Until my mid-30s, I was a farmer. I worked on a mixed farm of hogs and grain near a town halfway between Calgary and Edmonton. And when you’re a farmer, why go to a gym to work out?
But about 20 years ago, I finished a Computer Science degree and started a new career working in IT as an Internet Systems Specialist. I was already settled into a lazy mindset about food and exercise. I’ve been on my own a long time, so I would only cook maybe once a week. It was easy to snack out of the fridge, have some crackers and cheese or pepperoni sticks, or eat fast food. When I quit smoking in the fall of 2011, I put on about 25 lb. in six months peaked at 223 lb. That's when my doctor diagnosed me for Type II Diabetes and got me on metformin.
My doctor is not the preachy kind and he knows you can’t push me into doing anything I don’t want. He just presented two scenarios, one where I don't exercise and I don’t see my 70th birthday. Or I could take the bull by the horns, lose the weight and use the type 2 diagnosis to actually extend my life. He let me choose. And then he introduced me to the CHANGE Program.
The CHANGE Program works wonders. Going to both a kinesiologist and a dietitian every week for three months, and then monthly after that — well that’s a lot of expertise you have access to and it really helps.
My kinesiologist taught me how to work out every day, on the treadmill and a strength workout. For the first couple of years, I was burning about 1200 calories a day, spending an hour and a half or more on the treadmill. Now I work off about 600 calories every day, on the treadmill and when the weather is good, walking about 40 minutes to work and back.
The development of a diet took a while, but my dietitian wasn’t in a big hurry. Every session, we’d go through what I was eating. I used to drink a lot of milk, for example, and she’d say, why don’t you try to cut out a glass of milk or two a day. And the next week we would change the kind of breakfast cereal I was eating and cut out 3 teaspoons of sugar I used to put on it just out of habit. So one morning I put the sugar somewhere else and didn’t even miss it. I haven’t had it since. It was just a mental block, and there were a lot of things like that. With my dietitian’s guidance, I didn’t find it nearly as difficult as I thought it would be.
At first, I lost weight fast, dropping about 3 lb. a week, but then I plateaued at about 190 lb. My big hurdle was that if I don’t track what I’m eating, I’m not going to control my weight. I’m sure I was eating 500 calories a day more than I thought I was. Portions were just a little too big. Thanks to my dietitian, I now know how to track it carefully and even weigh food so I know exactly how much I’m eating. A lot of people can lose weight without doing that, but I’m not one of those people.
I cook a lot more now. My dietitian helped me some up with a set weekly meal plan, making dinners that will last me a second day. I still eat a hamburger once a week for my red meat, and scrambled eggs with bacon. But now I make fish or chicken with rice and veggies, and for lunches a really good sandwich with salmon, spinach, cheese and tomato.
Today, my weight is down to 167 lb., and my waist size has shrunk from 43 in. to 35 in. I can bend over to tie my shoes.
But the big thing is that I’m not on metformin anymore. I control my type 2 diabetes with just diet and exercise.
The kinesiologist and dietitian in the CHANGE Program were such a big help because no one insisted I do things a certain way. They coached me through it, saying, “Try this and see if it works.” In a program like this, you figure out what things work for you and what things don’t. It's not the same for everybody. But they helped me find a way that works for me. And everything feels better now.