Tahlequah Daily Press

January 3, 2013

For some, diet and fitness key to survival

Fitness and weight loss often top the list of resolutions, and one local resident has shed over 100 pounds.

Special Writer

TAHLEQUAH — Jan. 1 is often the beginning of not only a new year, but the time people choose to start new health and fitness routines.

For many, the resolutions are to feel and look better, and sometimes, to stay alive.

It was for Paul Buckner, 44, who’s lost 125 pounds since being hospitalized in March 2011.

“I’ll feel great,” Buckner said. “I still have about 40 pounds to go, though.”

But that wasn’t his situation in March 2011. He was hospitalized with sepsis and renal failure due to his diabetes being out of control.

“My weight was 330 pounds,” he said.  “I was in the hospital for seven days and was sent home on insulin, which I had never had to take before.”

A relapse in April sent him back to the hospital for another four days.

“This really brought my health situation to light for me,” Buckner said.

Diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2004, he was started on oral agents; Metformin, which was changed multiple times because he couldn’t keep his blood sugar under control. He also had refused to be on insulin until the time of his illness.

“This time, the doctor told me I had to be on it and had no choice,” he said.

After making significant lifestyle changes, today he has absolutely no symptoms of diabetes at all.

“I take no medications whatsoever for this condition, but I do keep a check on it. The last time I went to see [my doctor], my hemoglobin A1C had gone from above 11 to under a 7,” Buckner said.

As his health continues to improve and he loses weight, the point he wants to emphasize, Buckner said, is that, even though he’s getting my weight under control, he’s still not achieving complete health.

“I’m eating much better these days, and I’ve learned a great deal about nutrition, certainly, but I’m still not healthy by some standards,” he said.

About 18 months ago, he started toward his goal and lost about 90 pounds very rapidly on his own. Then, he hit a plateau. Buckner decided on a medical procedure to continue his weight loss.

“I just kinda flattened out and couldn’t lose anymore, so I opted for the LAP band,” Buckner said, “And I’ve lost quite a bit more, but honestly, did better without it. Go figure. I guess I just needed a jump start.”

Even after he started watching what he ate, he started going to the Help clinic at Hastings Hospital with all intentions of doing the LAP band for weight loss.

“I attended the Help clinic for over year because they wanted me to achieve a certain percentage of weight loss on my own, and I actually lost over 80 pounds in a year on my own before ever having the gastric surgery, by just cutting out the milk, potatoes, breads and all the other sugars and carbs.”

Now he chooses foods with higher protein like fish and chicken.

“I’ve found that since I had the gastric surgery I can’t eat some things like lettuce so salads are pretty much not an option for me. We eat a lot of broiled Tilapia and baked or grilled chicken at our house,” Buckner said.

A few of the biggest things that helped him lose the weight were cutting milk, soda, breads and starches from his diet, along with implementing strict portion control.

Being selective about when and where he shops for groceries has become a priority for Buckner.

“Farmers’ markets with organics is a much healthier alternative,” he said.

As a motivational factor to his weight loss, Buckner’s wife, Millette, told him if he lost 100 pounds he could have a new Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

“I bought a brand-new 1200 custom last April,” Buckner said.

The first steps to his lifestyle change were to cut back on the carbs.

“My wife started fixing me breakfast and lunch for me to take with me every day, saving me from eating fast foods and calories and carbs that I didn’t need and also was a money-saver at the same time,” Buckner said.

They started slow, cutting out the potatoes and pastas and breads, and learning about portion control.

“Instead of getting seconds, I ate what was on my plate and got no more,” he said. “We added in baking and grilling our meats instead of frying in oil. My wife switched to olive oil for everything we use oil with, it’s a heart-healthier oil and better for you.”

The biggest challenge he’s come across is just cutting out the stuff that he absolutely loved the most, he said, like milk and pop.

“Even though we only buy diet pop and use 2 percent milk, we have cut our milk usage down to a half-gallon a week, if that,” he said. “My family and I still eat out occasionally and we order what we want, but my wife and I try to share entrées, so that we still have portion control.”

Buckner went from drinking pop and milk to buying cases of bottled water and making that his only option even when they go out to eat. He drinks up to 64 ounces of water per day.

“Now that I have lost the weight, I have a lot more energy and a more active lifestyle,” he said. “I try to exercise on a daily basis by walking and playing sports with my son. During the summer months, I help him with baseball and we try to do extra activities around the house.”

As Buckner’s physical health has improved, so has his mental health.

“I still have more weight to lose to get to my goal weight, but that is not the whole picture, because when you talk about health and wellness, physical health is only half of it,” Buckner said. “Mental health is the other half and one cannot work without the other.”

Buckner also believes having a strong support system in place has helped.

“I think two of the things that helped me the most were my support group,  including my family, co-workers and the folks at Hastings Help Clinic,” Buckner said, “and one of the requirements was keeping a journal of what I ate on a daily basis and my record of daily activities.

“When you write that stuff down and know that someone is going to be looking at it, you tend to be more health-conscience on the choices that you make,” said Buckner. “But it also makes you accountable to the most important person in your health journey, yourself.”