This past weekend I cycled the 165 mile 2-day Bike MS Pedal to the Point bicycle ride with some good friends and a new friend, Luke. I had chatted with Luke on an Obesity Help message board. Through our chatting, I found out that like me, Luke had found cycling as a love after weight loss surgery. Luke had also chosen to ride in my favorite charity cycling event, Bike MS Pedal to the Point, to challenge himself and celebrate his first surgiversary.
It was a pleasure to ride with Luke over the 2 days. It brought back memories of my first Pedal to the Point which was two years post-op for me. From my experience, I knew this would be an emotional moment in his life that he would never forget. His enthusiasm was high and his attitude was very positive. You could sense the excitement while in his presence.
We finished the ride cycling through a variety of weather conditions including rain, thunder, lightning, head winds, high heat and humidity. Luke was instrumental in me finishing the ride. My memories of 2011 when I cycled through two hours of torrential downpour were on my mind. When we hit the storms on Sunday, I was ready to call it quits at lunch rather than subject myself to a repeat of 2011. Well, the rain cleared during lunch. Luke was determined to finish the ride. I knew I had to do it for him and myself. I got on the bike and rode the last 40 miles.
In preparing to write this year’s Pedal to the Point blog post, I knew I wanted to include some of Luke’s story. I asked him for a short summary of his weight loss surgery experience. He gave me a compelling story of change and transformation of his life. With his permission, I am publishing it as he gave it to me. The message he sends needs no editing. It is a story we all can benefit from as we try to live a healthier lives. Here is Luke’s story in his words.
My name is Luke. I am a 26 year old bachelor from Northeast Ohio. In January 2011 I embarked on a journey of a lifetime: to take back my health and my life! I have been overweight/obese my entire life, and after the death of my mother in 2009, I ate myself to become “super morbidly obese”. I was diagnosed with Binge Eating Disorder (BED) and Graze Eating Disorder in October 2010.
My 2011 “New Year’s Resolution” was to take control of my life before I took my life! After stepping on a scale, for the first time in 7 years, and seeing it reach 435 pounds, I decided I needed more than some gimmicky diet book or “fad diet” to lose weight. I knew that I wanted to get married, possibly have children and I wanted to be active and healthy so that I could live a long life. I wanted to LIVE life instead of just survive!
I began both medical and behavioral therapy for my eating disorders and began a medically supervised diet. I ate 1,500 kcals per day and exercised 3 -4 days per week. My doctor prescribed me psyllium husk to assist with satiating my appetite. I fought extreme hunger and sadness; I often vomited from extreme exercise. I lost and gained back the same 80 pounds over and over again. It was time to face reality: at 435 pounds, I needed to lose 255 pounds to be considered a healthy weight and I needed more than psyllium fiber to get there.
My doctor referred me to the Cleveland Clinic’s Bariatric and Metabolic Institute for more weight loss options. I met with a team of doctors, nurses, psychologists, nutritionists and a kinesiologist and together we developed a targeted plan for weight loss. I would begin a strict overhaul of my lifestyle, diet and exercise and within a year I would undergo a procedure called Roux-en-Y Gastrojejunostomy with Silastic Sleeve. This surgery would be a powerful tool to aid in my success in weight loss and assist in successful long term weight management. I was scared to death of such a drastic lifestyle change. I was ashamed that my weight was so high that it would take such a drastic approach to lose the amount I needed to lose, and be successful at maintaining a healthy weight. On July 28, 2011 at 5:15am I arrived at the surgery center at The Cleveland Clinic Foundation to begin this new lease on life; this journey to good health and happiness!
I decided (until now) to keep this journey very private. I had many reasons for keeping this to myself, but mainly because of the shame I felt, and public rejection of such a surgery. Now I feel it is my moral and social responsibility to share my success and help to inspire others to pursue a life of happiness and positive energy through various lifestyle modifications.
My highest weight was 435 pounds, my surgery weight was 364 pounds, current weight is 205 pounds, my goal weight is: 190ish. It’s never been about the number on the scale for me. I only weigh in once per month at the doctor and I don’t even own a scale at home.
When I started my weight loss journey I was extremely overwhelmed when I first stepped foot into my gym; I didn’t know where to begin! I saw the stationary bikes and thought, “Hey, I used to do that as a kid. I know how to ride a bike. Let me start there!” I got on that bike and rode 5 miles (my goal was 1 mile) and I was so happy after and I KNEW that I could do this! I knew that reaching a healthy weight was possible and that cycling would be one of the BIGGEST tools I would use to get there! I kept going back to the gym each day and cycling more and more. Eventually I was spending 1.5 hours per day on the stationary bike.
In March 2012 when the weather started getting nice, I decided I wanted to buy a bicycle so that I could get OFF the stationary about OUT and see the world while cycling. A friend referred me to a local bike shop where I went and got all the information I needed to make the purchase.
While picking up my new set of wheels, I saw an ad for Bike MS. I knew I could use my newfound lifestyle to raise money for a good cause, and the thought of riding 150+ miles in two days intrigued me. I knew it would be a HUGE challenge and I LOVE challenges. I took home the flyer, registered online, joined a team, and started pedaling to get ready for such a long ride!