How I lost 125 pounds, and the small changes that will make us happier

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GREER, S.C. (WSPA) – By now, folks have noticed a difference. From late 2018 and through all of last year, I’ve been losing weight. I’ve lost a lot.

As of Monday morning, I’m down more than 120 pounds from my all-time high. It feels good, and the comments from my family and friends and viewers have felt good too.

When you’re as big as I was, you can lose a lot before anyone notices. Or, maybe, people do notice but they’re too polite to say it. Either way, I was down nearly 75 pounds before I felt the need to tell anyone what’s up.

I promised myself years ago that I’d never talk publicly about my weight again, mostly because it was too stressful.

My weight is the thing I’m most sensitive about. That’s always been true. Even now, when I’ve lost what amounts to small human in body weight and dropped my BMI from “morbidly obese” to just “overweight,” it’s hard to talk about.

Avoiding the topic isn’t easy.

If you Google “Gordon Dill,” Google’s algorithm suggests the following related searches: “Gordon Dill WSPA weight loss,” “How did Gordon Dill lose weight” and “How did Gordon Dill lose weight 2019.”

That last one is a real doozy for reasons I’ll explain later.

Still, what I heard from viewers by phone, email and on Facebook led us to this story and, likely, more to follow.

Turns out, there are a lot of people who, like me, are not just struggling with weight and unhealthy food, but feeling as if we lack self-control.

Sometimes we wonder, “What’s wrong with me that makes this so hard, when so many others seem to have no problem?”

It’s a helpless feeling.

So, in this story I will share the basic outline of my Keto Diet and how I’ve made it work for me. But more importantly, I want to share what I’ve learned from some of the best scientists in South Carolina about how we feel, and why that weight loss mountain seems so hard from some of us to climb.

KETO DIET

I think the reason I liked Keto so much is because I really like bacon. It’s almost that simple.

The truth about any successful diet is finding the right individual fit, and a plan that involves bacon is a really good fit for me.

It was my doctor who first suggested it during a checkup last March.

Keto works by dramatically cutting carbohydrates and replacing them with a lot of fat, which is harder than it sounds.

On Keto, about 70 to 75 percent of my daily calories come from fats, things like butter, olive oil and delicious bacon.

Another 20 to 25 percent of my daily calories are protein.

That leaves about 5 percent, only about 20 to 30 grams a day, of carbs. That’s about the same as two slices of wheat bread.

Carbs are sneaky though. For example, a piece of cheddar cheese may have zero carbs but shredded cheddar may have two or three grams. Those small amounts can add up quickly so it pays to be vigilant about every ingredient.

On Keto, we eat so few carbs that the body depletes its stored sugar and, essentially, runs out of fuel.

The body burns fats instead and produces a different fuel called “Ketones,” which is how the diet gets its name.

Then, like all successful diets, the critical step is keeping track.

I took a business class at Clemson years ago. The teacher liked to say, “You can’t manage what you don’t measure.”

For Keto to work, I had to write it all down.

Literally everything I’ve eaten for the last 12 months — every gram of carbs and fat and protein — is logged in an app I downloaded for my iPhone. It was free, but costs a couple of dollars a month to re-subscribe.

I also quit sugar, the drug that was most responsible for my weight struggles. That meant cutting the fake stuff too.

Additives like aspartame are actually much sweeter than real sugar.

“People find that the potency is higher so it leads to them eating more, sweeter things,” nutritionist Katherine Nowakowski said. “They’ve done a lot of studies that showed that patients who switched to diet sodas either ended up sustaining or gaining weight.”

At restaurants, where I won’t always have the nutrition information I need, I’ll pick simple meals and break them down by ingredient.

A Caesar salad is romaine lettuce, parmesan cheese, and Caesar dressing for example.

I eat eggs for breakfast every morning — fat and protein — and keep almonds in my desk for a snack.

More than 100 pounds later, I’m still not eating sweets and I’ll never give up the eggs.

FEELING BETTER = GETTING BETTER

Like most obese people, I’ve been back and forth a number of times.

When I started at WSPA in 2011, I weighed about 220 pounds. I’m really tall, so that’s a healthy weight.

By 2014, I was back up to 340.

I gained and lost as much as 50 pounds at least three other times. Always working hard to get healthy and always sliding back to something miserable.

By 2018, I tipped the scale at 374. That’s 44.3 on the body mass index. It’s called “morbidly obese” and it made me depressed.

There’s been groundbreaking research on this topic — the relationship between weight and mood — at the University of South Carolina.

“You can see that as body mass index goes up the rate of depressive illness in those individuals increases to a point that when you get to something like 40, a BMI of 40, now you’re into something where you may to be two to three, four times more likely to develop depressive illness,” Dr. Larry Reagan said.

Reagan is a professor of pharmacology who studies the hormonal relationship between obesity and depression.

But anyone who has struggled with severe obesity will understand what he’s discovered.

That cycle of weight gain and loss triggers hormones that are more likely to make us depressed, and people who suffer from depression are often more likely to gain weight. It’s a cycle that can be terribly difficult to break.

Every time I failed, my brain lied to me. It told me it was too hard to try again. That the next time would be like all the times before. I’d fail and get fatter.

“We think it’s a variety of changes which take place in the central nervous system, whether it’s chemistry changes, might involve neuroanatomical changes, it might involve all of those sorts of things that may be taking place,” Reagan said.

But, Reagan learned something else that is great encouragement to folks like me.

Even very small changes, small changes in diet and exercise, can begin to reverse those hormonal changes.

“Those deficits in neuroplasticity can be reversed with weight loss,” he said. “Even those small changes might be enough to elevate mood and elevate cognition.”

For me, it was Keto that changed the way I thought and felt.

By making relatively small changes to each meal — replacing the carbs with fat — I felt better in a matter of weeks.

IT’S NOT FOR EVERYONE

A reminder: I did Keto because my doctor suggested it. You should get the same advice.

Keto is not for everyone and, in some people, it can actually be quite dangerous.

According to studies published by the National Institutes of Health, people who have pancreatitis, liver disease, fat metabolism disorders or other health issues should not do Keto. Neither should anyone who has diabetes or who takes insulin.

In fact, for some people those conditions can cause life-threatening health problems on a Keto diet.

If you try something else, let me know. And if you try Keto, share that, too.

I’ll keep you updated on my Facebook page: Gordon Dill WSPA.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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