If you’re trying to lose weight, you know it is not easy. And you know staying motivated can be even harder. Sometimes a good inspirational weight loss story can be the perfect motivation to get you serious about losing weight. It shows us one thing. It is possible. (If they did it, so can I!) It uplifts and helps us feel good about ourselves. That’s why I want to share my story with you today.
Jaye and I met in high school and instantly became sweethearts. At age 15, she was my first love, and I was hers. We were inseparable, and by 17, promised to be together forever. Then I joined the Army and was sent to point a machine gun at East Germany. We promised to wait for each other, but my temptation was stronger than my promises. So I sent her a letter, breaking our engagement, and we lost contact.
Before I knew it, forty years had passed. I thought about Jaye often, which usually made me feel sad. I fell in and out of other relationships, but never felt the connection with another woman that I felt with her. My main bucket list goal became to see her again before I died, but she didn’t use Facebook or the Internet, so I couldn’t find her. Would we die apart before I could make amends?
The years had not been kind to me. My weight crept up slowly over the years. In 2010, by age 51, I weighed 340 pounds and had a 52-inch waist. I was also taking 15 different medications, including daily insulin injections for type 2 diabetes, anti-depressants, and drugs to control my blood pressure, cholesterol, and weight. One day, at a physical, my doctor bluntly told me that I needed to either schedule bariatric surgery or purchase a cemetery plot, because I would likely need one within the next five years.
Like many obese Americans, I had tried and failed almost every diet and weight loss plan ever marketed in the US. I failed on each of these diets after finding them unsustainable and requiring such things as extreme exercise, food deprivation, or eating mostly meat and no carbohydrates. My condition seemed hopeless. I seemed to eat the same foods as everyone else, but I just kept getting larger and sicker with age.
As a last-ditch effort to avoid bariatric surgery, I decided to get a second opinion. But this time, I consulted with a licensed naturopathic doctor trained in nutrition, rather than another medical doctor who probably had not received nutrition training in medical school.
A Plant-Based Diet
Instead of prescribing more drugs or procedures, my new doctor prescribed a plant-based diet and told me to adopt a dog from a local animal shelter. “What?” I said, surprised by her advice. I’d never owned a pet before. How could a dog help me lose weight and improve my health?
She explained that the root cause of my obesity and health problems was poor diet, exacerbated by the fact that I had become reclusive and stopped engaging in life. Her words hit home. It was difficult and painful for me to travel and walk. The undisguised judgment of others who looked at me on the street felt shameful and humiliating. I had not only stopped going outside, but I lost contact with all my friends, and I hadn’t been on a date in 15 years.
At the end of our first meeting, my new doctor told me that if I walked my new dog for 30 minutes twice each day and strictly followed her dietary advice, I had a good chance to get off all my medications, to normalize my health stats, and to achieve a healthy weight in just one year. Really? I thought. How could that be possible? But since this new advice seemed a lot less extreme than surgery – why not just try what she is telling me to do and see if it works?
While getting used to my new plant-based diet, I called a local pet shelter. I told the nice lady who answered the phone that I wanted to adopt an obese middle-aged dog, so we would have something in common. And that’s how I met Peety, a scruffy mixed-breed dog who had seen better days. He was seven years old, at least 25 pounds overweight and, like me, seemed to have given up on life. But after first looking at each other with disappointment, we decided to go home and give each other a try.
Peety and I quickly formed a bond of brotherhood that was more powerful than any relationship I had ever experienced, except for the unconditional love I had with Jaye so many years before. Seeing how sick and overweight Peety was, I felt sorry for him and stopped feeling sorry for myself. I promised him that we would do everything possible to be happy and healthy so we could go on many excellent adventures and enjoy the rest of our lives together. Peety began looking at me as if I was the greatest person on earth. He believed in me until I became able to believe in myself. His faith in me restored my self-confidence, which caused me to experience happiness and a sense of purpose. Because of Peety’s faith in me, I decided to become the person who he thought I was.
Over the next year, simply by following my new doctor’s advice, switching to a plant-based diet, and walking Peety twice each day, I lost 150 pounds, and Peety lost 25. I looked like a new man, and Peety looked like a new dog. Even better, I felt like a new person. I was able to get off all my medications and reverse my type 2 diabetes. We walked our neighborhood together each day and made many new friends. I got off the diet roller-coaster once and for all. And I’ve been able to effortlessly maintain my optimal weight for seven years now, medication-free.
One day, Peety’s shelter invited me to participate in a short film about my story, to promote adoption of shelter dogs and illustrate how helping animals, helps people. Soon after the film was released, it received millions of views and went viral. I began receiving thousands of emails each day, including more than one dozen unsolicited marriage proposals. Fortunately, one of the people who saw my film was Jaye. She sent an email asking if I would like to talk by phone. And less than five minutes later, we were talking, for the first time in forty years.
Jaye explained that she was divorced after an unhealthy marriage of 35 years and asked if I would like to see her again. I immediately replied, “yes”. But then she said she was afraid that I wouldn’t like her again, because she had gained a lot of weight over the years. I let her know that I didn’t care about her weight – after being morbidly obese for more than two decades, I stopped seeing others based on their appearance, and learned to look at everyone based on their kindness and how they treated others.
Jaye and I were reunited in September 2016. She weighed 197 pounds, at 5’ 2”, and was size 20. She had pre-diabetes, with elevated A1C and glucose levels, and various other symptoms of chronic lifestyle disease. Partnering to do the same things that worked for me, we worked together to heal her body with plant-based nutrition and daily walks. We fell in love all over again, and laughingly described our time apart as “40 years in the wilderness.” I showed her how to veganize all her favorite recipes, and how to make the dishes I enjoyed based on the plant-based cooking classes I had taken. We got married in December 2016.
Less than one year after reuniting, Jaye lost 82 pounds. Just by eating a plant-based diet and walking for a half an hour, twice daily, she dropped from 197 to 115 pounds, and from size 20 to size 2. All her health problems disappeared, and tests revealed that her medical stats and nutrient levels were all normal or optimized. Best of all, in her own words, is that she now has limitless energy and feels better than she has felt in her entire life. In my opinion, at age 57, she looks better than she did at age 16.
For the inspirational guide about how to help yourself, a friend or a family member in the previous condition of Jaye and I, check out my new book “Walking with Peety, the Dog Who Saved My Life.”
Learn more about Eric and his initiatives at ericandpeety.com.