Monday, March 25, 2013

Walking Will Set You Free

People often tell me they either can't find the time to exercise, aren't capable of doing it or don't know where to start.

My advice: walk.

That's right. Walking is the perfect exercise. Why, you ask? Because almost anyone can do it. It's free. You can do it almost anywhere. And best of all: you can work at your own pace.

There's also a hidden dimension to walking that most people don't realize.  It is liberating.  Especially when you're really heavy like I was for so long and it's all you can do. You are making a statement and taking a stand.  You are moving your body.  You're not taking it anymore.  You are fighting back.

It is no secret that countries and societies where walking is a major mode of transportation have fewer overweight people and lower rates of heart disease, etc.

And yet, people put walking down.  The results don't come fast enough.  It's not hardcore enough.  But these people are wrong.

The secret to a walking regimen is persistence. Once your doctor clears you for walking, you start where you are.  If you can only walk 5 minutes before your feet start hurting or your back gives out, then start there.  5 minutes a day, 3 times a week.

Then, gradually, after a few weeks, increase it to 10 minutes. And so on. That is what I did. I started at 5 minutes a day and I now walk 3 miles a day.  When it comes to staying in shape and keeping the weight off, more than anything, walking is the secret to my success.  There is also an emotional, spiritual well-being side to walking. It's like you are in a march to free yourself from an unhealthy lifestyle.  Again, you are taking a stand. 

Don't think you have to have an expensive gym membership to "work out" and "do cardio" just to get started losing weight and staying in shape.

You don't. Walk.  You heard it here first.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Chapter 2: Time To Change Your Lifestyle

Chapter 2: Time To Change Your Lifestyle

What exactly is a "lifestyle change?"

You've probably heard the following saying many times in your life: "It's not a diet, it's a lifestyle change."

What comes to mind is the idea that not only are you changing what you eat and how much, but you're also exercising.

But as I've discovered over the last 2 ½ years it's much, much more than that.  You don't get to be 577 pounds without having several serious problems going on around you. But when it comes to changing that lifestyle, here are just a few things I changed that aren't necessarily just diet and exercise.

1.) Your friends. That's right, your friends.  In much the same way that a recovering alcoholic gets rid of their drinking buddies, a food addict has to ditch their "eating buddies."  If all you do with somebody is go out to eat, then that relationship is destructive.  If the people you hang out with have become a bad influence, time for them to go.

2.) Grocery Shopping. If the junk food isn't in your house, you can't eat it. If you swing open your refrigerator and look inside it, what is available? Is it full of crap? If it is, time to throw it all away and fill it with healthy food.  Or the absolute worst, is there nothing in it at all?  Time to start grocery shopping...stat.  As far as eating out in restaurants goes, this is out of control.  It used to be dining out was reserved for special occasions. Now it's turned into 3 and 5 times a week.  I believe in order to change your lifestyle, a large percentage of your food has to come from the grocery store.

3.) Your schedule.  Part of my cycle of self-destruction included working a night schedule.  I would get off work, then stay up all night watching TV and binging on junk food. By the time I fell asleep at 4 or 5 in the morning, I was stuffed with thousands of calories.  For me, it took switching to an early morning shift to help jump-start my healthy lifestyle change.  It is true what Benjamin Franklin said: "Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise."  Except for the wealthy part, all of that has come true for me.

4.) Television. I almost never watch TV anymore. In fact, I've thought of giving it away. What's on TV, anyway?  Non-stop food commercials. I used to watch the Food Network all the time.  But I have discovered that I can't anymore.  Everything they show is one gigantic eating trigger. I used to think I had to watch certain TV shows...that there is no way I could live without the TV.  Turns out I don't need it at all. 

Your lifestyle is your life.  If you want to change your lifestyle, you're going to have to change your life.  After 2 years of doing this, I can tell you this: it is very hard.  But as the saying goes, it is difficult, but not impossible.

Think of it this way: if you want to lose weight, all of your habits, behaviors, food that you eat, body movements, all of it contribute to your current state of health.

To make that change, to improve your health, requires the modification of habits, behaviors, food that you eat and body movements.

What makes this a very tall order is none of it will last unless you do it forever. The problem with all of that is that for many of us (myself included, before June 20, 2010) food has become a reward.  Food has become entertainment.  Food has become happiness.

That all has to go out the window.  Food is fuel.  Nothing more.  The thin person does not have a problem with this.  They are perfectly capable of (for now) celebrating with food, eating foods high in sugar, fat, salt and calories in small portions and getting by.

But not us.  Not me. Not other heavy people.  We've gone too far.  We can't do it.  We can't stop.

Which is why we can never start.

Back to changing the lifestyle.  There are so many traditions and things that we do where unhealthy food is ingrained into our routines.  To be successful, long-term, I believe it all has to go.

Used to eating concession food at the movies?  Bring your own healthy alternatives.

Used to eating hotdogs and nachos at the baseball game?  Bring your own better food.

Eat out of the vending machines at work?  Don't.  Pack your own lunch and snacks.

That's what has to happen.  Those key behaviors have to be changed. And that's why it's hard.

But you can do it!  If I can, anyone can.  And that's the truth.

I get asked all the time: "How can I lose weight like you did?  How do I find the motivation to lose X number of pounds?  Will you tell me what to eat?"

As well-intentioned as those questions are, they all miss the point completely.  Simply losing weight should never be the focus.  As a matter of fact, it's a counterproductive way to think.  Being overweight is a symptom of an unhealthy lifestyle, it is not the cause of it.

Before you start thinking about losing weight and trying to add years to your life and life to your years, you have to be in the proper frame of mind. You need to think about how you can make your lifestyle change permanent.  If all you're going to do is temporarily change what you do in order to lose 50 pounds for a wedding and then put it all back on, you may as well not bother.

No, dear reader, what you want is a total lifestyle change.  Nothing less will do.  That is the best chance you have at getting healthier, losing weight and keeping it off and staying out of the doctor's office.  So what are the steps that go into this?  First, you have to analyze your own behavior.  You know yourself better than anyone else, right?

Identify what your demons are and stay away from them....forever.  For me, one of my biggest demons is restaurants.  When I am being served food in a restaurant, I cannot control myself.  It is very much like an alcoholic in a bar.  So I stay far, far away.  For you, it might be something simple like mindless eating.  Whatever it is, identify it and don't do it!

You can do it.  You know you can and so do I.  Take your life back.  Take it back starting right now.

When it comes to a lifestyle change, how you approach it, the expectations you set are almost more important than the journey itself. I'll give you some examples.

"I need to lose weight"  needs to become "I need to adopt a healthy lifestyle, one of the benefits of which is having a lower body weight."  See how that works?

"I need to lose 20 pounds by July" needs to become "I'd like to be in shape in time for July. By adopting a healthy lifestyle, that will help me."

Again, if just losing weight is the focus, then give up  now.  The failure rate on weight loss-based dieting is about 95%. That's 95 out of 100 people gaining it all back. A terrible track record.

Don't put yourself through that.

Instead, try this.  Don't put a time limit on your lifestyle change.  Don't weigh yourself all the time.  Stop wanting it all now, now, now.

When I started my journey, I had a doctor tell me it would take 3 years to lose all this weight.  And he might be right.  He then suggested weight loss surgery.  But I knew, for me, that weight loss surgery wasn't going to fix my problem.

It wasn't going to fix my food addiction problem, only I could do that.

It wasn't going to teach me how to eat right, only I could do that.

It wasn't going to teach me to exercise, only I could do that.

Instead of "I need to lose weight," focus on "I need to maintain a healthier weight."

Because I can tell you from experience, there is *zero* point in losing a bunch of weight if you can't keep it off.  Absolutely a waste of time.

How to Handle Negativity

There are going to be people that are not going to want you to change your life. Negativity is everywhere.

We're all guilty of it.  You've heard the phrase "misery loves company?"  It's very true.

But when it comes to saving your own life and changing your lifestyle, negativity has no place.  It must be banished forever and not be tolerated in any way, shape or form.  Your mindset on a daily basis is critical to your success.

So what kind of negativity am I talking about?

Sabotage. Face it, some people like us the way we are.  People don't like change.  Perhaps your partner thinks you'll leave them if you lose weight.  Maybe somebody close to you enjoys putting you down because they can't do it themselves.  Either way, watch out for sabotage.  People always offering you food, for instance, trying to tempt you and enable you into failure.  I've run into it before and I simply confront it head-on: "I appreciate the offer, but I am never eating that. Thank you though."

Put-downs. Don't stand for it.  This takes many forms, but the basic thrust is the person putting you down doesn't think you can do what you're doing.  Or perhaps they can't do it themselves, so they put you down to make themselves feel better.  The code words and phrases for the putter-downer are things like "you need to be realistic" and "you can't do this on your own." Again, just like with the sabotage,  shut them down: "I am changing my life and I would appreciate you being more supportive."

Fatism. It is an absolute irrefutable fact that the last acceptable form of discrimination in our society is the mistreatment of the overweight.  I will debate this issue with anyone who cares to try.  It isn't right, but a large portion of society sees big people as less than a human being, if they see them at all.  I've experienced this first hand.  When I weighed 577 pounds, many people wouldn't even say hello to me.  Now they're my best friend.  But what they don't realize is I have a mental list and they're on it.  So don't tolerate it from your friends and family. You are due the same respect any other person is and don't tolerate the jokes, the put-downs or the comments. You are on a mission to change your life and you will leave the doubters behind.

And one more note about people.  Early on, I realized that just like an alcoholic has to ditch their drinking buddies to get clean, I had to do the same thing with my eating buddies.  I don't mean to sound drastic, but it had to be done.

When you change your lifestyle, you are changing your life.  You are becoming a different, healthier person.  That goes for the mind and the body.  Your transformation will be the result of your own positive energy and anyone that is not on board with that 100% has to go.

Chapter 1 - Changing Your Mindset - You are the 5%

Chapter 1 - Changing Your Mindset - You are the 5%

This is not a diet book. I am not offering you some special plan you can follow to lose 30 pounds in 30 days.  I am not going to insult your intelligence by telling you how easy it all is.  It isn’t.  Losing weight is actually quite easy.  Keeping it off is the very, very hard part.

You may have heard the statistics, which vary depending on the source.  Between 9 and 10 people that lose weight gain it all back.  I’ve read 90%.  I’ve read 95%.  It doesn’t matter.  What really matters is that we have a plan to lose weight that includes another plan to keep it off. If you approach your lifestyle change correctly, you will be the 5% and not the 95%.  Say it out loud: I am the 5%.

Early on in this journey, I realized that there was no point to losing weight if I couldn’t keep it off.  I have been through the depressing emotional trauma of losing a large amount of weight and gaining it all back. It’s a terrible feeling. It’s also humiliating.  There was no way I was going through that again.

Think about that for a minute.  That point of view will absolutely change how you approach your lifestyle change.  From the outset, think not about losing weight.  Think about keeping it off and maintaining a lower weight.  If you apply that as a standard, you see why everything and everybody else fails.

Diet food.  This is what everybody eats to lose weight and what happens when they stop eating it?  They gain all the weight back.  Unless you are going to eat boxed dinners you buy off the TV the rest of your life, don’t bother.

Pills.  At best, diet pills do nothing for you and at worst, they cause very serious health problems.  No matter what some doctor on TV says, there is no such thing as a “fat-burning” pill.  None of it works, none of it will ever work and your money is going to be wasted.  Don’t do it.

Low-carb diets. Are you really, honestly going to live on mostly meat the rest of your life?  Doubtful, since if you did, you wouldn’t live very long.  Again, there is no point to attempting any diet plan that you cannot commit to the rest of your life.

So that is the first step.  What can you realistically do?  Everybody is different.  This is where you have to look inside yourself and assess the situation.

Here are a few good first steps to follow.

1.) Get all of your health problems out in the open, on the table.  Men especially, I am talking to you.  Pretending you don’t have high blood pressure doesn’t make it go away.  Go to the doctor.  Get a full check-up.  If you are prescribed medication, take it as directed.  If you have problems sleeping, go see a doctor and get a sleep study done.  If you’re diagnosed with sleep apnea, follow your doctor’s orders and use your CPAP nightly.  It will save your life.

2.) Make an appointment with a registered dietitian. Learn about portion control, proper nutrition and eating a balanced diet.  Go to the appointment.  Take notes and ask lots of questions.

3.) Talk to your doctor about what you’re wanting to do.  If at any point along the way, any doctor or health professional belittles your desire to better yourself and tells you it can’t be done, find another doctor with a better attitude.  Yes, 95% may gain all the weight back, but are the 5%.

4.) Set your expectations correctly. This is going to take years.  That’s right; I said it.  If your goal is to lose 20 pounds by your family reunion, don’t buy this book.  I don’t want your money.  There are plenty of other gimmicks and diets on the bookshelf for you to try.  The Ganey way is simple: long-term weight loss is not only the goal, it is the only goal. You would be better off losing 50 pounds in the first year and keeping it off than you would be losing 100 pounds the first year and gaining back 200.  Studies have shown the longer it takes to lose weight, the more likely the person is to keep that weight off. 

5.) Weigh once and then put the scale away.  Yes, you need a starting weight. If you’re extremely overweight like I was, there may not be a scale that can accurately weigh you.  I had to weigh at one point on a truck scale.  But I wanted that starting weight.  But after you get that beginning weight, put the scale away for 1 month.  That’s right, I am telling you not to weigh on a scale for a month.  When most people begin a diet, they race from one weigh-in to the next, worshiping at the almighty scale.  They become obsessed with pleasing the scale.  It all becomes about moving that number at all costs.  No consideration is given to your health, new habits being formed or your lifestyle being permanently changed.  That is the diet mindset.  The problem is eventually the diet will end, you’ll lose interest and be unable to keep up that extreme approach.  So don’t do it.

Again: weigh once and put the scale away. Your goal here is to improve your health and live a better life, not win a weight loss contest.

6.) The food that you will eat will come from the grocery store.  If you haven’t been in awhile, you might have to ask somebody where it is.  Take a friend, learn how it works. Once you park your car, there will be a grocery cart you can use to collect your items.  In some parts of the country, this is called a “buggy” or a “shopping cart” or if you live in the UK, a “trolley.”  Some of you haven’t been to the grocery store since you were 14 years old.  You’re going to be spending a lot of time there, so familiarize yourself with it.  Warning: the grocery store can be a dangerous place as well.  It is loaded with as much junk food as a fast food restaurant.  However, I will teach you to know the difference and only buy the good stuff.

7.)  Say goodbye to restaurants, vending machines, drive-thrus, pizza delivery, coffee shops, donuts at the office...all of it.  This is the new you.  Do whatever you have to do: have a funeral, write a letter to yourself, whatever.  But it’s over.  These are not healthy sources of food for you and won’t be in the future.

8.) But more restaurants...ever?  Before I lose you completely, hear me out.  A long time ago, perhaps when you were a child, restaurants were considered a treat.  Dining out was reserved for special occasions only.  Then sometime in the last 20-30 years or so, it became the alternative to cooking at home.  Now it has turned into the only way to eat for a lot of people.  This is a disaster.  You cannot surrender your lifestyle change to a restaurant, whose only goal it is to sell you as much food as possible, as cheaply as possible. 

So will you be able to go to a restaurant again someday?  Yes, you will.  But not for now.  More on that later in the book.

9.) Yes, you are going to need to exercise.  However, unless you are a qualified personal trainer, all you know about exercise is what you’ve seen on TV and that is the incorrect way to exercise.  Do not be one of these people that joins the gym, goes for 2 weeks straight, works out like a maniac, hurts themselves and then is never seen or heard from again.  That is, until you run into them at the buffet.  Ever wonder how gyms make their money?  The majority of the people who belong simply donate their dues monthly and do not use the facility. Joining a gym is probably not something you will do for awhile.  More on that in the exercise chapter.

10.) Prepare to eat and eat all the time.  Food is not a reward, food is not a celebration, food is not for pleasure, food is not happiness, food is not comfort.  Food is fuel.  Nothing more, nothing less.  You eat because you have to.  And to be healthy, you need to eat healthy food regularly.  Whether or not you are hungry has nothing to do with it.  You need a lot of food when you wake up in the morning, then a few hours later, then lunch, the more food a few hours later, then dinner, then an evening snack.  You are going to eat 3 meals per day and 3 snacks.  Starvation is not an option.  You are what you eat.  The 95% that gain the weight back, ride the rolller coaster of frozen diet dinners, meal replacement shakes, protein bars, diet pills and other assorted nonsense.  Again, you are the 5%.  You are only going to make changes you can live with for the rest of your life.

10 Weight Loss Myths

1.) “I don’t eat that much.”

This used to be one of my favorites. Truth is, you may not eat a large quantity of food, but if what you’re eating is very high in calories, you will be overweight. We are what we eat.  I used to regularly eat 10,000 calories a day.  It’s no wonder I weighed 577 pounds.  Denial is a powerful force that will only hold you back.  Just admit to yourself: if you are overweight, you really are eating that much.

2.) Eating in the car, eating in front of the television, or eating in front of the computer is wrong and you're a bad person for doing it.

I always enjoy reading this one. I am pleased to report it is complete nonsense.  In the last 2 ½ years, I have lost 350 pounds committing the following sins according to the "experts:"  I eat breakfast every day in front of the computer.  I snack all day at work in front of a computer.  I eat dinner and watch TV at the same time,  Sometimes I eat dinner, watch TV and surf the internet all the time.  That's talent, right?

I eat in the car.  I eat and drive at the same time.  Sometimes I eat in the grocery store parking lot, right from the package.  This whole idea that we should only eat at the dining room table is a complete fantasy in this day and age.  I don't even have a dining room table (that I know of.)

It's not where you're eating your food, it's what you're eating and how many calories you're consuming.  Trying to follow unrealistic rules about where you should eat takes your eye off the ball.  It's a popular rule, however, because humans are addicted to making things more complicated than they need to be.

The bottom line: Mindless eating can occur anywhere.  As long as you know how much you're eating and you keep track of it, you can eat anywhere.

3.) Eating at night is bad and will make you fat.

If eating at night made you fat, I would still weigh 577 pounds.  The truth is, I eat around the clock.  As long as the total amount I am consuming is right for me, it doesn't matter when I eat it.

Sometimes I eat dinner at 5pm.  Sometimes I eat it at 9pm.  I've had dinner at 11pm. 

Once, I woke up at 2 in the morning once so ravenously hungry, I could've eaten the wallpaper off the walls.  I made myself a bowl of oatmeal with a piece of fruit and ate it. And you know what?  I still lost weight that week.  I just added it to my food diary for that day, ate the food and went back to bed.  And lived to tell about it.  Imagine that!

But...doesn't everything you eat turn to fat if you go right to bed after you eat it?  No, it doesn't.  Think about the nonsense of this oft-repeated statement.  If I eat an apple, which has practically zero fat, how is that going to turn to fat in my stomach just because I am asleep?  Please. 

The bottom line: As long as the total calories of what you're eating doesn't exceed your requirements for that day, eating at night will not make you fat.

4.) To lose weight, I have to starve myself.  I can eat no more than 1,500 calories.

I don't know about you, but I could never get by on 1,500 calories. The truth is, everybody's calorie requirements are different. It all depends on how much physical activity you engage in during the day.  Somebody that sits at a desk all day won't be able to eat as much as say, a delivery driver who runs up and down stairs all day.

Starvation is one of the biggest reasons I believe people fail at weight loss.  They completely overdo it trying to pursue a quick fix, get discouraged and quit.  This is very sad. Only eating 1,500 calories a day is as extreme as trying to work out in the gym 20 times a week is.  It's not sustainable.

There are different calorie calculators available online and there are differing methods for determining the appropriate number of calories you should consume.  Factors such as your desired goal weight, age, height, activity level, etc. all play a part.

For myself, in the beginning, I was eating 1,500-1,600 calories a day.  When I boosted that to 2,400 calories, I started losing weight faster.  I believe it was because my body was in starvation mode, conserving resources instead of using them.  It worked for me.  Everybody is different.

The bottom line: you need food to live.  You can starve yourself or stop eating to lose weight temporarily, but only for so long. 

5.) If I work out twice a day, 14 times a week, I can eat whatever I want.

Exercise is very important and is absolutely essential to your lifestyle change.  However, working out has a very lousy return when it comes to weight loss.  For example, for every 100 calories burned, you have to run a mile.  One bad trip through the drive-thru is 1,000 calories.  The bottom line: you cannot outrun your stupidity in the gym.  Exercise is central to a healthy body and a healthy mindset.  Unless you’re Michael Phelps, weight is lost at mealtime, not in the gym.

6.) I know someone who eats like a horse and magically still stays skinny.

Sorry, no you don’t.  And here’s why.  Yes, you may see this mythical thin person eat a large amount of food.  But do you really know how much they eat all day?  Are you tracking their calories and their exercise?  What do they do for a living?  Perhaps they just eat one large meal per day and that is what you witnessed.

The bottom line: the math is the math.  No one escapes it.  There is no magic, mythical skinny person that defies the laws of nature.  They don’t exist.  This is what we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel like victims and feel better about overeating.

7.) Everything In Moderation

It has been said that you can eat anything you want as long as you just eat it in moderation.  There are a few problems with this.  If you are significantly overweight, it is safe to say that you cannot do anything in moderation and this strategy has failed you.  A famous commercial for a famous snack food product says you can’t eat just one.  There is a reason for this. The “food” is engineered to make you want it.  As a food addict, I can tell you that for many things, 1 is too many and 50 is not enough. 

The bottom line: “everything in moderation” doesn’t work because everything is not moderation.

8.) There Are No Bad Foods

You can have anything you want, right?  I will answer that question with a question: how has that strategy worked out for you so far?  Consider this: a banana is approximately 25 calories per ounce.  A popular candy bar that claims to cure hunger is 135 calories per ounce.  What is going to fill you up more?  A half a candy bar or a large banana?

The bottom line: some foods simply offer no nutritional value and should be avoided.  You cannot reprogram your taste buds to like healthy food by continuing to have “just a little” of the processed garbage that made you overweight in the first place.

9.) I know what works, I’ll just do it again.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.  If you have lost weight before and have not kept it off, that approach is a failure.  It should not be repeated because the failure will be repeated.  Unlike the stock market, past performance is indeed an indicator of future results.  You must study your failures and not repeat them.

The bottom line: the goal is not to lose weight.  The goal is to keep it off. There is a difference and we will talk about that more later.

10.) Eating Healthy Is Expensive.

This myth got started by people buying diet foods at the grocery store. The “light” and “fat-free” versions of processed foods do indeed cost more than the full fat versions. But that garbage isn’t going to be what you’re eating.

In addition, people who eat in restaurants 5 and 10 times a week will then get on a health kick, go to the grocery store, spend $200 and then proclaim that “eating healthy is expensive.”

I am here to tell you it isn’t and that is a myth.  If you stop eating at restaurants, stop buying mostly processed food and buy fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and low-fat dairy, you will discover eating healthy is quite inexpensive.

The bottom line: Not all food comes in a box with a picture on the front of it and a bar code on the back of it. Eating healthy is not expensive.

So there you have it.  This chapter has been an overview of what I am about, my approach and how I lost 350 pounds in 2 ½ years on my own with no special diets, pills or surgery.

Are you ready to change your life?  If so, read on.

How All This Got Started

On June 20, 2010, my life changed forever. 

I was 37 years old.  I had been overweight my entire life and had long given up doing anything about it.  Like everyone, I tried the diets and they all failed me. None of it worked because none of it was ever going to work.  Sure, I lost weight, but I always gained it all back plus more.

So I gave up.  I just figured I would be heavy the rest of my life, however long that lasted. I got bigger and bigger. 350 pounds became 400 pounds turned into 450 pounds and then one day I hit 500 pounds.  There seemed to be no limit to how much weight I would gain and I seemed powerless to stop it.

Food was my drug and I was addicted.  I could not stop eating.  While others would be out socializing and enjoying life, I would be sitting in my apartment by myself binge eating pizza, ice cream, fast food and every junk food item imaginable.

As I started to get older, the consequences of my food abuse began to show more and more.  I developed high blood pressure.  Then came an irregular heartbeat, apparently a result of my 12-can-a-day diet soda habit.  I developed sleep apnea.  I was on multiple medications for conditions that were not normal for an otherwise healthy adult in their 30’s.  Then my mobility started becoming restricted.  I started having difficulty getting out of bed in the morning.  If I fell, it took 2 strong people to help me up.  I couldn’t put my shoes on by myself anymore. I couldn’t buy clothes from anywhere anymore. Everything in the big and tall store was too small. All of my clothes had to be specially tailored to fit me.  The size 7X underwear that I mail ordered was getting too small and that was the biggest size they had.

And then, it happened.  On June 19, 2010, I developed shortness of breath walking a very short distance.  I decided I was probably just tired or dehydrated and went home and took a nap.  That decision nearly cost me my life.

The next day, on my way to work, the whole house of cards came crashing down.  I got out of the car and with each step toward the office door, I began to suffocate.  I was breathing in and out as fast as I could, but there was no oxygen to be had.  By the time I got near the building, my legs gave out and my skin turned a pale white.

This was the end, I thought. 37 years will be all I get.  There in the parking lot, I started to think how disappointing it all was.  I was convinced I was dying of a heart attack and wasn’t going to live.  With the oxygen slowly leaving my body, I decided I had to get help.  I fished my phone out of my pocket and somehow called my parents, who had just dropped me off because my car was in the shop.

They came back and got me and took me to the emergency room.  While on the way there, barely conscious in the car, my mind started to run wild.  Since I knew I was going to die, I started giving my Mom instructions on what to do with my belongings, who to call and how to empty my bank account.  Then, I had a thought.

When my parents brought me home from the hospital as a newborn baby, I weighed 6 pounds and 10 ounces.   Now they were taking me back to the hospital, 37 years later, and I weighed over 500 pounds.  Boy, I really screwed that up.  What had I done?  I had been given a good life and I wasted it.

We got to the ER and I must have been white as a sheet, or turning blue when I stumbled in.  I remember the receptionist saying "can I help you?" And I remember whispering to her, out of breath "I can't breathe."

I have never seen so many people move so quickly in my life.  They had me into a wheelchair, into a room and on a table in about 30 seconds. I had oxygen, an EKG and an IV going in another 30 seconds.

They continued to run tests. I was in the ER for about 6 hours. A few hours into it, I had to go to the bathroom.  So I took off the oxygen mask, went and came back completely out of breath. They checked my blood oxygen level and it had dropped 30 points.

No more going to the bathroom. "You're not going home anytime soon with oxygen levels like that,” they told me.  Finally, after several hours and more tests the doctor comes in. “We don't think it's your heart, Mr. Ganey. Everything looks good there.”

That's a relief.  So if not a heart attack, then what?  Another doctor will see you soon.

After more time, here comes another doctor, a cardiologist.  He ran me through the diagnosis, the tests, explained everything in detail. He was impressive. He said they ruled out the heart and instead suspected blood clots in my lungs.
He didn’t have to say any more.  I knew what a pulmonary embolism was because I had read about it over the years.  The journalist David Bloom died from a pulmonary embolism in 2003 while covering the war in Iraq for NBC. The blood clots develop in your legs and travel to your lungs where they accumulate.  If enough of the clots build up, they cut off your oxygen supply and you die instantly.

Except I was lucky.  I made it to the hospital on time.  I was going to live. I have never felt a greater sense of relief in my life.

But back to the doctor.  He told me that what they really needed to do was a CT scan to confirm the blood clots in my lungs, only there was a problem.  The machine had a weight limit of 350 pounds and they couldn’t do the test.  The doctor told me he would admit me and begin treating me for a pulmonary embolism based solely on the best guess he could come up with on what was happening.

Essentially, what he was telling me with the utmost sympathy and sugar coating was this: I was too fat for the machine, so they were doing the best they could. After several hours in the emergency room, I would be admitted.

How long? 2 or 3 days, on the low end.  They're going to try to avoid operating.  Operating? If the blood clots in my lungs that were suffocating me didn't break up on their own, they would have to cut me open and take them out.

For now, the treatment was blood thinners, or more specifically anti-coagulants.  They shot me full of something called Heparin and started a Heparin IV drip, which would last for a week. I must have gone through 20 of those bags. In addition, they started a fairly high dose of Coumadin.  This would take a few days to take effect.  Coumadin?  My grandfather was on that drug for years at the end of his life. I knew it was a powerful drug with awful side effects.

But at least I was going to live.

During my time in the hospital, I met several doctors, 2 nutritionists, specialists...everything.  After some more tests, the following became very clear to me:

1.) I came very, very close to dying.  I was told 1 in 4 pulmonary embolism victims die within seconds.  The first symptom is sudden death. The blood clots form in the legs due to inactivity, travel to the lungs and collect there. This is called Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT.) The clots clog the main arteries in your lung and cause shortness of breath or worse.

2.) The #1 risk factor for what happened to me was my weight.

3.) I had a choice: lose weight or die. I was told this would keep happening to me.  One nurse point blank asked me: “Do you really want to spend the rest of your life in the health care system?”

The week I spent in the hospital was a miserable time.  I couldn’t do anything without somebody helping me.  The low point came when I needed help going to the bathroom.  With every limitation, with every lack of mobility, I became more and more enraged at myself.

How did I let it get this bad?

What am I doing?

Is the food really worth it?

Because of the tubes and wires, they wouldn’t let me take a shower. That’s right, I went one whole week without a shower.  As you can imagine, I wanted to kill myself.  Also, the nurses would come every few hours to draw blood. Because of my weight, they could never find a vein to draw the blood. I had blood drawn from my hands, my wrist, my name it.  They couldn’t get the IV into my hand and wound up sticking it into my arm, where it became infected.

More limitations. More special treatment. More being told I couldn’t do something because of my weight.

And then I snapped. Enough was enough. There would be no more of this.

I drew the line. This is where it would end. I didn’t want any more sympathy.  There would be no more pity for Bryan Ganey.

I'm only 37, I thought. I've got things to do. There is more to life than eating.  I will not go out like this.  I will find other things to eat.  I will seek out other food, more nutritious food. This all ends now.

And so, I was discharged from the hospital after a week.  I weighed 577 pounds.  I walked out of that hospital, head held high, absolutely determined to not come back.  There would be no more sympathy for Bryan.  There would be no more blood clots.  There would be no quick fix.  All I cared about was getting started.

My message for the medical community was simple:  I don’t want your pills, I don’t want your surgery.  All I want is for you to get out of my way.

Why read this book?

Why read this book?

There are thousands of diet books.  All of them have experienced varying degrees of popularity and they will all make you lose weight.

So why am I different?

Here’s why my way will work.  It is designed to last.  I am not going to sit here and insult your intelligence and tell you that it is easy once you get started.  It isn’t.  All diets will give you that temporary euphoria of winning.  It all ends the same way…6 or 9 months or a year of success…only to fall back down to the bottom of a deep, dark hole of depression and despair when you can’t keep up the diet. The old habits return and you’re back at square one.  Why even bother?

Enter the Bryan Ganey method.

First of all, I have lived it. I have lost 350 pounds on my own, with no pills, no surgery, no diets and no gimmicks.  Granted, what works for one person might not work for another.  But I will tell you what doesn’t work: temporary fad diets with a proven record of failure.

Second, I am going to tell you the common sense you already know.  I am going to tell you to see a doctor before you try to lose weight.  I am going to say it over and over.  I am going to tell you to visit a registered dietitian before you begin. Where my expertise comes in is the application of common-sense weight loss principles.

I will tell you how to avoid all of the common pitfalls and traps that people fall into, because I have already fallen into them.  I have already done the work for you. By purchasing this book and reading it, you get to experience my success and my failures, without having to live through it yourself.

So fasten your seatbelt (even if you have to get a seatbelt extender.)  It’s going to be a fun ride. 

You can do this.  Any fool can lose weight.  But to keep it off for the rest of your life…that’s the challenge.

The No “O-Word” Pledge

The No “O-Word” Pledge

I, Bryan Ganey, hereby do pledge to you, my dear reader, that I will never use the “O-Word” anywhere in this book.

What is the O-word?  You know the word.  It is the word that society and the media use to stereotype the overweight.  It has been used as a label with such frequency and with such condescension and disdain that I now hate it.

 It is an absolute irrefutable fact that the last acceptable form of discrimination in our society is the mistreatment of the overweight. It isn't right, but a large portion of society sees big people as less than a human being, if they see them at all.  I've experienced this first hand.  You are due the same respect any other person is so don't tolerate the jokes, the put-downs or the comments.

You are a person with as much to offer is anyone else.  I will not devalue you by labeling you with the “O-Word.” 

Since this is my book, you will never read that word in this book.

The first thing in my book...the disclaimer

Every book about weight loss has to include this so you don't get sued. -BG


The information contained in this book is for informational purposes only.  Bryan Ganey is not a qualified health professional, just a guy that lost a bunch of weight on his own.

Please seek medical advice from a doctor before beginning any weight loss program. Please seek nutritional advice from a registered dietitian prior to beginning any weight loss program.  Please consult a medical doctor before beginning any exercise program.  Please also consult a certified personal trainer before beginning any exercise program.

The decision to have or not have weight loss surgery is a decision that you should make after consulting with your doctor and doing your own appropriate research.  Do not make that decision based on anything you read in this book.

Do not follow anything you read in this book without discussing it with your doctor first.  By reading this book, you are agreeing that you will take your health seriously and only proceed with a lifestyle change after receiving sound medical advice from a qualified health professional.