100 pounds lost….a new life gained.
“Diagnosis: morbidly obese” is what I read in the final paragraph of my chart notes from my last visit with my doctor. I felt this heaviness within me. See, I was in my second year of medical school and I was struggling with morbid obesity. For some reason seeing the phrase
“morbidly obese” in my own chart really disturbed me. I had struggled my whole life with being overweight. I can remember being conscious of my weight as far back as second grade. And yes, I remember all the cruel jokes and jeers from other kids about my weight as I grew up. In medical school and certainly in my future career as a physician I was supposed to be the one teaching people about healthy lifestyle…..but how could I if I myself was not healthy?
I think often times people assume that because you’re overweight you must not be active. At 203 pounds I ran my first marathon in 2004. I ran over 16:00 minute miles. In 2005 I ran another marathon at 206 pounds and averaged over 19:00 minute miles. I was active, more active than a lot of people but the weight still stayed with me.
My physician in medical school asked me: “So what are we going to do about your weight?”
“I don’t know. I feel like I have all the knowledge and tools to be successful with losing weight but something is just not translating for me.”
And things continued to not translate.
In May of 2007 I finally decided that after weighing in near 250 pounds that I needed to do something very different or I was going to be a slave to an eventually failing body and suffer from disease burdens that I helped to treat. I took the advice of my doctor and finally joined weight watchers.
It wasn’t an earth shattering event but over the period of about 3 months I had lost around 20 pounds just with dietary changes alone.
As I started my family practice physician training in Minnesota I was fortunate to find a few friends who were very active in cycling and triathlon. Their support and encouragement turned out to be key. They helped me come back time after time and have the courage to get on my bike or go for a run when everything else in my world seemed to work against me getting out.
I also had a longtime respect for triathletes. I was very familiar with IronMan triathlon and had often fantasized about what it must be like to be able to possess the athletic ability to complete a full distance IronMan triathlon. The exhilaration of the finish line was a strong calling for me. So strong in fact that I finally decided I was going to sign up for my first IronMan and start training. It wasn’t easy (and it still isn’t) but something inside of me was on fire and I was not going to quit.
During my training over a period of about a year and a half I lost almost 100 pounds. And in June of 2009 I completed my first IronMan!
But the story doesn’t stop there…..
During my journey into health and finding my inner athlete I found something else just as rewarding. During my transformation patients started seeking me out for health, nutrition and exercise advice. It was my opportunity to be THEIR cheerleader and show them the impossible can be done. I found out my gift in medicine is helping people lead a healthy lifestyle through proper diet and exercise. I decided to pursue additional training and became a primary care sports medicine physician. I now serve as people’s “regular doctor” but also give them extra counseling and in depth advice about how to overcome obesity and bring out that inner athlete!
Now eight years into this journey I look back and say “yeah, I’ve kept off almost a hundred pounds, I’m now training for my 6th Ironman triathlon, I’ve built a clinic called the Chattanooga Sports Institute and Center for Health (our motto is “Ask your DOCTOR if getting off YOUR ASS is right for you”) and gained a passion to help people in a way that I never imagined possible.
My challenge to everyone who struggles with weight is this:
this is your life….are you who you want to be?
-Danielle Mitchell, MD
Chattanooga Sports Institute and Center for Health
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