In December 2017, doctors diagnosed Nicholas Scheid-Brown with type 2 diabetes.
This came because of his already severe hypertension.
This news devastated him at the age of just 29.
“I had seen many members of my family die of heart disease and diabetes,” Scheid-Brown said. “I knew at the time that I needed to make a change.”
So make a change he did.
He weighed 325 pounds at the time.
Three years later—after bariatric surgery, a new exercise regime and a diet overhaul—Skeed-Brown weighs less than 200 pounds.
His type 2 diabetes and high blood pressure are now gone.
And those are just physical changes. They have also changed, both psychologically and psychologically, working hard to navigate both the stresses and successes of life without turning to food for comfort or celebration.
“I needed to learn how to get through things in life healthily without turning to my drug of choice,” Scheid-Brown said.
In those pre-fitness days, Scheid-Brown would eat three McDonald’s Big Macs or half a gallon of ice cream to combat stress.
Now he goes for a run or a bike ride.
“On days when I can have bad mornings, I’ll take my lunch break and run 3 to 4 miles to clear my head,” he said. “It gets me back on track and reminds me what I’m here for. Before that I couldn’t go up the stairs, not to mention 3 to 4 miles.
Scheid-Brown works for Spectrum Health as a senior former authority representative.
He said that he has been battling with his weight since the age of 16. Over the years he has tried dieting and exercising, but time and again he has regained the weight he had lost.
“I would go on a calorie-restricted diet and I would lose 60 pounds and be super successful at first,” he said. “But then I would reach that plateau where I would just sit for weeks and weeks. I would get frustrated and go back to my old habits.
At that time he also smoked two packets of cigarettes a day.
“Every time I would yo-yo, I would go down and then I would go up higher than my starting weight,” he said. “It just seemed like a never-ending cycle. It was so frustrating.”
He and his wife Kristin have two children together, Cameron, 5, and Logan, 7.
Activities such as a trip to the zoo or playing football with your children will present difficulties. His hobbies, hunting and fishing also proved challenging.
But the health problems that arose along with his obesity frightened him the most.
“I would look at my kids and think, ‘Good lord, I’m the youngest person in my family to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes,'” Scheid-Brown said. “What does this mean for my longevity and happiness in life? Will this be my starting grave?”
Scheid-Brown admits that his first introduction to the idea of bariatric surgery did not go down well. At a routine physical for work, a doctor suggested he might be a candidate for bariatric surgery.
At that time he felt bad, but now he sees that the seed was sown that day.
“It was always on my mind, but for some reason I couldn’t bring myself to do it,” he said.
For years, people had convinced him that bariatric surgery would be the easy way out. He was concerned about possible complications or side effects.
He would eventually approach his primary care physician about the idea. That doctor told him to diet and exercise for one more year.
He tried another year and then asked for a referral for a bariatric surgeon.
put to work
Scheid-Brown went through a six-month process that included preparation and education prior to surgery. In September 2019, Dr Foote performed a vertical sleeve gastrectomy on her.
The procedure removes 85% of the stomach, Dr. Foote said. It does not require removal of the intestines, thus allowing patients to absorb all the nutrients from the food they eat.
Another advantage? The part of the stomach that is removed in surgery is the part that produces most of the body’s appetite-stimulating hormone, ghrelin.
This means that patients do not feel as hungry after surgery.
“It’s one of the big ways surgery works,” said Dr. Foote. “Many of my patients say they have to set an alarm on their phones to remind themselves to eat.”
This allows them to make healthier food choices, as they are not craving sweets or carbs.
In the first six months after surgery, Scheid-Brown lost 90 pounds.
“I was dropping a pound a day for the first two months,” Scheid-Brown said. “Then a day after that half a pound or a quarter pound.”
He went from his official starting weight of 314 pounds to at least 195 pounds. His original target was 220.
“Now food is a means to live, not a reason to live,” he said. “It’s a strange concept to me. Food is meant to sustain my life. It’s not about me thinking about what the next thing I might eat.”
He has also started running and biking, doing bike rides of 20 to 30 miles two to three times a week, as well as running 2 to 6 miles on other days.
He is set to tackle his first sprint triathlon in Greenville on June 5.
Dr. Foote said that Scheid-Brown did the work necessary for the surgery to be successful.
“When you choose bariatric surgery, you want to get an A or a B. You want to do your homework and follow the instructions or you’re not going to get as good a result,” the doctor said.
Scheid-Brown said he would highly recommend bariatric surgery to anyone considering it—as long as they are dedicated to the procedure.
“If you’re going to have bariatric surgery, you have to be 100% committed to doing it for a long time,” he said. “It’s something I have to work on every day. I monitor every food I put into my body.
“I make sure I’m exercising,” he said. “It’s a lifestyle change. You can’t just have bariatric surgery and sit on the couch and expect to lose 120 pounds.
He also urges people to prepare for the psychological impact.
“Make sure you’re mentally prepared for the change that’s about to happen, because it’s really weird to walk through the mirror or do laundry and go, ‘Wait, who’s that person?'” she said. “I used to fold shirts 4X or 5X. And now they’re L or XL.”
He struggled even after reaching his goal weight, and the weight loss stopped. He even gained a few pounds off the muscle mass he was gaining.
He needed new inspiration: triathlons.
“I wanted to prove to myself that I had arrived,” Scheid-Brown said. “This whole time you’re essentially trading your drug of choice, which is food, for the immediate gratification of losing weight fast. Then you get to the destination where you don’t lose any more weight. I want to prove to myself that I am here and I am strong.
He relies on counseling as well as the support of his wife and family. Spectrum Health Medical Group bariatric support groups have also helped them.
“My wife is very proud of me,” he said.
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