I grew up as the youngest of six kids, in a Christian home filled with the fundamental values of faith, family, fellowship, friends and fun.
Like other families, we had our share of ups and downs, and fitness was never a priority for us. We didn’t have a lot of funds to spend on activities or time discussing a healthy diet.
By the time I was born, my parents were older – they were actually grandparents. My dad didn’t play sports with me outside like he did with my older siblings and, partly as a result, I was much less active. As I grew older, I found myself settling into a sedentary lifestyle that added to weight gain. Rather than playing sports with my kids, I was more of a spectator. I never had enough energy to join them.
Due to my inactivity and unhealthy eating habits, I was heavy. I suffered from high blood pressure, high cholesterol, Type 2 diabetes and sleep apnea. I tried every diet and was in a constant cycle of losing and gaining weight. The quality of my life just started to decline.
One of the turning points for me was when I went to “back to school” night at my daughter’s high school. I couldn’t fit in a school desk and finally felt: I needed to do something.
Coming to PennMy brother became very ill with cancer. During that time, we’d talk about my weight often. He told me to “live life like you’re dying.” I had thought about bariatric surgery, but it wasn’t until I went to an informational session in Cherry Hill that I seriously considered the procedure. At the time I was 363 pounds, and I knew I needed to something drastic to change my life.
That was August 28, 2013, and I decided to go through the medical weight management, not knowing if I would have the courage to go through the surgery. By going through the process and being fully prepared on what to expect, I found I did.
In July 2014, at 344 pounds, Dr. Schuricht performed my gastric sleeve procedure . And now, just six months later, I really believe I have a second chance at life. I am more than 100 pounds lighter. I am off all of my diabetes medications. I have ditched my cholesterol medications and significantly lowered the dosage for my blood pressure medications.
What Led to My SuccessThere are a lot of people and activities that really helped me get to where I am today. Having a surgeon like Dr. Schuricht has been a blessing. He is the best at what he does, and I highly recommend him.
In addition to my surgeon, I had the privilege of training with a personal trainer, Beth Marks, at a local facility in South Jersey. I also trained with Penn physician Dr. Sara Slattery, who ran a study on obese patients under Penn’s Fitness Now Program. Having these women train me in a safe place without mirrors and teach me everything from nutrition to monitoring the number of steps I take, has been pivotal to my success.
I attend monthly support meetings at Penn Medicine, swim four days a week at the local YMCA, take four exercise classes a week and power walk at least five days a week. I keep to a 1,000 calorie diet a day and continue to have the support of my beautiful wife, Jan, of 28 years and my great kids, Elizabeth and Matt.
I want people struggling with their weight to know that you don’t have to live like this. I hope my simple story helps and encourages you.
Tips from Me to YouFind a tool you like and use it. I use apps like “My Fitness Pal” and “Lose it.” All my meals are entered the day before, so I have a plan.
Get enough protein. I don’t eat many carbs, so I like to fill up on protein, which keeps me fuller, longer.
Know portion control. When we go out to eat, I might have half of the meal and take the rest home.
Get organized. At home, I have my own shelf in the pantry for “my” food. I know what I can eat, and it’s easier to make decisions.
Get support. I go to as many support meetings as I can at Penn Medicine. There, you can help others, and they can help you.
Color your plate. At mealtime, I load my plate up with greens first, then protein and whole grains.
Set goals. As a father, I want to be able to walk my daughter down the aisle at her wedding. My biggest goal is just to live a long, healthy life.
Try something new. I always wanted to take a ballet class. I was embarrassed at the thought because I knew I would be the only guy, but now I take a Pure Barre class and guess what? It’s difficult!