Weight Watchers online, and over the next year went from 207 lbs. to 152 lbs.—a total loss of 55 pounds, or one quarter of my body weight!  The three months of Weight Watchers cost a total of $60.  A new wardrobe cost slightly more, but was a lot more fun.
 
So, what differentiates those who see a January commercial and make substantive changes from those who don’t?  I believe it is multifactorial, but ultimately comes down to one simple concept:  accountability. 
 
We have become a victim-and-bailout society, and we have allowed this attitude to creep into our assessment of our weight and health.  On a daily basis I meet with patients who buy into this mentality.  “My thyroid must be low.”  “I have a slow metabolism.”  “I have bad genes.”  And my all-time favorite, “I can’t afford it.” 
 
Excuses. Every last one of them.  Until we stop being victims, move past denial, and actually become accountable for our actions, change will never happen and we will remain overweight and out of shape. 
 
The ultimate truth is this:  if you are overweight, it’s your own fault, and it’s because you eat too much. Sometimes the truth hurts.
 
The true value of this conversation does not come from realization, accountability, or acceptance.  Rather, it comes from taking those pre-requisites and moving forward with substantive change. 
 
I want to share some principles on weight loss and healthy lifestyle that I had to learn the hard way (mostly through trial and error).  My hope is that others can learn them in an easier fashion and benefit from them.  
 
  1. It’s the calories that matter.  A calorie of donut is the same as a calorie of fish.  The best method I have found to budget calories is Weight Watchers.  I highly recommend this program! 
  2. Being thin is not the same as being healthy.  You will generally not lose weight from exercise, but you will be healthier and feel better.  The best option, of course, is to be thin and healthy. 
  3. Gimmicks don’t work.  From Phen-Phen to Atkins to HCG, these are scams that are either unsafe, ineffective, or both (and expensive).  The only thing that works is lifestyle change such as is taught in Weight Watchers. 
  4. Make it a priority.  If something is important to us, we spend our time and/or money on it.  If you are not spending time, money, or effort on weight and health, it’s clearly not important to you. 
  5. It is never too late to change.  You cannot change the past, but you definitely can change the future.  It will be hard, but you can do it.  If I can do it, anybody can, because I am addicted to food and allergic to exercise!
 
At this time of year when we celebrate change and new beginnings, my challenge to all of us is to focus more on adopting an attitude and lifestyle of health.  Eat less, eat better, stop smoking, and exercise more.  It will definitely improve your life.  It might prolong it.  It may even save it!