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Name: James L.

Age: 49

Health Challenge: High Blood Pressure, Overweight

Greatest Motivation: Today, I do two training sessions and a spin class per week, plus I exercise twice a week on my own. I’m doing other active and competitive things now, too. I’m starting a softball league and I’ve been zip lining, swimming, and rock crawling in a jeep. Overall, I went from 365 pounds to my goal weight in just 14 months, and I’ve maintained it since. I now weigh 195 pounds. My body fat went from 58 percent to a little over 10 percent.  A year and a half ago, I couldn’t keep up with my son – he was 3 years old. Now, he and I will do wind sprints up and down the halls of our house. As he grows and plays more sports, I intend on being involved at a coaching level to make sure it’s being done right. And I can do that now. I went from being the fattest dad to the most physically fit dad. It feels pretty great.

His Story: In 1996, when I graduated from law school, I weighed 200 pounds. However, my weight from law school until 2012, if charted, would have looked like a graph of the stock market – lose 30 pounds, gain 50, lose 20 pounds, gain 30. By summer of 2012, I weighed 365 pounds. I was aware that I was living a very unhealthy lifestyle. Before attending law school, I was in medical school, so I knew I was making unhealthy choices and exactly what the consequences of those choices would be, but I kept telling myself that I was different. That summer, I reached the point where I could barely catch my breath and I just really felt bad. I was working non-stop – one week I would be in trial, trying a stressful birth trauma case and the next I was flying all over the country for meetings and depositions. I wasn’t paying attention to my well-being at all and I was steadily gaining weight. One week I flew from Nashville to Cincinnati to Minnesota to Connecticut to New York and back to Minnesota preparing for another trial. When I arrived at the airport, I could not even walk from the taxi to the gate for my flight. I literally could not do it. That gave me a little bit of a scare.

“I went from 365 pounds to my goal weight in just 14 months, and I’ve maintained it since.”

After returning to Nashville, I saw my family doctor, who told me that my blood pressure was out of whack and recommended that I change medications. I hesitated because I thought that if I did that, I would never get off of the medication. My doctor said “well, you’ve been telling me for 2 years that you’re going to get in shape and you haven’t done it.” That was the turning point for me. I am a type-A personality and once I wrapped my brain around losing the weight and getting in shape, my driven personality just kicked in.

I began by changing my diet. The Ornish Lifestyle Medicine Program (Intensive Cardiac Rehabilitation) made me re-think how I looked at food. I learned portion control and more importantly, I re-learned how to live the life I live. I travel a lot and I’m in professional circles, which means I entertain clients and have to be out at restaurants. The program taught me how to do that without overeating and without eating the wrong stuff. It also helped me with what my grandma used to call “eye-belly syndrome.” I finally realized that my eyes were often bigger than my belly; I got the right portion on my plate to begin with. I also eliminated all of the unhealthy foods I was eating.

Today, if I need a treat, I’ll eat grits because I’m from the south and God did invent grits for a reason. But in general, I stick to the program. And I started seeing results right away.

Slowly, I began to add exercise to my program as well. It was really hard for me to pace myself because I had been an athlete all of my life. I had played sports competitively all the way through law school, but I wasn’t where I needed to be to make that a reality again. Around Christmas of 2012, I began by walking through my neighborhood. By February, I began doing more intense exercise. Today, I do two training sessions and a spin class per week, plus I exercise twice a week on my own. I don’t know that I can play football like I did at 18, but I wouldn’t hesitate to play on a flag football team with others my age now. If you’d asked me 2 years ago, I never would have considered it. I’m doing other active and competitive things now, too. I’m starting a softball league and I’ve been zip lining, swimming, and rock crawling in a jeep. At 365 pounds, I never could have done any of that. It’s been a great journey.

I also have a little boy who is adopted. We found out about him the day that he was born and drove to Pennsylvania and adopted him. Genetically, I think we’re from some similar stock – Northern PA, fair hair, blue eyed – and he is definitely lean and loves to run. We just run all day. In fact, he’s going to be on the cross country team with his kindergarten class this fall. A year and a half ago, I couldn’t keep up with him – he was 3 years old. Now, he and I will do wind sprints up and down the halls of our house. As he grows and plays more sports, I intend on being involved at a coaching level to make sure it’s being done right. And I can do that now. I went from being the fattest dad to the most physically fit dad. It feels pretty great.

Overall, I went from 365 pounds to my goal weight in just 14 months, and I’ve maintained it since. I now weigh 195 pounds. My body fat went from 58 percent to a little over 10 percent. My waist went from a 58 to a 32. My chest went from a 60 coat, which I couldn’t button around my gut, to a size 42 athletic cut. I’m healthy thanks to the lifestyle changes I’ve made. In 2012, I wouldn’t have even considered walking up 1 flight of stairs; today, I exercise 5 times a week, keep up with my job, play sports, and run around with my little boy. I just feel better, and I can do so many things that I never would have dreamed of just two years ago.

Ultimately, I hope that my story can motivate someone who reads it to get on Dr. Ornish’s program and get healthy like I did. If that happens, then I’ve done my job.

Contributed by

Adam Farina
Contributor

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