In December 2017, doctors diagnosed Nicholas Scheid-Brown with type 2 diabetes.
This was in addition to his already severe high blood pressure.
At only 29 years old, the news upsets him.
“I had seen several members of my family die of heart disease and diabetes,” said Scheid-Brown. “I knew at that point that I had to make a change. “
So make a change he made.
At the time, he weighed 325 pounds.
Three years later, after weight loss surgery, a new exercise program and an overhaul of his diet, Scheid-Brown weighs less than 200 pounds.
His type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are now gone.
And these are just the physical changes. He’s also transformed psychologically and mentally, working hard to deal with both stress and successes in life without turning to food for comfort or celebration.
“I had to learn to live the healthful things of life without turning to my drug of choice, which was food,” said Scheid-Brown.
In those pre-fitness days, Scheid-Brown ate three McDonald’s Big Macs or a half gallon of ice cream to deal with stressors.
Now he’s going to run or ride a bike.
“On the days when I might have a rough morning, I’m going to take my lunch break and run 3-4 miles just to clear my head,” he said. “It puts me back on track and reminds me of why I’m here. I never could have climbed the stairs before, let alone 3-4 miles.
Scheid-Brown works for Spectrum Health as the Senior Pre-Authorization Representative.
He said he had been struggling with his weight since he was 16. Over the years, he tried to diet and exercise, but time and time again he regained the lost weight.
“I would be on a low calorie diet and lose 60 pounds and have great success early on,” he said. “But then I would reach that plateau where I would sit for weeks and weeks. I would be frustrated and go back to my old ways.
At the time, he also smoked two packs of cigarettes a day.
“Every time I yo-yo I went down and then I went higher than my initial weight,” he said. “It seemed like a never-ending cycle. It was very frustrating. “
He and his wife, Kristin, have two children, Cameron, 5, and Logan, 7.
Activities such as going to the zoo or playing football with their children would present difficulties. His hobbies, hunting and fishing, also proved difficult.
But the health issues that arose alongside his obesity scared him the most.
“I was looking at my kids and I was like, ‘My God, I’m the youngest person in my family to ever be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes,’ said Scheid-Brown. “What does this mean for my longevity and my happiness in life? Is this going to be my grave early? ‘”
Scheid-Brown admits that his first introduction to the idea of weight loss surgery did not go well. During a routine medical exam for work, a doctor suggested he might be a candidate for weight loss surgery.
He felt offended then, but now sees that the seed was planted that day.
“It was always on my mind, but for some reason I just couldn’t bring myself to do it,” he said.
Over the years, people had convinced him that weight loss surgery would be the easy way out. He was worried about possible complications or side effects.
He would eventually approach his primary care doctor about the idea. This doctor asked her to try another year of diet and exercise.
He tried another year and then asked to be referred to a bariatric surgeon.
Set to work
Scheid-Brown participated in a six-month process that involved preparation and education before undergoing surgery. In September 2019, Dr Foote performed a vertical gastrectomy on him.
The procedure removes 85% of the stomach, Dr. Foote said. It does not require any removal of the intestines, thus allowing patients to continue to absorb all the nutrients from the food they consume.
Another advantage? The part of the stomach removed during surgery is the same part that produces most of the body’s hunger stimulating hormone, ghrelin.
This means that after surgery, patients just aren’t that hungry.
“This is one of the great ways that surgery works,” Dr. Foote said. “A lot of my patients say they tend to have to set an alarm on their phone to remember to eat.”
This allows them to make healthier food choices because they don’t crave sweets or carbohydrates.
In the first six months after surgery, Scheid-Brown lost 90 pounds.
“I was losing a pound a day for the first two months,” Scheid-Brown said. “Then half a pound or a quarter pound a day after that.” “
He’s gone from his official starting weight of 314 pounds to a low of 195 pounds. His initial goal was 220.
“Now food is a way to live, not a reason to live,” he said. “It’s a strange concept for me. Food is meant to support my life. It’s not for me to wonder what’s the next thing I can eat.
He also started running and cycling, doing 20-30 mile bike rides two to three times a week, as well as a 2-6 mile run on other days.
He is ready to face his first sprint triathlon in Greenville on June 5.
Scheid-Brown did the necessary work for the operation to be successful, Dr Foote said.
“When you choose weight loss surgery, you want to get an A or a B. You want to do your homework and follow the directions or you won’t get as good a result,” the doctor said.
Scheid-Brown said he would strongly recommend weight loss surgery to anyone considering it, provided they are dedicated to the process.
“If you are going to have weight loss surgery, you have to make a 100% commitment to do it for the longevity of it,” he said. “It’s something I have to work on every day. I watch every food I put in my body.
“I make sure I exercise,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle change. You can’t just have weight loss surgery and sit on the couch and expect to lose 120 pounds. “
He also urges people to prepare for the psychological impact.
“Make sure you’re mentally prepared for the change that’s going to happen, because it’s really weird to walk in front of the mirror or fold the laundry and be like, ‘Wait, who is this person? ” “, did he declare. “I used to fold 4X or 5X shirts. And now they are L or XL.
He also struggled once he hit his target weight, and the weight stopped dropping. He even gained a few pounds thanks to the muscle mass he was gaining.
He needed a new motivation: the triathlon.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I got there,” Scheid-Brown said. “All the while, you’re basically trading your drug of choice, which is food, for the instant gratification of losing weight at a rapid rate. Then you get to that destination where you don’t lose any more weight. I want to prove to myself that I am here and that I am strong.
He relies on the support of his wife and family, as well as on advice. Spectrum Health Medical Group’s bariatric support groups have also helped him.
“My wife is very, very proud of me,” he said.