"Ryan, there's a story inside your heart that people need to hear," said Annette Plante, a registered nurse and fitness trainer from Meriter Home Health in Madison, Wisconsin. "And that story is that you have believed a lie all your life. And the lie that you've believed is that you are not valuable and that you are not worthy of being loved and accepted for who you are."
When the scale read 800 pounds, Ryan (SparkPeople.com member MADTOWNBUDDHA) decided it was time to change his life. Hundreds of pounds from his ultimate goal, you might think that Ryan feels depressed and overwhelmed by the journey ahead of him. But that couldn't be further from the truth. His positive attitude is infectious and he's made real progress in just a few months. And with the help of SparkPeople, his hometown, and Annette, his home health nurse, he's well on his way to reaching a healthy weight for the first time in his life.
Recently, Ryan sat down with WISC-TV in Madison to share his story and ask for help. ("A lot of this seems to be about being willing to let people in," he says.) We wanted to share Ryan's story with you because we think he is a true inspiration. If you have trouble viewing the video below, visit the Channel3000.com website.
After seeing this video, we immediately reached out to Ryan to offer our support and to learn more about his journey. We think that his can-do attitude and progress so far is nothing short of amazing. While Ryan is the one asking for help, we think that he is going to help so many more people by taking this journey himself and serving as inspiration that they can do it, too.
I had the opportunity to interview Ryan via email last week. Here's what he says about his a-ha moment, his workout routine, and how he maintains a positive attitude.
Coach Nicole: It sounds like reaching 800 pounds was your "a-ha" moment. Was it the number on the scale itself or something else that triggered you to change your life?
Ryan: It was absolutely the number, I could not believe that my weight had gotten so high, I was devastated emotionally and when my doctor said that my most recent blood work showed that I had developed diabetes, that was it. Things needed to change way before this, but that was my turning point—even though at that time I had no idea on how to make these changes on my own.
CN: How has asking for help made a difference in your weight loss this time around? Do you have any advice for others about seeking support or asking for help?
R: My fiancé took the initial critical action by getting me hooked up with a local hospital's home care agency. Since we started working with them, and allowing these changes to happen, it has become crystal-clear that any success I'm having is credited to a team of people, not just me. I really want to be successful with this, and surrounding myself with loving, supportive people who know how to help me get there has been key!
CN: Many overweight and obese individuals struggle with exercising because it can be painful, uncomfortable or tiring. In the video, we see you exercising under the direction of your nurse/trainer. What are your workouts like and how often do you exercise? What advice do you have for people who struggle to get active?
R: I've made a lot of progress in these last few months with being able to move more, feeling comfortable on my feet and mentally becoming friends with exercising. I am currently doing sit-ups every morning (I do them on the edge of my bed), keeping my core tight, breathing, helping my back muscles and getting a nice warm up to get up and do my walking cardio. I do 5-8 laps back in forth in our apartment building hallway, each session shakes out to about 100 yards on my feet, so a football field—not as much as many people, but I'm going for consistency and endurance burning. I do this every day. Later in the day, I usually do either some weight training sets with dumbbells and/or resistance bands.
I have to always remind myself that I have to push myself to do more, but also to balance that drive to lose all my weight by next week with the reality of my situation. Steady consistent progress so I won't get burnt out or injure myself, so that I can keep going. I try to look for all the progress I am making instead of focusing on what I can't accomplish YET. I would just say that making these new habits, folding them into my busy day-to-day life, needed to be at the top of my to-do list—period. Having a plan, feeling fired up and just starting to try and move more is how I started. I had to accept that this is for the long haul and what I'm learning now is just like training for the future. So I try to exercise every day. My trainer has told me to take one day off and also to work at mixing it to avoid getting burnt out.
CN: What are some of the small, simpler changes you made that have made a difference in your lifestyle and weight loss?
R: Well, I eat. Sounds crazy, but I never used to eat multiple meals each day, so a big change has been starting each day with breakfast and eating when I'm truly hungry. Being able to identify genuine hunger cues took a little time. I'm also drinking plenty of water and moving as much as I can. Tracking my food every single day helps me learn to understand more about what my body needs for fuel.
CN: Beyond losing weight, what are your bigger goals? How will weight-loss help you achieve these goals and dreams? Does it help to focus on the bigger picture rather than the weight loss alone?
R: Big goals would be to get healthy enough to expand my business life and be able to afford a modest home with an in-ground pool in a beautiful, warm climate. It helps to look ahead and dream, and feel the hope growing in me that if I can be successful with changing my life and losing all of this weight...there's probably not much I can't do in my life!
CN: How do you maintain such a positive attitude?
R: I've been through a lot in my life and I've always been an observer, looking at people that seem happy despite life's ups and downs. It helps to look at everything I do have going for me instead of everything I'd like to be different. There's just no other way to be. I have to keep my head up, don't get me wrong. I do struggle with getting discouraged, sometimes a little bit each day, but I've made it to the other side of a lot of really painful stuff in my life. So in my mind, there really isn't anything to be scared of anymore. I have nothing to lose but the weight!
CN: How has SparkPeople.com helped in your journey?
R: SparkPeople has been a huge tool. It has provided me an anchor in this whole process. I really try to use it for everything it has to offer more and more. I've gained some new SparkFriends that consistently support me and I've done my very best to share my day-to-day happenings honestly and openly. SparkPeople has given me an outline, a framework to learn, to track and see my progress and a real encouraging place for me to huddle up with other people who fighting the same battle. I could never get it done on my own, but by being an active member of SparkPeople, I get to tap into that extra strength and hope I never had on my own.
CN: What is the biggest obstacle or setback you've overcome so far?
R: Just mentally sticking with it every day. For a month or so at the start, I really had no faith in myself. Today, I trust that by following the plan and trusting the process, I can and will be successful getting healthy and losing weight one step at a time. It's still my biggest obstacle, but I'm able to navigate my way through the crap my head tells me and make the healthy choices today. Huge—absolutely huge—for me!
CN: Anything else you'd like to share with the people who are reading this?
R: Hang in there. Don't give up no matter what. Push yourself. Give yourself a chance to learn about how you can change, ask for help and make a solid decision to be tenacious. Go into this new beginning with clarity, clear thinking and some compassion for yourself. You are going to struggle; it's going to be hard and confusing. But if you expect that going in, it's a little easier to roll with. I have a long, long way to go and by no means do I think I'm qualified to be telling anyone anything about how to do this, but this has been my experience so far. I've lost 85 pounds since Sept. 2009 and 132 pounds since Jan. 2009. My A1C has come down from 11.6 in Sept. 2009 to 6.2 as of early Feb. 2010. My blood pressure was 112/68 last Thursday at my weekly weigh-in. All of those changes help me believe that the change is real, I can continue making progress…it's just going to take some time.
Can you relate to Ryan's story? Does he inspire you?
*Weight loss results will vary from person to person. No individual result should be seen as a typical result of following the SparkPeople program.
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