Back in my corporate career and in my twitter networking circles I had always known the “old” Brian Berkman as a PR and Media personality… but Brian has changed his life in jaw-dropping fashion over the past year and a half. I asked him to write his story for us. Which he has kindly done. I hope you are as inspired as I was.
By BRIAN BERKMAN
WHEN I look at photographs of me at my heaviest, it feels as if I’m looking at someone else. Even though I remember being 153kg and all that it entailed, I don’t remember looking the way I did. I think part of the subterfuge that allowed me to remain so very fat for so long was that I lied to myself about the way I really looked.
My journey towards health began in July 2011 with the fear that my diabetes and high-blood pressure would kill me. I weighed more than ever before and was in almost constant pain from a tight lower back that would hurt so much when I tried to turn around in bed while sleeping that it would wake me.
Sitting opposite my physician, Dr Malcolm Sandler, I asked him if there was anything that could be done to assist me. He suggested I investigate bariatric or weight-loss surgery and referred me to discuss my options with surgeon, Dr Etienne Swanepoel.
During the process of preparing to have bariatric surgery, where they clamp the stomach to make a tiny pouch that fills quickly and signals fullness as well as re-routing the intestine so that absorption is compromised and only a percentage of the calories consumed are absorbed, I managed, for the first time, to get a handle on how sick I really was. I think the actual moment was seeing the size of my liver on the ultrasound scan.
I started going to the Bariatric support group meetings and with a potential surgery date in mind started losing weight in anticipation of the surgery. The initial dates were postponed as the sleep apnoea they discovered (being declared fit for bariatric surgery involves seeing a panel of medical and other professionals) increased my risk of having anaesthetic so they wouldn’t operate until I had that treated.
I was so anxious now finally having realised how ill I had made myself that I rigidly stuck to the eating plan I got from my dietician as if my life depended on it – which it did. This is my first tip – get to grips with why you want to lose weight.
Today I’m 82.55kg which is more than 70kg lighter than when I started. I certainly look like a new person – people who haven’t seen me for a while don’t recognise me and I feel like I have a second chance at life. Tip number two is about having a list of the things you will be able to do once you reach your goal weight.
For over 10 years I wrote in the media about restaurants and dining out. I know that there are restaurant critics who are not obese but not only was I not one of them, I would brag about my gluttony. Tip three is to Know Yourself and what your triggers are. I am still a greedy person but I have found something new to be greedy about – being fit and active.
I have never been a lightweight. Looking back at childhood images I can see myself as being chubby from birth and I was so overweight at school that I had to have school uniforms made for me. I had to mourn the loss of the weight that I had carried for so many years.
Tip four is to create a ritual that will help you transition from one way of being into another. I invited close friends to dinner and cooked a “last supper”. Accidently I burned my hand on the oven while I was taking a dish out of it. At the time I made a mental note that the burn and the scar which would form would remind me of the commitment I had made to myself.
Tip five is to ask for help from communities such as this (Sleekgeek) one. I found Cognitive Behavioural Therapy a useful tool – I had 16 sessions which helped me formulate tools and relook at some of my thinking which brings me to Tip Six: set and achieve small goals so that you can recondition yourself into believing that it is possible. My belief that surgery was the ONLY option had to be shaken before I could do it on my own.
Tip six is to recognise that food is an addiction and you must do what you have to, to loosen its grip. This means very few carbs for me, no sugar and no alcohol. Even at my goal weight I will continue to avoid these foods which, for me, are poison.
Tip seven is about choosing a horse and backing it. Decide on a path and follow it for a reasonable period before you try something else. There is so much information out there, much of it conflicting and even more bucking conventional wisdom that you will go mad if you chop and change from your plan. Research first, plan carefully and then execute and give yourself a year if you have a lot of weight to shed. I found the low carb thing worked for me and I have recently removed oats porridge from my diet and instead eat two boiled eggs for breakfast.
Tip eight is you can’t evaluate what you can’t measure. Regularly record your mass, keep a record of your waist, thigh, chest, shoulder and arm measurements. Have blood tests to check your HBA1c (long-term blood glucose average), liver and kidney functions and triglycerides. Ask your dietician which other blood markers you should do and repeat them every three months.
Go in for water sports. My tip number nine is about getting fit slowly and avoiding injury. I first increased my fitness in the swimming pool walking and then running in the water and using waterborne weights.
Top tip ten is you can do it, too. It isn’t easy but it isn’t as hard as you might think it is.
Good luck on your personal journey,
- You can also read an interview Business Day did with Brian about his journey.
- Correspond with Brain directly via Email: Weightloss@BrianBerkman.com
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