Losing weight and keeping it off is not easy for many people, particularly those who are used to carrying around unwanted pounds. Many people struggling with their weight have discovered the traditional notion of a diet just isn’t conducive to maintaining weight loss. What long-term weight loss requires is a lifestyle change.
That’s just what Dr. Michael J. Self, Sr., vice president of assessment and institutional effectiveness at Community College of Allegheny, did last year. After being overweight for years, Self went on something of a self-discovery. He decided it was time to shed those extra pounds he had carried around for so long in order to enjoy a long and healthy life.
Self, who is beginning his third year of service at CCAC, met with a nutritionist and formulated a plan to modify his diet. Instead of breads, takeout and processed foods, Self was careful in the types of food he consumed. This was a big shock — Self says his former diet consisted of raw sugars and breads.
“I ate a lot of unhealthy foods,” he says. “I could not have had a more unhealthy eating lifestyle.”
After previously meeting with the nutritionist, one who helped a friend lose a considerable amount of weight, Self reduced his intake of carbohydrates and the number of soft drinks he drank daily, minimized the number of days he had breads and incorporated a lot of vegetables he had “heard of, but never ventured to taste.” He also began cooking at home instead of eating fast food and other processed meals.
Since he began his journey, Self, who grew up in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has lost approximately 85 pounds and says he’s now 10 clothing sizes smaller than he was at the beginning of the year.
Self says his success can be attributed to a change in mindset. Not only did he change the types of food he consumed, he also had to be brutally honest with himself regarding his weight and lifestyle.
“I had to look at everything I was doing,” he says. “It was hard to lose weight when I could tell myself I wasn’t great, but I wasn’t that bad off. Once I became honest it was easier to make adjustments.”
Self also knew the weight loss was a realistic goal. When he was in college at Louisiana State University, Self says he was physically a smaller man. To him that meant his weight-loss goals were attainable because he knew what size he could achieve.
Before losing weight, Self says he never experienced any serious medical issues like hypertension, diabetes or high cholesterol.
“I was a relatively healthy overweight person,” he says. “I know that sounds oxymoronic, but it’s what it was.”
The only issues he did have were plantar fasciitis and some ankle issues. Since his dramatic weight loss though, Self says those problems have disappeared.
Although he didn’t have any medical issues before the weight loss, Self regularly met with his physician to ensure his rapid weight loss wasn’t causing any medical concerns. In fact, his doctor was “amazed” at his charts and the progress he had made.
“When he came in to see me he said ‘Wow, you look great,’” Self says.
Looking back at his diet this time last year, Self says he could not believe the number of calories he was ingesting daily. Now though, with the help of the nutritionist, he has a better mindset of the number of calories he needs to ingest daily to maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Although he’s already lost significant weight, Self says he would still like to lose another 10 to 15 pounds by the end of the year. But, that’s not his end goal. In 2018 he hopes to drop another 20 or so pounds to bring his weight loss total to about 120 pounds.
With the loss in weight, he’s also had to purchase new clothes — an expense he doesn’t like. So far he’s donated about 20 suits that he has outgrown. For every 20 pounds he loses, Self buys several new items of clothing to replace those that have gotten too big.
“I’m wearing clothes that are too big now,” he says. “I look at myself and say ‘If I wear this am I going to look ridiculous?’”
The past eleven months have been an interesting journey for Self — one that he intends to stay on to enjoy a long and healthy life.