The number, the three digits popping up as clear as a bell on our newly acquired digital scale.
The number, in mid-January, when, after several days of trying a new “diet” – when I finally agreed to step on a scale. I know, that when this journey began, I was far heavier than even that way-too-big number of 216.
A little context, I am 5’10” and of medium frame; and when I say medium frame, I am not including an extra attachment, a pretty significant pot belly; and some extra squish around my neck and my face.
“Dad, face it, you are morbidly obese,” my plainest speaking college attending daughter Rory had told me in the past. I did not believe her declaration then, though it may have been true; and now; at least 26 pounds lighter, I know I have turned a very important corner.
So how in the world did this happen. Without any genuine feeling of deprivation, without starving myself, how was I able to do something that I never ever imagined I would be able to do. My wife, who enjoys a healthy weight and has an enviable carriage, has always been supportive, but I think had given up on me getting in shape as well. “I think you actually like your stomach,” she would say. “It’s like an extra companion.” A companion that has been with me for years and years.
I have always been a glass-half-full kind of person. My mother was very optimistic and upbeat, and I have long carried that same spirit with me. Along with a lack of discipline, most especially when it came to sweets and desserts.
Looking back on it now, I had developed some really bad habits. Working at a TV station on a morning show, several of my colleagues have punishing hours. With a 24/7 office, any kind of sweet treats are viewed as a precious resource. So when a full candy bowl appeared, or a box of donuts, or a hundred other variations, I both grabbed and gobbled. Repeatedly. One Oreo was never enough. And I think I felt like I needed that on-going sugar “high” all the time. I would stop at CVS and buy bags of candy. I even stopped at McDonald’s, not for burgers and fries, but for McFlurry’s and Hi-C Orange soda.
Other sweets became a significant part of my social structure. I loved taking my kids out for ice cream or froyo. And I did this ALL the time. My kids were with me often, but I often went without them.
It was all TOO much. And I ignored obvious signs. My clothes were ill-fitting not because of something the dry cleaner did; but because I was trying to put a 38-inch waist in a size 34-inch waist pair of pants. A bad idea.
Over the years my kids, my wife, and my agent would all make subtle suggestions. “You know you could stand to lose a little weight.” But I just didn’t see it. Almost all of my TV work takes place from behind an “anchor desk” and that desk does a pretty job of hiding my pot belly. What’s more, I really liked sweets, I honestly enjoyed them.
One aspect of my daily routine is that after my professional duties were over for the day, I would often come home and take a nap. After all, I am getting up at 4:30 am in the morning. By 1 or 2 in the afternoon I really needed a nap.
I enjoy physical activity, various forms of exercise, but that nap always came first.
And I think I could have, would have, continued on this path, probably for the rest of my life if not for what I would call a “TV introduction.” Over the years I have had plenty of TV introductions. I will meet a celebrity, a writer, one of the thousands of guests I have interviewed over the years. Quick sidebar here. Over the years we have had many trainers and fitness experts and others on our show; and almost to a one, no matter what exercise regimen they were touting, all of them said in effect, “diet is 80% of the whole thing. You can’t get anywhere in terms of fitness and weight loss without addressing your diet.” I have heard this a countless number of times but it never really penetrated with me. It was something I didn’t want to hear.
So, I agreed to another TV Introduction. Dr. Daryl Gioffre had appeared on our program before, and I know he had some very positive results with Ryan Seacrest and Kelly Ripa. But Kelly and Ryan are skinny anyways, so I was not entirely sure how he could help me. One of our KTLA producers, Leila Shalhoub had a grand idea. If we started in January, would I be able to “remake” my body in time for the Oscars, held at the end of March? I was open to the idea, because I thought it might make for a good TV piece, but in my heart of hearts, I figured that either I would quickly give up, or that Dr. Gioffre would give up on me. Dr. Gioffre and I spoke on the phone. I liked him, and I could tell this was going to be a serious effort on his part. His first request was that I undergo a complete blood test. “Tests don’t guess” being one of his mantras.
So, I booked a complete blood panel and had the results sent to Dr. Gioffre, who was going to meet me at my home in about a week’s time.
I did not go through a farewell tour, saying so long to m&m’s and all my other favorites. But both Leila and I told many of my colleagues about this diet/makeover plan. I think the idea was to add a little peer pressure to the mix, and I don’t think that was a bad idea. I was starting to think it was going to be too late to back out of this whole thing.
On the appointed day, Dr. Daryl arrived. A TV crew was there as well, but I was used to that. What I was not used to was the news that Dr. Daryl brought with him. My blood work was terrible. Really bad numbers. Dr. Daryl said that my numbers, including a high A1C number and a sky-high triglyceride number were alarming. Also, Dr. Daryl had some sort of newfangled machine that measured your biological age as opposed to your calendar age. I have always prided myself on feeling and acting much younger than my calendar age. I was born in 1960, but I am not above fibbing that I was born in the 60s, the late 60s. And I think in my line of work, passive and active age discrimination is rampant. Plus, I have four kids, my youngest is just 14. I need and want to stick around for quite a while. When Dr. Daryl’s machine said my biological age indicated that I was born in 1951, that was it. Rock Bottom. I was a fat, diabetic, 69-year-old man. Yikes.
And basically right then, right there, a switch went off in my head. And I made a decision. Not a heroic decision. Not a difficult decision, but a clear choice. I can’t keep going on like this.
Then Dr. Daryl went into our kitchen. Here was a good-news, bad-news scenario. First, the bad news, so many things in our fridge that I thought were healthy were anything but. My favorite “outshine” fruit popsicles were filled with sugar and added sugar on top of that. A favorite energy bar that is supposed to be refrigerated should instead be incinerated – a peanut butter health bar that was anything but healthy. So basically, almost everything I was eating was wrong.
Happily, Dr. Daryl brought with him a lot of things that were right. His “swaps.” And if there is any one thing besides making the simple choice to do better that has helped me in this, it is these “swaps.” Instead of regular granola, Dr. Daryl has a nut-filled snack that is just fantastic. The best thing – and the recipe is at the end of this article – is this chia seed pudding. I don’t know how it is done, and my wife has been very helpful and supportive by regularly making these swaps. This chia seed pudding is fantastic and we enjoy it several times a week.
Another Dr. Daryl suggestion. Salads are your friends, and to that end, I am a huge fan of Sweetgreen and now go several times a week. It is easy to grab a kale caesar, which I find incredibly satisfying, and I am a big fan of their app. A $15 salad is a little steep for my budget, so I also enjoy many of the pre-bagged salads at the store, but you have to read the label and watch out for many of the extra “fixins.”
And maybe that is the main lesson with regard to Dr. Daryl. Check the labels, know what you are eating, and CUT BACK ON THE SUGAR. I put that in capital letters because it is the basic emphasis of Dr. Daryl’s program. Sugar and other evil ingredients prompt inflammation and acid production. And Dr. Daryl is an advocate of getting off your acid, and in addition to his diet program, he and his wife have founded a supplement company that is involved at length in getting your gut smaller and making your entire system healthier. Dr. Daryl’s book, “Get Off Your Sugar,” has been my mainstay for this entire thing. I can’t recommend the book and his services enough.
So I made this switch, really cut back on sugar, stopped eating entirely at work, and what has happened.
Well, the weight has fallen off. Melted off. Whatever adjective you want to use, the results have been everything I could hope for, and more.
And remember earlier when I wrote about my daily nap. Poof. Gone. I have more energy and no midday crash at all. That is a deeply significant change in my life.
And speaking of changes, the numbers tell the tale. Down 26 total pounds. The A1C number out of the diabetic range, triglycerides cut in half and more… my biological age, reduced by 9 years. That is the number that matters most to me.
What else matters; I think my wife and kids are proud that I have been able to pull this off, and hopefully keep this off. And one last thing, if I can do it. You can do it. Despite my denials, I clearly had a clear addiction to sugar, but I was able to beat it, and the rest, frankly, has not been that difficult at all. And I have been touched by viewers who have seen our stories and say that they are inspired. That is very moving to me, and I wish you luck in making your own decision and with any luck having the same good results.
Do I feel better? Yes. Do I look better? That’s what people keep telling me. And one thing I know for sure, my clothes fit and feel so much better.
If you had asked me at the beginning of this year, would I be able to lose 26 pounds in less than 3 months – I would have told you that would be crazy. Well, it’s crazy good. I am really pleased with the results and I sincerely think I can keep it up. That’s the plan.
Please keep your TVs turned on and see if I can stay committed.
Below are some of the recipes Dr. Daryl added to my diet.
- 3⁄4 cup raw almonds
- 1⁄2 cup raw pistachio nuts
- 1⁄2 cup macadamia nuts
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
- 1⁄2 teaspoon sea salt (Celtic Grey, Himalayan pink, or Redmond Real Salt)
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1⁄2 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1⁄8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1⁄8 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional; add more or less to heat preference)
- 1⁄3 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1⁄4 cup shelled raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
- Unsweetened almond or coconut milk, for serving (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the almonds, pistachio nuts, and macadamia nuts in a baking pan and add the coconut oil.
- In a small bowl, stir together the sea salt, coriander, ginger, cinnamon, and cayenne (if using). Sprinkle the seasoning mixture over the nuts and stir well to fully coat the nuts with the oil and seasonings. Bake for 10 minutes more, stirring at the 5-minute mark.
- Next, add the coconut flakes and pepitas to the pan. Bake for 3 minutes, or until the mixture is toasted.
- Remove from the oven and let cool, then store in an airtight container.
- Serve, if desired, in a bowl with almond or coconut milk.
Chocolate Chia Pudding
- 2 cups coconut water or filtered water
- 1⁄2 cup raw cashews
- 1⁄4 cup raw cacao powder
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 3 medium-size dates, pitted
- 1⁄8 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 6 tablespoons chia seeds
- Ground cinnamon, cacao nibs, and/or unsweetened coconut flakes, for garnish (optional)
- Place all the ingredients, except the chia seeds and your preferred garnish, in a blender and blend until thoroughly mixed, about 1 minute.
- On the lowest variable speed, add the chia seeds and blend for 1 minute to mix in the chia. If you don’t have a variable-speed blender, mix in the chia with a spoon.
- Transfer to a small, airtight container and refrigerate for at least 5 hours before serving. (To speed up the process, place in freezer for 15 minutes, and it will be ready to eat.)
- Garnish with cinnamon, cacao nibs, or coconut flakes before serving.
Creamy Spinach Basil Soup
- 4 cups filtered water
- 1 bunch spinach, chopped
- 1⁄2 bunch basil (about 2 cups, loosely packed)
- 1⁄4 small red onion, chopped
- 1 medium-size cucumber, chopped
- 1 medium-size tomato, chopped
- 2 celery stalks
- 1⁄2 cup pine nuts
- 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 garlic clove, chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (Celtic Grey, Himalayan pink, or Redmond Real Salt)
- Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
- Place all the ingredients in a blender, blend at high speed to your desired consistency, and enjoy immediately, or serve chilled.
This aired on the KTLA 5 News at 10 on April 28, 2022.