Announcing Our Weightby David Mendosa Patient Advocate
Dirk Baeuerle has a nice desk job in Alabama working for an architect. It doesn't require much physical effort and he hadn't been getting much exercise.
He also ate too much. When he weighted himself in January 1, 2006, he was shocked to see that the scales told him that he weighed 375 pounds. Even though he's 6' 1" tall he knew this was far too much.
"I then decided once and for all, to do something before something else happens, such as heart failure," Dirk says. "On that day I made a daily commitment to get exercise a minimum three times a week for 30 minutes. I also started to pay a lot more attention to what I was eating."
He lost 25 pounds that year. But it wasn't nearly enough.
By December 6, 2007, his weight had come down to 318. But that was the day his doctor diagnosed that he had type 2 diabetes.
"That was the day that changed my life," Dirk says. Since then, he has redoubled his efforts to exercise and lose weight. His goal: 185.
But the best part of Dirk's story is how public he has gone with it. Ever since January 12 he has written blog entries at http://healthychangesforlife.blogspot.com/ about what he eats, his blood glucose levels, and his weight. And he's already down to 305.8.
His associates think that he's being too public. But I couldn't agree more with Dirk.
When you are ashamed of something or feel guilty or are in denial, you want to keep it to yourself. But when you are proud of what you do, you want the world to know. Then, all the people who care about you are more likely to reinforce your goals.
Only when you accept yourself as you are can you make fundamental changes. This is basic to the Alcoholics Anonymous philosophy. "My name is David, and I am an alcoholic" is what I know that I would say if I ever needed AA support. It's a sign of commitment.
I subscribe to the same philosophy. When I started taking Byetta on February 7, 2006, I weighed almost as much as Dirk. I am 6' 3" tall but weighed 312 at that time. I told my doctor and everyone else who would listen that my goal was to get down to a normal Body Mass Index of 195 by October 26, 2007, which happens to be exactly my weight when the U.S. Army gave me an honorable discharge half a century earlier.
My doctor smiled and made it clear that I was fooling myself. In fact, my weight had come down to 169 by that date.
In my new book, Losing Weight with Your Diabetes Medication, I wrote all of that and more about my weight and my goals. Like Dirk, I'm not proud that my weight climbed so high, but by making my process so open I reinforced my determination to succeed.
Even now that I am down to the weight that I want to carry, I get help in maintaining this level. Every Thursday morning I participate in my friend Jude's virtual weigh-in.
You probably can't believe how much I focus on my Thursday weight. If it creeps up over the weekend, I make darn sure to eat less so that I will be down to 160 every Thursday morning.
Years ago I learned the importance of being watched -- an example of the Hawthorne Effect, which is an "improvement caused by observing worker performance." One of my early articles about diabetes was a review of the first diabetes telemedicine program that I wrote for the American Diabetes Association in 1999.
"The big difference turned out that I now do my fingerstick tests much more religiously," I wrote. "Why? Simply because I know somebody's watching and giving me feedback."
Now anyone can watch and support those of us who publicize our weight goals. Dirk has gone even father than I have in making his process transparent.
"My reason for telling it to the world is it makes me accountable for my actions," he told me by email. I know that Dirk will continue to be an inspiration for all of us who are battling our weight and our diabetes.