When Brian Berkman’s doctor told him he was dangerously unhealthy, he needed to radically change his lifestyle. Setting his mind to what seemed to be an impossible challenge, he lost 83 kg – naturally.
When did you know you’d reached your health ‘rock bottom’?
In July 2011. I weighed. 153Kg. I had diabetes which my doctor said wasn’t able to be controlled with oral medication any longer. Injecting insulin came with the risk of gaining weight. I knew then I’d reached a point where I had to change my lifestyle.
How long did it take you to reach your goal weight?
It took about 18 months. During this time I had to make hard life changes. At first I believed that bariatric surgery, which would make my stomach smaller, meaning I absorbed fewer calories, was the answer. It took some time to see if my medical aid would approve the surgery, though, and that time was a godsend. It gave me the chance to notice that changing my lifestyle alone (which I had to do anyway before having surgery) could be the answer to my weight problems.
Besides being overweight, what other symptoms of ill health did you have?
As the son of a pharmacist I was used to taking medication for a litany of conditions to the point that, at my heaviest, I was popping 22 tablets a day. It still amazes me how we can convince ourselves that we are not sick when our bodies are telling us we are.
I believe most of my issues related to my obesity. Even things like constant athlete’s foot and eczema, not obviously related to overweight, have cleared up since reducing my weight. I also had a lot of anxiety which, while I still am a worrier, is much less debilitating and doesn’t require medication now. I do still suffer from nasal allergies though and would probably be better off not eating dairy but I’m not ready for that move just yet.
How did you discover LCHF eating? (Low carbohydrate; high fat)
I was following an even more restricted diet plan than my dietitian prescribed while preparing myself for the bariatric surgery. Her low fat, low calorie diet recommended oats porridge for breakfast. I happened to hear Professor Tim Noakes being interviewed on the radio about low-carb eating where he suggested eggs instead of oats or cereals for breakfast. I did that.
I introduced high-fat foods into my diet only after I’d reached about 90kg and then shed the additional 9kg to the 81kg that I am now and have been for almost two years of following his low-carb, high-fat diet. I like how I can eat as much as I like, without picking up weight. Well, that’s providing I avoid all starch, eat only low-carb vegetables, and avoid sugar and alcohol.
When introducing exercise into your life, what approach did you find most successful?
I’ve always been a member of a gym but a Tygervalley Virgin Active biokineticist called Johannes Janse van Rensberg, gave me the best advice: get fit slowly. Swimming is the most effective way to do this and avoid injury.
What are the biggest changes in your health you’ve noticed since changing your lifestyle?
I no longer take medication for type 2 diabetes! The most unexpected change is that I feel smarter. My mind is brighter than it was before and it takes less effort to think things through. I guess my brain also had to fight the stress of being 70kg heavier than it needed to be.
I can also do a whole bunch of physical things I not only didn’t want to do previously but didn’t believe I’d be able to manage. Things like regularly climb the mountain behind our house in Pringle Bay or cycle and kayak (I recently went on a week’s kayaking through Madagascar) but most of all I feel as if I’ve been given a second chance at life.
Did you know?
Severe obesity can cause a 14 year reduction in life-span. U.S. researchers combined results from 20 previous studies and found that a body mass index (BMI) greater than 40 (considered severe obesity) raises the chances of dying early from heart disease, cancer and diabetes compared to people of normal weight.
What advice do you have for our readers (whether new to living life well or not)?
If you are obese and have type2 diabetes I believe you have the ability to be symptom free without the need for medication by changing your life. It isn’t easy but it also isn’t as difficult, or impossible. I also believe that I was addicted to sugar and carbohydrates, which produce sugar in the blood. I had to wean myself off these ‘poisons’. All previous diets just kept me teetering on the edge of my addiction and always hungry - something I hardly ever feel now.
The best way to get, and stay well is to find the right motivation. These are some of the reasons that kept Brian going on his journey to wellness.
Why I eat healthily and stick to my eating plan:
TYPE 2 REVOLUTION
I’m so committed to healing Type 2 diabetes through lifestyle changes I’ve started what I call the Type 2 Revolution. It’s a support group for obese people with diabetes who need the support to make themselves well again. We work through 12 steps with the aim of helping people make lasting life changes and gaining lasting health.
Brian Berkman has been in the communications industry for over 20 years as PR consultant and journalist. Most recently, he is building his Type2 Revolution support group for people with type2 diabetes who want to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. His mission is to be a catalyst for positive change.
You can contact Type 2 Revolution via Twitter@Type2Revolution or his blog to find out more about his journey www.brianberkman.com
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