I'm a physician. An orthopedic spine surgeon to be exact. I'm also a wife and a mother. In all three roles — doctor, wife, and mom — there's one prescription that I always advocate: eat more real foods, limit processed foods, and move your body.
I know from personal experience that this works. The problem is, there's a big difference between knowing and actually doing. And like many people, I know, but don't always do.
I've struggled with my weight my whole life — ballooning 90 pounds in college, losing it only to gain a lot back with each pregnancy. Having tried every diet there is, I decided to try juicing a few years ago after watching Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead. After 42 days of just juicing, I transitioned into a diet of whole, unprocessed foods, mostly plants and regained my health.
This worked for about two years.
But soon my busy schedule and stress were getting the best of me. I'd stopped exercising so I could get to work earlier and earlier, and pizza was happening far more than I'd like to admit. One night of pizza doesn't ruin your health or waistline. But it is a problem when that one slice of pizza for dinner turns into a bagel for breakfast, a burger for lunch, and ice cream for dessert. And pizza again two nights later.
I still made a fresh green juice or green smoothie in the morning, but I often left it in the car only to end up at a fast food drive-thru after a stressful meeting. I'd eat my burger and fries in the car around the corner so no one would see me. (Yep, you read that correctly.)
I wasn't sleeping. I was craving sugar 24/7. I was up half the night eating things I would never eat during daylight hours. I was exhausted. I was sick all of the time.
I finally got to the point where I couldn't fit into any of my work clothes, so I had to wear yoga pants to work. A baggy white lab coat hides a lot, but I wasn't fooling anyone except myself.
Ironically, at that time, Joe Cross reached out to me and asked if he could interview me for his second film, Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2. He knew I had been successful on the juice cleanse, which he calls a Reboot. He also knows how important it is for doctors to encourage their patients to eat healthy, and thought I was a good role model for that. So, he brought his camera crew into my house in Cleveland, Ohio and I shared how I keep my family, myself and my patients healthy.
I wish I could tell you that I recognized my problem and took action. But I didn't. The more off track I got with my health, the more I beat myself up. And of course, this only made things worse.
While it's normal to feel guilt and blame when our healthy habits get derailed, for me it was more than that. It was the fact that I had just been filmed in Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2, demonstrating how well I was able to turn my own health around with nutrition and lifestyle, when really, 'healthy' was far from what I was feeling. And I didn't feel good about myself at all.
I knew that I was no less of a doctor because I had fallen off track with my own diet, but it felt harder for me to deliver the messages of lifestyle change to my patients. I needed to get back on track.
I went to my own doctor, ran blood tests, and committed to becoming healthy again. I learned that between the stress, lack of exercise, and uptake of processed foods and sugar, not only did I not feel well, my blood pressure and my blood sugar were up.
It was the wake-up call I needed, and it gave me the knowledge and the tools to learn what changes I had to make to find health again. If there is one thing that I have learned, it's that no matter how far away you are from where you want to be, you can always get back on track!
So what did I do to get back on track? I implemented 5 changes in my life that can help anyone get back on track:
1. Put stubbornness aside.
I pride myself on being independent, but sometimes I take it too far and stubbornness takes over. The first thing I had to do to get back on track was put my stubbornness aside. I realized that I couldn't lose weight and I couldn't get healthy without help.
2. Build a support network.
I built a community around me that would support my goals to get back to being healthy. I was fortunate that my husband had minor weight loss goals of his own (he rarely struggles with weight), so we made a good team.
3. Get help from a nutritionist.
I knew what I needed to do, but I simply wasn't doing it. So I got the nutritional advice from Reboot nutritionist Stacy Kennedy who helped me find a plan that worked — not only for me but for my family.
4. Look to factors (beyond food) that are influencing your weight gain.
I also sought professional help from psychologist Dr. Russ Kennedy. (He's Stacy's husband who is also in Fat, Sick & Nearly Dad 2). Russ helped me work on more effective stress management skills so I didn't turn to food.
5. Take significant steps to manage any stress in your life.
I started meditating every day. I started exercising more consistently and bought a pedometer to make sure I was active throughout the day. I prioritized getting enough quality sleep every night! I stopped eating three hours before I went to bed as often as I could.
The outcome? I lost the excess weight and rediscovered my health. Now I feel proud to be in Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2 because I am that healthy person again. I'm a doctor, a wife and a mom, who eats a ton of plants, feels great in my clothes, and smiles most of the time. The best part is my patients even seem to respond better to discussions about lifestyle changes for their own health, especially when I share my own struggles.
My husband and I still allow family pizza nights to happen from time-to-time. But I now know how to prevent it from happening too often. It's the seeking out help and guidance, and surrounding yourself with support that really helps you make these changes.
Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead 2 was released globally last November and is now available on Netlfix.