If you're a friend of mine on Facebook, you've probably noticed the Nike updates my iPhone makes when I work out in the morning. There's a reason for this and it's probably not what you think.
My reasons are, or better said my journey is, very similar to Mark Joyner's current “A Year Without Sugar.” (However, I'm not cutting out sugar for the same reasons.)
It's also similar to my friend Robby Leblanc, who appeared on Oprah's “Addicted to Food.” He was morbidly obese, and has successfully lost 85 pounds. He's promoting a charity where he will climb up the Stratosphere in Vegas — and next, believe it or not… Mount Kilimanjaro!
But my journey, albeit similar, started a bit differently. It started with a wakeup call I never expected — one that still haunts me to this day.
It all started when, after my mom passed, I was having strong middle and right-side chest pains. I didn't think it was a heart attack, because the pain was slightly below my breast line where the heart is located.
Plus, I had my heart checked out last year, stress-tested and all, at the Ottawa Heart Institute — and I'm fine according to the doctors.
This was different.
It felt like acid reflux, or excess bloating caused by gas. Now, I do suffer from GERD, which is caused by my arthritis meds I take for my back, and Zantac normally did the job. But these attacks were becoming stronger and more frequent. Nothing helped.
I have two herniated discs (if you've seen me at seminars in the last 2-3 years, you've probably seen me walking with a cane). The NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) kept the inflammation under control.
But since anti-inflammatories have a history of causing stomach side-effects, at first I thought that maybe it was the meds.
The first flareup lasted five minutes.
It happened while on our way back home from a night out at the movies, where I inhaled a large bag of buttery popcorn.
The second one, a few weeks later, 15 minutes.
It was painful. It felt as if someone stabbed me in the chest.
A week later, the third one was 30 minutes long.
It literally felt like my stomach was about to tear out of my chest. Very painful.
The fourth one happened during the holidays while visiting friends in North Carolina.
It lasted almost two hours.
Once the attack was over, I had this undeniable need to go to sleep. Maybe it's my body's way of telling me it needs a rest after such a workout. My wife who took care of me during the attack fell asleep by my side. She was getting as worried as yours truly.
At this point, I felt that enough was enough. I booked an appointment with my doctor, and he did two things. One is prescribe Prilosec (it's still sold by prescription here in Canada unlike the US where it's sold over the counter).
And he booked an ultrasound.
Between this appointment and the next one to review the results (about two weeks later, which also happened to be my annual physical checkup with blood tests and all), I had another attack.
This one was the biggie.
Excruciating. It was so strong it knocked my breath out several times, and no position I could find would help.
It lasted 12 long, painful hours.
I slept for about eight hours afterwards, but when I woke up I was exhausted, in pain from the muscle spasms, and scared out of my bloody mind. I barely ate anything for days out of fear of having another attack.
When came time for my meeting with Dr. Townsend, I already lost about eight pounds. I weighed about 244 before my last attack (I was hovering around 260 on average), and during the physical I weighed 236. “That's because I didn't eat much since my last attack,” I said to my doctor.
The results came in.
First, the one I kind of expected.
I have diabetes.
It's still early and controllable with weightloss, nutrition, and before any medication or insulin is needed. But definitely my blood sugar was high, and this was my third blood test in a row where my blood sugar was above normal.
This scared me. My sister is a diabetic, and I see how it's affecting her. My friend's mother died, just weeks before mine, due to complications from diabetes.
Plus, I already take enough medications — for hypothyroidism, arthritis, spasms, asthma, and now for acid reflux (Prilosec). I didn't want to take insulin! I started to feel like a walking pharmacy.
But that wasn't the killer (pun sorely intended)…
Second, my doctor said I have a “fatty liver.” Not good, of course, and likely tied to both the diabetes and the third ailment… this one was the doozy…
Gallstones are the culprits behind my attacks. They are the cause behind the incessantly growing, incredibly painful, and terribly exhausting flareups.
This is where my jaw dropped to the floor. Here's why…
My mom was diagnosed with gallstones last February (a year ago), where they didn't do anything. (My mom wasn't one to complain as she kept a lot to herself.) But it was six months later when gallstones became gallbladder cancer.
“Luckily, it's very rare form of cancer,” the doctor said. “But we won't take any chances. We'll get a gastroenterologist to book you for surgery, and we'll remove the gallbladder and send it off for a biopsy just to be safe.”
Naturally, this inspired and incited me to carry out a ton of research in the last couple of months. And one of the many things I've learned is that the gallbladder is a non-essential organ. Cholecystectomy only has a few manageable side-effects.
My Newfound Determination
That doctor's appointment was a major wakeup call. I was scared. I still am. And the diagnosis felt like my life was about to be cut short for no reason. It was as if the world grabbed me by the collar and shook me. Hard.
I needed to make changes. Drastic changes.
So I rolled up my sleeves. I put my foot down and did the following…
Since the end of January:
- I stopped all my medications, except for my thyroid (that's too dangerous to stop).
- I stopped all refined sugars. (This was hard! I love sugar in my coffee.)
- I drink 6-8 large bottles of water a day. About a gallon and a half.
- I eat smaller portions, more slowly, putting my fork down between each bite.
- I reduced carbs considerably and eliminated processed foods completely.
- I do my “Mackenzie stretches” three times a day to strengthen my back.
- And I bought an upright exercise bike and workout 30 minutes each day.
The last one is why you see all my Nike updates. We also have a treadmill at home, but because of my herniated discs, arthritis, and bunions (all of which are caused or aggravated by obesity), the bicycle is a lot less strenuous.
Strangely, Nike's app only records runs, jogs, or walks. I leave it in my pocket so it tracks my “steps,” if you will, as I pedal the bike. But it only records about three kilometers (1.8 miles). It's not entirely accurate, because based on the bike's own tracker, which measures wheel revolutions, I do 10km (6.2 miles).
Nevertheless, it doesn't matter. What matters is that I do 30 minutes a day, lose weight to keep this diabetes in check, and stop my gallstone attacks.
One more thing I have to add.
My wife, my Soul Mate, Sylvie who is one of if not the best cook I've ever known (her food is absolutely delicious!), has pledged to help me, support me, and encourage me — so much so, that she's changing her cooking habits by switching a lot of her ingredients with less-fatty and more wholeseome alternatives.
(There's a lot of research behind whole and ancient grains, by the way. It's very much in line with the Paleo Diet, which I strongly recommend. Also, I rediscovered a fondness for Sushi! Especially wrapped in multigrain rice.)
A month and a half later after starting my new regimen and new lifestyle, I now weigh 211 lbs. Yes, that's 33 pounds lost.
I'm happy, but I still have some ways to go. My goal weight is 190. My BMI tells me it's 180, but I want to be realistic as well as healthy — not gaunt or sickly looking. (I was on a crash diet once, and fell below 180. I looked terrible.)
All this to say, I want to live a long, healthy life. My wife and my family are my blessings. I want to be with them for a long, long time.
Seeing how diabetes and bad health are affecting others around me, especially while caregiving for my mom before she passed, I know I had to make some choices.
(I also remember my mother, while on her deathbed, often complaining about how fat I was. Talk about a painful memory to have of your dying mother!)
I also know that the less obese I am, the less strain it puts on my back.
I have more energy. I feel stronger. And even my thyroid has improved.
You might ask, “Why are you making this public, Michel?” The answer is simple. Like when I quit smoking two (almost three) years ago, making it public makes me more accountable. I hate letting people down. Not just my wife and my family, but also my friends and fans. I'll keep you posted.
Thanks for listening.