Doug’s story: My weight-loss journey started “by accident”

May 22, 2018 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health
Categories: Healthy Driven Heroes

Doug Michaels was a patient at Elmhurst Hospital whose weight was hindering his recovery from an injury. Here, he tells you how he began his weight-loss journey in his own words.

Hello, my name is Doug. I’m 31 years old, 5-feet, 9-inches tall and once weighed 337.7 lbs.

As embarrassing as it was for me to see that number on a scale, today that’s a number I’m actually very proud of because I’m never going to see that number again when I step on my scale. Here’s why.

My weight loss journey started by accident, or should I say, with an accident. I’m a village employee, and on a late September day I was in a 6-foot-deep hole repairing a water main break when my worst fear came true.

I heard a couple of people yell, but it all happened so fast. A chunk of the street broke off and fell six feet — straight onto my lower back. With extreme pain came extreme embarrassment. It took three men to help me out of the hole due to my size.

I was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital. From that moment on, my life has never been the same. After a night full of X-rays, cat scans and MRIs, I was sent home with pain medication and the thought of back surgery in my near future.

Instead of going the surgery route, I asked if I could try physical therapy. After a few weeks of being at home on bed rest, I went to physical therapy. The physical therapist gave me a 79 percent chance of returning to work. That crushed me. Right away I faced a 21 percent chance that I’d never be normal again.

The very next session, I asked her what I could do to improve my chances of a full recovery. She told me to follow my exercises and think about losing some weight.

She gave me contact information for Heather Bautista, ND, CNS, LDN, a naturopathic nutritionist at Elmhurst Hospital. I thought about it for a week or two, then finally went over to her office just to say I checked it out (with zero interest in actually making an appointment). I got a questionnaire, and over the next few weeks I filled it out.

On Dec. 6, 2017, I met with Heather for an hour. She really opened my eyes. That night I went home and had a monster plate of spaghetti and meatballs. Why? I don’t know. My wife made it and I really don’t have an answer. I guess I was scared that this would be the last time I’d ever be full again.

Well, the next day we jumped into it. I started drinking strictly water, about 140-180 ounces a day. Boy was that hard, but it got easier over time. We started making everything homemade with no gluten, no dairy, no sugar and low carb. Sounds horrible, right? WRONG!!!

My wife and I started a Pinterest board with all types of recipes, apps, sauces, dessert (yes, I said desserts), smoothies, etc. All the recipes were either Whole 30, Whole Foods, Paleo or Keto. I post a lot of the recipes on Instagram.

“These ‘diets’ should not be viewed as diets, but more of a lifestyle change,” Bautista says. “All of these ‘lifestyles’ promote clean eating — cutting out processed foods and sugar while preparing our own foods with real ingredients.”

I was (and am) a fat kid at heart, and this is a lifestyle that’s totally doable. I’ve done diets here and there, I’d lose 30 pounds then gain 40. Lose 25 pounds of that, then gain another 40. But this has worked more than anything I’ve ever tried.

I work out Monday through Friday for 30-45 minutes during my lunch hour and take 15 mins to eat.

Here’s some of the stuff I eat and still lose weight: chicken wings, low-carb tortilla pizzas, bacon, bacon-wrapped things, shrimp, breaded chicken, chocolate chip cookies, steak (every Friday), burgers and ribs. Seriously. It’s all in how you prepare it and quality of the meat.

I send pictures nightly to Heather because it makes me feel accountable – and it’s a great way of getting your friends or family off your back about cheating.

“Doug’s progress is a product of all the hard work he is putting in at home,” says Bautista. “Weight loss is a tricky thing for some patients, but he had the right mindset when he started his journey – that he needed a lifestyle change. This approach works for him because he is essentially designing his own meal plan every week that aligns with his palate and his food cravings.”

Since Dec. 7, I’ve had 6-8 meals out, tops. Sure, that seems like a lot of cooking (and it is), but it’s easy once you get the hang of it. This is a typical day for me:

  • Every day except Sunday, I wake at 5:30 a.m. and drink 8-16 ounces of water.
  • 7 a.m.: I have a Heather-approved protein shake (“As long as the ingredients are ‘clean’ and the shake doesn’t have a lot of sugar or chemicals to preserve it, it is ‘Heather-approved,’” Bautista says).
  • 9 a.m.: I have 2 hard-boiled eggs.
  • Noon: I have last night’s leftovers or a salad with a paleo dressing and an avocado.
  • 2 p.m.: I have a snack — raw baby carrots, an RX bar, a Lara bar or some fruit (mainly berries).
  • Between 5 and 6:30 p.m.: I eat dinner
  • 8 p.m. (no later than 8:45 p.m.): dessert. Note: I don’t eat dessert two days before a weigh-in but every other day).

“Doug can still enjoy the foods that he loves because he has learned how to create them with quality ingredients,” says Bautista. “Of course, you have to limit your consumption. But Doug has mastered the art of limiting himself. He has gained control of his food versus the food having control over him.”

When you plan out your meals and grocery list, you’ll spend a lot, but it’s all your meals. We spend $120-$160 weekly for food for the two of us. Which, in the beginning, seemed like a lot, until I looked at how we used to eat out twice a week, each time costing $50 to $65. Mind blown. Now, not only are we eating better, but we’re saving tons of money.

In late January, I was cleared for full duty at work again. And here’s the greatest part: Remember that 337.7 pounds I weighed on Dec. 7? Well, as of May 16 I’m at 253.8 pounds. Sure, I’m still heavy, but I’m trying (and down more than 83 pounds in less than 5 months). If I can do it, anyone can.


Just follow your nutritional guidelines, read food packaging labels, know what you’re putting in your body, drink more water and move your body a bit. My wife, Mary, has also lost about 41 pounds and she only started workouts about a month ago. It’s totally doable!

Maintaining a healthy, balanced diet is important to control your weight and improve your overall wellness. Heather Bautista, ND, CNS, LDN, naturopathic nutritionist with the Integrative Medicine Clinic, can help educate you in choosing healthy dietary options that are right for you.

Edward-Elmhurst Health offers both surgical and non-surgical options to help you achieve permanent weight loss and the healthy, active life you were meant to live. Learn more.

Related blogs:

6 tips to help you get slim for good
When is it time for bariatric surgery?
Can you be overweight and still be healthy?

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