Friday, September 23, 2011

Woman Loses Weight To Donate Kidney To Brother

Good Morning America profiled Kari Roberts of Crestwood, IL who lost 135 pounds in order to be healthy enough to donate a kidney to her brother.  She had always wanted to shed weight, but never had the right motivation until her sibling was suddenly faced with the need for an organ transplant.  

Obviously, being a family member, the chances were high that Kari would be a good match, and because her two sisters had existing medical issues, she was the sole family member that had a shot of being able to donate a kidney.  But there was one problem - potential donors must be in good health to even be considered for testing and because of her 320 pound weight, she was ruled out as a possibility.

It was a turning point for Kari who was determined to help her brother. She took on the challenge, put together her own weight loss plan and started the journey.  135 pounds later, she was deemed healthy enough to be tested as a donor and as expected she turned out to be a perfect match.  Surgery is scheduled for this fall.

You can read the full article by Ellen Tumposky and view a video clip at the ABC News website.

Great story, but in the grand scheme of things I don't think they put enough emphasis on the fact that Kari created her own fitness plan and successfully lost the weight without any fade diets, magic pills, etc, etc.  Plus it was not a lose-weight-quick scheme.  She did it right, by focusing on something that she could do on her own rather than relying on the hypes and promises of some paid service.

I am a big believer in doing it "on your own" as true weight loss success is a long-term endeavor that has to be maintained for the rest of your life.  Thus, you never want to be a slave to something you cannot comfortably manage forever. 

As pointed out in the article by Dr. R. Michael Hofmann, medical director of the Living Kidney Donor Program at the University of Wisconsin Hospital, others have lost weight to support an organ donation, but 80% of them will typically gain the weight back.  That is predictable as most people view weight loss as a short term endeavor - which is a sure fire recipe for failure!

Weight lost through unsustainable means is weight that will come back to haunt you in the long run!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Great News - It's Only Pneumonia!

Back in mid-summer I started getting some pains in my jaws, left arm and neck when walking.  Of course I should point out that they didn't occur until the 5th mile on a 95 degree day... but a search on Google suggested that the pains could be a sign of cardiac issues.

So I eventually scheduled an appointment with my Doctor to discuss.  By the time the appointment rolled around, I had grown gradually weaker, and was actually feeling like I had the beginnings of the flu.  (But I was still walking everyday...)

Phase 1,  she diagnosed me with pneumonia - at least in terms of the fatigue and flu-like issues.  So I did a round of antibiotics and grudgingly a small dose of rest.  And got better!
Enter Phase 2.  As I rapidly improved, the Doctor begin to suspect that the pneumonia had been in my lungs for quite some time and could possibly be the cause of the other stuff.  To be sure, she set me up for a Nuclear Stress Test.

For those of you who have never had the privilege of such a test, they basically inject (through an IV) you with a radioactive dye and take a CT scan of your heart. at rest.  Then you hop on a treadmill and work your heart rate up, or pass out trying, then go back for a second CT scan.  Ultimately they will compare your heart at rest versus under stress.

I had done one of these about 5 years ago when I wasn't in very good shape and I always felt like the treadmill had defeated me.  You see, its no ordinary treadmill.  Sure it looks like the same kind of thing you would find in a gym, but this one has a mind of its own.  They start you out slow on a slight incline, then the treadmill automatically speeds up and tilts up - a lot.  Of course they warn you when the change is coming and you are instructed to cry "uncle" when you've had enough.  It can get the best of you pretty darn quick, especially if you are out of shape.  And it did... back then.

Oh yeah, did I mention that they have a "crash cart" standing by, just in case the treadmill really does you in?

But today was a new day.  Yes, I was still recovering from pneumonia, but being a guy who now walks 5 miles per day, I wasn't about to let the treadmill get one over on me again. It was personal this time and believe you me, I was going to ride this thing until it cried "uncle".

The test begin at a painfully slow pace, though because it was inclined slightly, there was a slight tug in my leg muscles.  And even worse - they told me I had to hold on to the safety bar for the duration of the test.  How embarrassing!  I never hold on with my own treadmilll - its acutally much more comfortable with walk with my arms swinging at my sides.  I sure hope on one was taking pictures...

I can't stand to walk slow, so I had to just wait impatiently for the speed to increase.  Eventually I got to a moderate but somewhat lazy rate, but at least it felt like walking.   The Doctor wanted a heart rate of 144, but I was stuck down in the 80 range.  Speed up and tilt.  My heart rate barely changed.  Speed up and tilt.  A slight increase up to about 95, but a long way from the target.  

We got to the 6 minute mark and a comment was made that not too many people went past that.  I laughed - now I was getting the upper hand over the treadmill.  We kept going and finally at about the 9 minute mark my heart rate got into the 144 range.  At 10 minutes the Doctor decided she had all the data she needed and that the preliminary results for my heart looked great, so SHE elected to shut it down.

I got off feeling victorious!  I had beaten the machine, I had won and I wasn't even breathing hard.  While the technician un-wired me I asked what the record time on the machine was.  Without batting an eye he said "a 62 year old guy went 18 minutes, but he was in really, really  good shape."


But the good news is - it was only pneumonia!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Weight Watchers Might Have Potential

I'm not a fan of commercial weight loss plans for two simple reasons.

1. Many of them are high-priced scams promising things that aren't realistic.
2. Long term weight loss requires a lifetime commitment to whatever program you choose and few if any commercial plans fit that bill.

Without a doubt, if you talk to those of us who have lost weight and kept it off, the key factor is a lifestyle change that can be sustained forever.  However, the average person wants to lose a lot of weight quickly, and then embarks on whatever the "flavor-of-the-month" is in terms of weight loss programs and fad diets.  Too many times its an expensive endeavor that is uncomfortable and difficult to maintain for any extended period of time, yet time is one of the major keys with for successful weight loss. End result, money is the only thing that is lost.  Thus, the statistics for losing weight are depressing and downright dismal for actually keeping it off.

But there are exceptions...

Weight Watchers (I have never participated) seems to show a positive degree of success for a significant number of their clients.  In fact, I have talked to participants who are applying the concepts such that they are able to make the necessary lifestyle changes that are required to successfully lose weight and keep it off.  An article by Nanci Hellmich of USA TODAY underscores this trend.  She profiles the results of a study that indicates that Dieters lose twice as much weight participating in Weight Watchers than they do by getting advice from their Doctors.

Of course, if you've ever gotten weight loss advice from a Doctor, its usually not very exciting or inspiring.  Nothing like an overweight Doctor who smells of smoke handing you a stack of papers describing some bland diet that no one can stomach. (Note: My Doctor is nothing like that and is one of my best supporters!)  But really, diet and exercise just sounds like @#$% to the average overweight, couch-potato American.  Without any pizazz and excitement, there is very little motivation to even try.

So is it that Weight Watchers is so great or that Doctors are so bad when it comes to the weight loss game?  Probably both.   

Sooooo, I'm not ragging on Weight Watchers!  If it works for you - great.  Just make sure that before you start down that path, that its a road you are willing to travel forever.  The weight loss journey has no end - unless you want the weight to come back.