My Story: As a principal, I often have students in my office. But not long ago, two young men came to see me who weren’t summoned for disciplinary reasons or to discuss their grades. They came to me seeking advice. They were overweight, and were beginning to experience the social difficulties of lugging around those extra pounds. Why did they come to me? Because they had witnessed my loss of more that 100 pounds on the Atkins program.
I’d played football in high school and my weight problems began when I beefed up to 225 pounds from 185 to make my college team. Later, I was sidelined by serious knee injuries, and as the years went by I gradually packed on the pounds. I knew I was heavy, but not until I visited my doctor for a plantar wart did I learn that I weighed an astonishing 323 pounds. “So much for the plantar wart,” my doctor said. “We have to discuss your weight.”
Talk about timing. I’d recently stumbled upon my mother-in-law’s copy of Dr. Atkins’ New Diet Revolution, started reading it and couldn’t put it down. At 38, I’d just begun thinking about hitting the big four-oh. I’d been a physical-education major in college, played football, wrestled, coached and spent my whole career promoting fitness and good health, and look at what I’d done to myself. I have a preteen daughter and two young sons, a wonderful wife and 1,000 students at Hastings High School in Michigan who depended on me. I was short of breath and slept poorly at night (not to mention the snoring, which kept my wife, Lori, awake). “I don’t need to be one of those people who drops dead at 40 of heart disease,” I told myself. I had no early signs of diabetes or heart disease, but my total cholesterol, triglycerides and blood pressure were all dangerously high.
Under my doctor’s supervision – he insisted on full blood work every three months and monitored my weight and blood pressure weekly – I began the Atkins program in early August of 1999. That initial morning on Induction was the first time in ages I didn’t have an on-the-run breakfast of M&Ms and a Mountain Dew, both readily available in the school cafeteria. In general, I had grabbed food when I could and didn’t give much thought to what I was putting into my body. Probably my worst habit was the six bottles of sugar-laden soda I’d drink every day. After two weeks on Induction, I’d lost 18 pounds and jumped to the Ongoing Weight Loss phase. For a month I kept my carb intake to 30 to 40 grams daily. Then I moved to Pre-Maintenance, consuming up to 80 carb grams a day.
By early December, after just four months, I had lost 95 pounds, weighing in at 228 pounds, and my blood work had improved dramatically. To my wife’s delight, I stopped snoring. I was sleeping through the night and felt refreshed and revitalized after six or seven hours of sleep. Today, I weigh 218 pounds, close to my goal weight of 210. I found I had no trouble replacing soda pop with water. I drink an occasional light beer and eat peanuts. I make a special trail mix that includes nuts, raisins and a few – very few! – M&Ms. I find a handful calms any craving. For Christmas dinner that year – we were with family in the Florida Keys – we had stone crabs, shrimp, prime rib roast, Caesar salad, potatoes and rolls. Of course, I passed on the potatoes and rolls. Did I miss a spoonful of potatoes and a roll? Yeah, I guess I did, but so what? I got to have seconds on the crabs, shrimp and prime rib! I eat taco salads without the shells, and breakfast burritos without the tortillas. From head to toe, I feel better now than I have in 18 years.
Now I’m back to a regular exercise regimen with an hour’s workout every morning that includes a treadmill, stationary bike and weight training. My biggest problem is that I have to keep buying new pants, but my days at the big and tall shop are over. My waist has gone from 52 to 38 inches, and there are definitely more choices in that size. Lori introduces me as her “new boyfriend” when we meet people we haven’t seen in a while. She and my daughter, Jennifer, who is 12, have supported me wholeheartedly. Both also lost weight themselves. Several teachers and other administrators at Hastings High have followed my lead; some have lost 50 to 70 pounds on the Atkins program. We joke that, among us all, we’ve lost the equivalence of a whole kindergarten class in terms of weight.
I consider myself successful in my professional life, and now that I’ve carried that success into my personal life, where it counts the most. I did it for my family. I did it for my students. But mostly, I did it for me. I’m a living example of how determination and discipline can turn your life around.
To reach a goal weight of 210 pounds and feel confident again as I reach 40 years of age.
How Atkins Helped Get Me There: I learned how to eat sensibly but still eat what I love.