Confessions of an Obese Physician (Part I): How a New Pair of Boots Inspired me to Reckon with my Weight Problem

Healthy Living

They were beautiful. My father-in-law had just given me a new pair of boots for Christmas and wanted me to try them on. Given how beautiful they were, I’m sure it seemed strange that I didn’t eagerly slip them on right away. Instead, I said I would do that later because now just wasn’t a good time. The real reason I didn’t want to try them on was simple: I couldn’t. I couldn’t reach my feet to pull the boots on. I had known for a while that my weight was increasing and affecting my daily activities, but not being able to reach my feet was a new treat I discovered a few weeks earlier when I had tried to retie a pair of shoes. I had sat there in my closet staring at my feet and realizing that something had to be done about my weight.

It was about more than the shoes, of course. I had reached the point where I knew I was sick. I wasn’t just fat…a big guy…heavy…someone who liked to eat. I was dying. My weight was killing me, and I was scared. I felt the reality of my mortality for the first time. Dying of a heart attack was no longer an abstract idea that could maybe happen; it was a real possibility for me: a 40-year-old man with hypertension who weighed just shy of 400 pounds. For the sake of myself and my family, I had to do something.

One of my favorite quotes is, “It takes hard things to break hard things.” The humiliation I felt looking at those beautiful boots in my hands that Christmas and knowing I couldn’t put them on by myself proved to be the hard thing that I needed to break my reluctance to do what it took to lose the weight.

But wanting to lose weight was not a new concept for me. Losing weight had kind of become an informal hobby of mine. I had been on Weight Watchers. Tried calorie-restricted diets. Enrolled in programs that provided prepackaged food. Tried running 5 miles a day. And swimming 40 minutes every morning. I’d done the thing where you eat only protein. Or only vegetables. And so many other programs, with mixed results. Sometimes they would work for a while, sometimes they wouldn’t, and sometimes they would even cause weight gain. It all felt hopeless.

Albert Einstein has been credited as saying, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” I was tired of the insanity of my weight loss attempts. This time I needed to take drastic measures because I needed a change that wouldn’t result in the same cycle being repeated over and over again. I finally admitted that I needed to change me and not just my weight.

 

To be continued…

Read part II of Dr. Swan’s personal story, wherein he shares how he got help for his obesity and how it’s made him a better physician.

 

About the Author

Matthew Swan, MD, FACP, is an internist with AdventHealth Medical Group Primary Care at Deer Creek, near 135th & Lamar, and Primary Care at Prairie Star in Lenexa. He is Board-certified in internal medicine and obesity medicine and provides care for a wide range of acute and chronic medical conditions, including but not limited to obesity. For more information about Dr. Swan, or to schedule an appointment, visit his physician profile.


For information on his August 2021 Community Wellness course, click here: When "Eat right and exercise!" doesn't do the trick: understanding obesity is a psychological disease.