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Let the journey begin
December 19, 2013 - Andy Flynn
If I fail, this may be one of the most stupid things I’ve ever done. If I succeed, it may just save my life.
Today I embark on a weight-loss journey — from 470 pounds to the unknown. It’s embarrassing enough to walk around with this much weight, but to document the process of trimming down and reporting my successes, failures and challenges in the media sets me up for public ridicule. That’s the stupid part.
In short, I’m trying an experiment on myself. The purpose is to learn how to create a healthier lifestyle, with the overall goal of losing weight. How much weight? I’d settle for 100 pounds, but I’d be up for losing more. Even if I could just put on my own socks by the end of the journey, I’d be happy.
The timeline is one year. I’ll be writing about my progress in the Lake Placid News every week until the final issue of 2014. I hope you’ll follow my progress and be inspired to make changes in your own life.
I’m calling this experiment the “Lake Placid Diet,” even though I hate the word “diet” because this is more about a lifestyle change. By the end of one year, I hope to have answered the question, “How can Lake Placid help me lose weight?”
The premise comes from Lake Placid’s legacy as an Olympic village. There are many inspiring stories of achieving Olympic glory. Athletes train here regularly at places like the U.S. Olympic Training Center and USA Luge. We breathe in the Olympic spirit every day; it radiates from the 1980 Olympic cauldron at the horse show grounds and from the people around us who are past, present and future Olympians.
Lake Placid is also an outdoor recreation resort town serviced by outfitters and guides who help people ski, snowboard, snowshoe, hike, camp, paddle, rock/ice climb, etc. Plus this town is known for sports-related events, such as the Ironman triathlon, the Lake Placid Marathon and the horse shows. By and large, this is a town filled with healthy people — residents and visitors — who practice healthy habits every day. I hope to track down those healthy habits and try them out.
I can hear the gamblers barking odds right now. So what are the odds of my success? If I’m still writing this column a year from now, that in itself will be a triumph. Like many who have tried weight-loss plans for the new year, I’ve always given up. Three-and-a-half months is my record. I’m hoping the weekly deadline pressure will keep me going through the year.
Lately I’ve felt the need to do something drastic to improve my health, short of bariatric surgery, although I’m not ruling it out. Within the past year, a full health exam showed that I’m healthy, except for my excess weight and what that weight is doing to my body. The swollen legs and feet are inconvenient and unhealthy. The enlarged heart kind of scares me. The fact that I have to use a handicapped bathroom in public and that I get winded walking across a room is downright pitiful. But I also live in fear every day of another recurrence of internal hemorrhoids.
Two years ago, I almost died on the operating room table because my stomach was so large, the doctor couldn’t get air into my lungs. I was bleeding from internal hemorrhoids, so the options were: Breathe and bleed out, or fix the bleeding and not breathe. Those aren’t ideal options.
Luckily, I had a very talented surgeon, and he was able to balance the two and fix me up. He wasn’t happy, though. As soon as I awoke from the anesthesia, he gave me a stern lecture about losing weight. If that every happened again, he said, I probably wouldn’t survive. In fact, surgeons may decide it’s too risky to even operate on a person my size. I was 493 pounds at the time.
The surgeon gave me one year to live if I didn’t lose a substantial amount of weight. I soon got down to 430 pounds but have been hovering around 450 for most of the past year. Now it’s climbing again, and I’m getting worried again. I’ve lived with the guilt of obesity all my adult life.
This isn’t the first time I’ve tried to lose weight and learn some healthy living habits. I’ve been overweight since childhood. It was a triumph to lose 30 pounds the summer after high school graduation in 1987 and head off to college weighing 220 pounds. When I returned home in December 1991, I was 300 pounds. It was a triumph to lose 30 pounds in the summer of 1997 before getting married at a weight of 330 pounds. It was yet another triumph to walk a marathon in 2002 weighing 370 pounds. These are all weights I’d love to return to someday, and I’m hoping Lake Placid can help me achieve those goals.
I look around Lake Placid and see people who are inspiring because of their physical achievements. I see others who offer professional help with nutrition and exercise. There are regular folks who’ve made simple changes in their work and personal lives that are improving their health, and there are people who have undergone bariatric surgery and lost an amazing amount of weight. I look forward to meeting these people and learning their stories. Let the journey begin.
10 tips for a successful diet
Based on my years of experience trying to lose weight, I’ve come up with 10 basic guidelines that I know work for me. As long as I stick to these, I should be able to lose weight and improve my health.
1. Maintain your vision and goals.
2. Follow a set of rules.
3. Eat right.
4. Exercise regularly.
5. Maintain your strength by having the right frame of mind.
6. Maintain your strength by having a support network.
7. Monitor your progress regularly.
8. Maintain self-discipline.
9. Be persistent.
10. Be flexible.
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Lake Placid News Editor Andy Flynn poses in what dieters call the “before” picture. If you are interested in sharing your weight-loss stories, or if you have any proven weight-loss strategies to share with readers, contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. (Photo by Daniel Cash)