Starting around high school, I was always a tad overweight…not much, just about 10-15lbs. Once I decided to enlist in the Air Force, I dropped 20lbs to be in great shape for Basic Training. Fast forward to the end of my 22-year Air Force career; I was lucky enough to get one of the coolest jobs in the Air Force. I was a Special Operations Aerial Gunner for the last 20 years of my career.
In Special Ops, you don’t have much trouble keeping fit. The training and flying is quite rigorous, so most of us could eat anything we wanted and drink as much beer as we cared to. Even with the best training in the world, one thing was always missing. No one trained us to watch what we eat, how much we eat, and stressed that once you retire, you will not be exercising with your buddies daily, so you will need to start your own regime to keep fit.
To add on to this, my last combat actions were in Bosnia, where I was deployed to Italy and flew nightly across the Adriatic to the action. We lived in condemned quarters on the old base in Italy, and I contracted a fungal lung disease called Cryptococcus. This disease was discovered at my retirement physical, and I had to get an exploratory surgery to see the extent of the infection. I was completely healthy prior to this, so it was a mystery why I contracted it. During the exploratory surgery it was determined that the left lung had a large degree of infection, so the decision was made to do a complete open lung surgery to remove the large wedge of infection. To do this, a retractor was used which broke a lot of my ribs on my left side. The pain during the long recovery prevented me from doing exercise and of course, put an end to my running. Running was my best way to keep in shape.
I quickly started to put on the pounds! Twenty lead to 50, then to 80. I did ok the first few years with several diets (mostly Atkins and South Beach) which helped me lose 20-40 pounds, and I thought I had it under control. Upon getting a few years older, the pounds started adding up quickly. Then 10 years since retirement, I decided to go back to combat life, and went to Iraq as a contractor for a surveillance company. I thought I would have no trouble shedding pounds in Iraq, as the average temperature was constantly well over 110 degrees. What I didn’t plan on was the boredom and the sheer volume of calories available, “as much as I wanted to eat” every meal at the dining facility. I quickly put on more and more pounds without paying much attention to it. I found myself with my feet constantly hurting, my ankles always swelling up, and my friends asking me constantly if I was “ok” because my face was so red.
I got up to a HUGE 315 pounds! I had a good friend at work at MacDill talk to me one day in private. He offered to pay my way for a medical weight loss program, as he went through the same thing a few years earlier and it saved his life. I thanked him but couldn’t take him up on his offer. Six months later, after seeing my 5 years or so of steady weight gain on my Facebook photos, an old Aerial Gunner buddy I hadn’t seen since we flew together back in 1983 called me and let me know he was coming to Zephyrhills to skydive, and he would like me to come out to see him as we hadn’t seen each other in so long. After we met at the skydive center, he checked his gear over and said he was good to go for the next day, so let’s go get some dinner. While sitting across from me he asked if I knew why he called me. I was puzzled…He said, “I have seen you gain so much weight over the past few years, I had to come tell you to please get some help with your weight before you die! I love you buddy and don’t want to lose you!!!” WOW! That hit home. I felt like someone just shot the tail rotor off my helicopter! I was blown away. I promised my friend I would do that!
That is when I remembered a friend who lost weight a few years back and kept it off. She went to Dr. Cesar Lara in Clearwater. I made an appointment in mid-April to see if I was a good candidate for this program. After an EKG and a doctor checkup, I was told I could do the program and then was told all the particulars. I had to come in every week to weigh in and check my body fat percentage. This was critical, because I feel accountability is a big motivator and helps with the discipline to keep on track. Every week I would also get an injection of vitamins and amino acids for energy, and an appetite suppressant. I took this appetite suppressant to my family doctor, and checked it with him to ensure it was indeed safe and nothing that was habit forming or bad for my heart. My doctor let me know it was fine to use them. They also recommended pharmaceutical grade, all natural supplements.
The main value I feel from the program is the education you get from the awesome staff, helping you learn what types of foods you should eat and portions. They recommend weighing your portions with a food scale to keep you on track. They also constantly check on your activity as far as how much daily exercise you do and how much water you drink. There are follow-up visits with the doctors on staff at regular intervals to ensure you are proceeding in a healthy manner.
I took this program seriously. I ONLY drank water from the start. No soda, alcohol, or even tea and lemonade…water only for me. I was “allowed” to have unsweetened tea but I wanted to get maximum results! I also stuck to the diet. Only natural sugars from fruits and such. No ice cream, desserts or my favorite PIZZA! I wanted to change my life and I did! It is now the 2nd week of December, and I have shed over 115 pounds! I went from a 52″ waist to a 34″. I have been through dozens of clothes and happily kept buying smaller ones. Even my T-Shirts went from 3X to LG! Lastly, I even went down a full shoe size due to the swelling now gone in my feet. My family doctor was so excited last month, as he came into the room at my annual physical, that he shook my hand and told me I was the FIRST patient in his medical career that he could happily say was CURED from diabetes! I was also removed from all blood pressure and antacid medications. I was also on one for high heart rate and I was removed from that too! My blood pressure is absolutely normal, pulse rate is fine and I feel AWESOME! I am continuing, as I am now only 4 pounds from the goal I set when I started the program, and with my daily exercise and watching what I eat, I will be there by Christmas! I prayed for good health and now I have it. I took a lot of work but all worthwhile. My wife is also on the program and has lost over 65 pounds herself, and is looking absolutely as beautiful as when we met almost 30 years ago! A new me for the New Year! You can do it too. Just believe in yourself and WANT it!
*Results may vary*