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Name: Ryan Cope
Before Weight: 402 pounds
How I Gained It: I had been overweight since the age of five. Food was a friend. It was never sustenance. It never judged, it just satisfied. I was the class clown, "the fat funny kid," so socially, I had decent defenses. I played football from the age of 8 until 14, so exercise wasn't unheard of. At 11, I saw my "doctor" (I use the term lightly) with what had developed into a case of gout. Most of the adults in my family had been diabetics, but it never occurred to anyone to test me for it.
It was a constant "goal" to obtain food, but never to be a glutton, publicly anyway. Even as a kid I would try to join or plan situations where food was a major part of the activity. Many childhood memories are centered around food. As I age, I've noticed I'm more apt to remember the fries at this place or the pizza at another than the actual activities that took place.
My family tried to be helpful, but I was a master at sneaking food and covering up it's disappearance. I would hide plates under my bed. I felt total victory when I didn't get called out on it. Into my teens I started to realize funny plus fat still didn't get attention from girls outside the dreaded "friend zone", so I decided to diet. I probably dieted 60 percent of my mid-teens to late-twenties. I tried Atkins, the grapefruit diet, NutriSystem, Weight Watchers. All resulted in short-term success, and once off them, I always gained back more than I had lost.
Breaking Point: In 2001, my grandfather was dying slowly from a combination of Alzheimer's and diabetes. He was in a facility where we all gathered to be with him on his last days and the nurse would come to check his blood with a glucose meter. She looked at me, raised an eyebrow and asked if I had ever used one myself. I returned the hairy eyeball and said, "Not interested." I looked around the room to see my family giving me the look. I knew there was no way I was getting out of that room without giving up some blood. She took it, and my blood sugar was 520. Eyes widened, and a nurse said, "Come with me." I followed her to a doctor's office, and sat with an older, no-nonsense doc. "Big deal, diabetes," I said. "Everyone has it, what's the worst that can happen?" He took off his glasses, tossed them on the desk and said, as matter-of-factly as one could, "Well, you'll lose limbs, go blind and your penis won't work anymore."
That was all I needed to hear.
How I Lost It: Having been on every diet on the planet, I knew there had to be different approach. It was time for education, and not the kind you get from diet companies that are selling something: It was time for science.
Step one was removing soda completely. I am no fan of denying myself anything that I desire, so the approach was simply if I want a cookie, have a cookie -- a cookie, not a box of them. I had to learn how to eat. It was amazing how my body adapted to the new behavior. As I weaned myself from soda, I started to notice that not only did I not desire it anymore, I found it unpleasant. The moment I felt full, I'd get away from the food. Also, simply put: water. At this point, it really is the only thing that satisfies my thirst.
I began cooking at home. This way, I can control the quality and quantity of what I eat. Never once have I felt like I was on a diet because I eat whatever I want, but the education on food has made what I want better overall. I never find I want fast food, because I know what is in it, and I can make it way better myself.
I will never forget the joy I felt the first time in my life I bought a pair of jeans at a store that did not have the words"big" or "tall" or "stout" in the title. It has taken a few years to get where I am now, and I still have weight to lose, but at this point I have lost 193 pounds. It's taken 12 years. We are a culture of consumption and convenience. I simply decided not to fall into to demographic anymore.
After Weight: 209 pounds
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