For much of his life Tom Hoppensteadt thought the best thing to do with a scale was to avoid it. When he was diagnosed with a low-grade lymphoma at age 50 and learned he weighed over 300 pounds, it sounded an alarm.
"Through my 40s I didn't lead a healthy lifestyle. I ate what I wanted to eat and didn't exercise at all. I really was just very inactive. I knew what I should be doing, I just didn't do it," said Tom.
When he began seeing Keith Veselik, MD, primary care physician at Loyola University Health System, he learned the cancer diagnosis was the least of his worries.
"Tom has a form of cancer that doesn't always require treatment. It could be years before it's a problem for him," Veselik said. "His weight, on the other hand, was putting him at a more immediate health danger. The cancer could hang around for many years without causing any harm. We could just watch that. But diabetes and heart attacks -- those were very real and urgent concerns."
"He was pretty straight with me," Tom said. "He said, 'drop the weight or you'll die of a heart attack before the cancer will get you.' Now, that's motivation." Tom started the lifestyle changes slowly. He walked 2-3 times a week and kept a food journal. Even those small steps started to make an impact. He was losing a pound to a pound and a half a week. But, Tom's health concerns continued to mount and, after being hospitalized, he decided it was time to do something more.
"I started using the MyFitnessPal app to monitor my exercise and calorie intake. I discovered the importance of portion control and started increasing my exercise routine," Tom said.
He now takes a spinning class 3-4 times a week for 45 minutes and has started running and swimming 2-3 times a week as well. In addition, he discovered the benefits of yoga.
"I lost over 120 pounds and went from a size 46 waist to a size 36 all just by changing my lifestyle," Tom said. "Dr. Veselik kept talking to me about leading a healthy lifestyle and that was a huge encouragement. He made me realize that I was worth this effort. You really have to give yourself over to it. You have to be committed to making this happen."
Last year Tom completed a triathlon and Dr. Veselik took him off almost all of his blood pressure and cholesterol medications.
"Like everyone else I struggle to get into the gym and sometimes I just don't make it, especially now that I have completed my goal," Tom said. "But, I continue to count all my calories and now I'm trying to find that next goal to keep me motivate."
"There is so much research out there about the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. If I told someone I had a magic pill that would allow them to live a healthier, longer life they would pay whatever price to get it. That doesn't come in pill form. It can come from diet and exercise," Veselik said.
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