As told by Sean Baltz
As a kid, I played basketball and never thought twice about the foods I ate. I was active and rail-thin. That changed, though, after decades at a desk job, a marriage, and later, a divorce.
At 30 years old, I was incredibly depressed. I worked and ate—and not much else. After surpassing 350 pounds, I tried to lose the weight, but couldn’t clean up my diet and fell deeper and deeper into unhealthy patterns of emotional eating, so I ended up just gaining more and more. Eventually, at 50 years old, I found myself at 510 pounds.
I was poisoning myself with food instead of dealing with the sadness I felt. I drank two liters of soda a day, and finished off a quart of rocky road ice cream only to reach for another.
My feet became so swollen that I couldn’t get my shoes on. I couldn’t get into my car or even walk to the end of my driveway to get the mail. If I dropped something on the floor at home, I left it there because I couldn’t pick it up.
I was poisoning myself with food instead of dealing with the sadness I felt.
Everything changed on December 18, 2015. I’ll never forget that date. After having some bloodwork done, the doctor called to inform me that I had developed type 2 diabetes. I was filled with fear. My A1C, a measure of average blood sugar, came in at 9.1 percent that day. (Editor’s note: According to the National Institutes of Health, you’re considered diabetic at 6.5 percent.) Diabetes, in combination with my obesity, put me at risk for losing a limb—maybe even my life.
That fear rocketed me toward making a radical change. I knew I had to take control of my health, so I set the goal of losing 250 pounds by September 2017. I cold-turkey quit all of the soda, junk, and processed food that had filled my diet for so long, and stocked my fridge with produce. I started tracking my calories to make sure I didn’t eat more than 2,000 calories per day, and stopped snacking in the middle of the night. The more progress I made, the more the fear that initially propelled me transformed into self-respect.
I realized I had to look at my food as medicine, as something that served my body—not just as instant gratification for my taste buds. At breakfast, I loaded up on fresh fruit and a few tablespoons of nuts or seeds, plus an occasional protein shake. I ate a light midday snack of almonds and an apple, and went vegetable-crazy at dinner, filling my crock-pot with broccoli, cauliflower, and carrots. I got my protein from beans or a small portion of lean meat. Throughout the day, I drank tons of water: ten 16-ounce bottles every day.
I knew I had to take control of my health, so I set the goal of losing 250 pounds by September 2017.
After months and months of eating only the freshest foods I could get my hands on, I’d dropped 200 pounds. I meant business! I wanted to exercise, but I could still only power-walk for about five minutes at a time. So I started there, power-walking for five minutes, and adding a minute every day until I could walk for a half-hour straight. Then I added two minutes a day until I could walk for an hour.
I reached my goal of losing 250 pounds in September 2016—a year early. By the end of the year I weighed 215 pounds and I’d lost almost 300 pounds. Now I’m incorporating strength training into my routine and I celebrate every bit of nourishing food I put into my mouth. My A1C level is under control at 4.9.
I used to see myself as a loser, and I conquered that. My health transformation has been about so much more than the pounds lost and bloodwork numbers. As I told myself over and over that I deserved health and that my life was worth fixing my toxic relationship with food, the temptation of ice cream and my other old vices went out the window. I transformed my outlook on life, and that enabled me to be positive and make change happen. Now I plan to write a book about my experiences.
Advice For Others
You have to change the way you talk to yourself about food. Redefine what you call a ‘comfort food.’ Who says an apple can’t be as comforting as a candy bar? If having the junk food around blazes an inner battle in you, clear it out of the house. Create an environment at home that’s conducive to health.