84 pounds: How one man's weight loss journey started by accident

How one man's weight loss journey started by accident

  • Doug Michaels, shown here with wife Mary and daughter Madison, has lost 84 pounds since September 2017.

    Doug Michaels, shown here with wife Mary and daughter Madison, has lost 84 pounds since September 2017. Courtesy of Edward-Elmhurst Health

Edward-Elmhurst Health submission
Posted6/24/2018 1:00 AM

Doug Michaels' weight loss journey started by accident, or, more precisely, with an accident.

"I'm a village employee, and on a late September (2017) day, I was in a 6-foot-deep hole repairing a water main break when my worst fear came true," Michaels says. "I heard a couple of people yell, but it all happened so fast. A chunk of the street broke off and fell six feet -- straight onto my lower back. With extreme pain came extreme embarrassment. It took three men to help me out of the hole due to my size."


At the time, Michaels, 31, was 5-feet, 9-inches tall and weighed 337 lbs.

"I was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital," says Michaels, who lives in Berkeley. "From that moment on, my life has never been the same. After a night full of X-rays, cat scans and MRIs, I was sent home with pain medication and the thought of back surgery in my near future."

Instead of going the surgery route, Michaels wanted to try physical therapy. During the second session, he asked what he could do to improve his chances of a full recovery. The physical therapist told him to follow his exercises and think about losing some weight.

She also gave him contact information for Heather Bautista, a naturopathic nutritionist at Elmhurst Hospital's Integrative Medicine Clinic. The two met for the first time in early December 2017.

"She really opened my eyes," Michaels says. "That night, I went home and had a monster plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Why? I don't know. My wife made it and I really don't have an answer. I guess I was scared that this would be the last time I'd ever be full again."

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The next day, Michaels eliminated all drinks except water -- about 140 to 180 ounces a day -- and he and his wife, Mary, started making everything they eat at home with no gluten, no dairy, no sugar and low carb.

"We started a Pinterest board with all types of recipes, apps, sauces, desserts and smoothies," he says. "All the recipes were either Whole 30, Whole Foods, Paleo or Keto. I post a lot of the recipes on Instagram."

"These 'diets' should not be viewed as diets, but more of a lifestyle change," says Bautista. "All of these 'lifestyles' promote clean eating -- cutting out processed foods and sugar, while preparing our own foods with real ingredients."

As part of the lifestyle change, Michaels works out Monday through Friday for 30 to 45 minutes during his lunch hour, in which he also takes 15 minutes to eat.


"Doug's progress is a product of all the hard work he is putting in at home," Bautista says. "Weight loss is a tricky thing for some patients, but he had the right mindset when he started his journey -- that he needed a lifestyle change. This approach works for him because he is essentially designing his own meal plan every week that aligns with his palate and his food cravings."

Among the food Michaels eats: chicken wings, low-carb tortilla pizzas, bacon, shrimp, breaded chicken, chocolate chip cookies, steak (every Friday), burgers and ribs.

Says Michaels, "Seriously, it's all in how you prepare it and quality of the meat. Since Dec. 7, I've had six to eight meals out, tops. Sure, that seems like a lot of cooking, but it's easy once you get the hang of it."

This is a typical day for Michaels:

• Every day except Sunday, he wakes at 5:30 a.m. and drinks eight to 16 ounces of water.

• 7 a.m.: A "Heather-approved" protein shake. "As long as the ingredients are 'clean' and the shake doesn't have a lot of sugar or chemicals to preserve it, it is 'Heather-approved,'" says Bautista.

• 9 a.m.: Two hard-boiled eggs.

• Noon: Last night's leftovers or a salad with a paleo dressing and an avocado.

• 2 p.m.: A snack of raw baby carrots, an RX bar, a Lara bar or some fruit (mainly berries).

• Between 5 and 6:30 p.m.: Dinner.

• 8 p.m. (no later than 8:45 p.m.): Dessert. Note: He doesn't eat dessert two days before a weigh-in, but every other day.

"Doug can still enjoy the foods that he loves because he has learned how to create them with quality ingredients," Bautista says. "Of course, you have to limit your consumption. But Doug has mastered the art of limiting himself. He has gained control of his food versus the food having control over him."

In late January, Michaels was cleared for full duty at work again. In mid-May, he weighed 253 pounds -- a loss of 84 pounds.

"I'm still heavy, but I'm trying. If I can do it, anyone can," Michaels says. "Just follow your nutritional guidelines, read food packaging labels, know what you're putting in your body, drink more water and move your body a bit. My wife has also lost about 41 pounds (after one month). It's totally doable."

For more information about healthy dietary options, visit www.eehealth.org/services/integrative-medicine.