Jim Carpenter weighed 518 pounds when he started the NutriMed™ program in October 2011. Twenty months later, people who have not seen him in awhile aren’t sure if it’s really him.
In late 2011, Dublin, Ohio native Jim Carpenter weighed an astonishing 518 pounds. He was suffering from congestive heart failure, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stage one kidney failure, neuropathy of the legs and feet, water retention, bad knees, and balance issues. He wore size 60 pants and 7X shirts.
For Jim, everyday tasks were a struggle. Walking from his bedroom to the living room would leave him out of breath and gasping for air. Going grocery shopping was a chore; he would often have to sit and rest midway through the grocery list. Often times, his knees could not support his weight and he could not lift himself out of chairs. At those moments, Jim relied on his wife of 35 years, Susie Carpenter, to help him get up.
“We had the routine down pat to draw the least amount of attention from others around me,” says Jim.
He was reluctant to go to restaurants or visit friends for fear of sitting in a chair and breaking it. Going up stairs became harder and harder without help. At 6’ 3” and 518 pounds, Jim could barely fit in the driver’s seat of his sport utility vehicle.
“The seat belt was pulled out to its maximum length and fastening it was a chore,” he says. “My stomach interfered with the steering wheel making it difficult to steer. I could not turn my head very far side to side to see if it was clear to make a turn.”
Jim always had weight issues. As a child, he considered himself to be “husky,” but he was active outdoors and played sports and that helped keep his weight in check. After high school, he joined the Army and the rigorous routine of military service virtually guaranteed his weight would not be an issue. However, once he was out of the Army and 21 years old, Jim got married and noticed his weight was steadily increasing. In the ensuing years, he became progressively more apathetic about his weight.
When he hit 370 pounds, Jim’s doctor put him on the prescription diet pill Fen-Phen. He lost 105 pounds, but was advised by his doctor to stop when it was discovered there were potential serious medical issues with the medication. Jim had not learned how to eat properly or make lifestyle changes while on the Fen-Phen diet and gained the weight back in two years.
“I was surprised each time I went to the doctor to discover I had gained more weight,” he says. I gave up after I hit 400 pounds. I thought I was too old and too far gone to do anything about it. I had accepted the fact that this was who I was and how I was going to be.”
Seemingly defeated, Jim did not give diet, exercise, or nutrition a second thought.
“I would eat when I wanted, anything I wanted and as much as I wanted,” he says. “I did not understand how to eat healthy. I did not count carbohydrates, calories, or protein and what affect each had on my weight. It was a free for all when it came to food. If it tasted good, I would eat it, as much as I wanted, whenever I wanted.”
As a result of his unchecked diet, Jim gained about 50 pounds a year, reaching a pinnacle of 518 pounds. When he reached his mid-50s, he had simply thrown in the towel. He suffered from numerous, life-threatening comorbidities. His family doctor, who had treated him for diabetes, high blood pressure and several other serious medical conditions for a decade, had hit a roadblock. “One day he told me he had taken me as far as he could with treatment of my diabetes and other health issues and referred me to an endocrinologist,” says Jim.
Jim was referred to Dr. Jennifer Rittenberry at the Diabetes & Endocrinology Center of Ohio (DECO). Once a month, he would meet with Dr. Rittenberry or Deanna Merrill, PA-C, CDE, for treatment. They prescribed Jim a strong dose of insulin called U-500, which is commonly used for patients who need more than 200 units of insulin a day in managing their diabetes. In Jim’s case, one unit of U-500 was the equivalent of five units of regular insulin.
“After a few months Dr. Rittenberry asked me if I had heard of the new weight loss program they were involved in called DECO’s Healthy Living Program by NutriMed™ using a meal replacement plan,” says Jim. “She went on to tell me how the program worked and the benefits of losing some weight. I listened to the good doctor and told her I was not interested.”
NutriMed, a medically supervised Very Low Calorie Diet (VLCD) program developed by Robard Corporation, emphasizes nutrition, behavior, and exercise re-education for patients with over 40 pounds to lose.
Despite Jim’s initial reluctance to the plan, Dr. Rittenberry and Merrill were persistent. During a subsequent visit, Dr. Rittenberry told Jim about a man who lost over 100 pounds on the plan and how well he was doing.
“I wanted to know how old this man was and she told me he was in his 50s,” recalls Jim. “This blew my theory that I was too old to lose that kind of weight. My wife and I talked it over and decided to begin the program together and support each other and see if we could lose some weight. We started the NutriMed program on October 5, 2011.”
Initially, he was skeptical, but hopeful. He was giving the NutriMed plan, as he describes it, “a half-hearted attempt.”
“If I could lose enough weight to lessen my risk of heart failure or stroke, I would be happy,” says Jim. “I did not think I could lose a large amount of weight but knew any loss would improve my health and quality of life. I took a ‘wait and see attitude.’”
In spite of his “wait and see attitude,” Jim saw an almost immediate improvement in his health.
“The very first day of the program, I was told to stop taking the oral meds for diabetes and dramatically reduce the amount of insulin I was taking. I was very leery of this because I knew insulin was my lifeline and without it my life was at risk. I was told to monitor my sugar reading and I would be amazed with the results. They were right; within the first week my glucose levels were dropping daily and were soon under control without all the medication.”
Still, he was skeptical. But, a month and a half after starting the program, during a Thanksgiving visit with family in Kentucky, Jim’s “half-hearted attempt” to lose weight took a more serious turn.
There are moments in life when a person has an “epiphany” — an enlightening, sudden realization that allows them to view a problem or situation from a new and deeper perspective. In November 2011, Jim Carpenter understood that he was dangerously overweight. The comorbid conditions brought on by his excessive weight were mounting; he was suffering from congestive heart failure, diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, stage one kidney failure, and more. His family doctor had hit a roadblock and referred him to an endocrinologist. Yet, despite all of this, Jim hadn’t fully accepted the level of seriousness and commitment he would need to reverse his perilous path. That is, until he stood before seven steps at his aunt and uncle’s house in Kentucky. That was when Jim had what he calls his “A-HA Moment.”
“I had been on the program for a month and a half when my wife and I decided to spend Thanksgiving with family in Kentucky. My aunt and uncle hosted family at their house for Thanksgiving dinner. They live on a hill and there are seven steps leading to the front porch and door. I could not get up the steps. My sister and uncle came out to help my wife but I was too heavy and my knees and legs would not my support me. My uncle said to come around to the back door because there were only three steps into the house. I could not get up the three steps. My wife pushed me from behind while my sister and uncle pulled me from the side and I was finally able to get in the house. I thought I would die of embarrassment. I have a very loving family and my uncle said to me, ‘Don’t worry, Jim, I will build a ramp off the back porch so the next time you come you can walk up the ramp.’ No one in my family needs a ramp to get in the door, but he was going to build one for me so I could get in his house whenever I visited two or three times a year. I said, ‘Don’t do that yet. Let me work on it.’ That was when I decided to get serious about my weight issues and do something about it.”
Reeling from the embarrassment, Jim threw himself into the program. He quickly came to the realization that perhaps it wasn’t as hard as he had thought.
“One of the best things I like about the program is the ease of it. I didn’t have to count calories, use a point system, or do a lot of meal planning. Drink the shakes, eat the nutrition bar and have a sensible dinner. I like to tell the staff at DECO about my weight loss, ‘It was easy, you told me what to do and I did it.’ I know there is more to it than that, but it really is that basic. With a little willpower and effort, the program works.”
By December of 2011, he went to a family Christmas party and people were asking him if he had lost weight. He had lost 50 pounds, and his clothes were fitting better.
“It was a good feeling to have people notice,” he recalls.
Improvements in Jim’s health were gradual. He didn’t feel bloated all of the time, the pain in his knees lessened, and his legs didn’t swell. He began sleeping better, and his mobility was getting better. Perhaps most importantly, his motivation was skyrocketing.
“When I realized I could fit in the driver’s side of our SUV was a big deal,” he says. “My stomach did not hang over the steering wheel — the seat belt fit like it was meant to. These things boosted my desire to continue and work hard on the program to see what I could accomplish.”
In addition, having his wife Susie in the NutriMed program with him has been an undeniable benefit. “It really helps to have a partner in the program because we support and encourage each other,” says Jim. “When I start to waiver and give up, my wife picks me up and motivates me and I do the same for her. We are doing this for ourselves and each other and in the end we know we will enjoy a better life together.”
As time went on, Jim embraced the NutriMed program more and more. In addition to meal replacement products (“The products are great!” he says. “I did not have that empty feeling and belly growling as with other diets.”), exercise, and sheer motivation, the staff at DECO placed a heavy emphasis on NutriMed’s educational and behavior modification tools. By educating him on how to change his thought process and make the right choices, DECO guided Jim to make concrete lifestyle changes that he needed to properly manage his weight.
“Continued education is the cornerstone of the program,” he says. “One major distinction between the NutriMed program and the others is not only did I lose a large amount of weight, I have learned some of the reasons why I was overweight, when I am most vulnerable to temptation, how to overcome that temptation, and be successful in keeping the weight off.”
At his peak weight of 518 pounds, Jim was not able to do any exercises. After he had lost roughly 75 pounds, the staff at DECO gave him an education module on exercising. He started slowly, performing “Sit Down Workouts” in which he sat in a chair and lifted his legs one at a time in a marching motion. He would also lift his arms over his head and try to touch his toes.
“Any movement is exercise and any exercise is good for you and will help you lose weight,” says Jim, paraphrasing a line from the education module.
“I was still losing weight and got to the point I wanted to take it to the next level,” he continues. “I wanted to walk to the mailbox and back. Our mailbox is one-tenth of a mile away. I knew I had to take baby steps over a period of time to make this goal. My wife and I started out to check the mail and I could only walk a very short distance. I would lean against a tree while she walked to the mailbox and joined her on the way back to our apartment. Every couple of days I would increase the distance I could walk. It took about 10 days before I was able to walk the one-tenth of a mile to the mailbox and back. That was a big day for me on my journey.”
Jim and Susie started going to local Metro Parks that have hiking trails. They started with a quarter mile trail and quickly started to tackle the one mile trails. Currently, they are able to walk three miles a day. At the end of July 2013, they participated in their first 5K walk to benefit breast cancer awareness in honor of Jim’s mother, a breast cancer survivor, and his aunt who passed away from the same disease.
“For me to be able to do that is huge,” says Jim. “It all started with me wanting to walk to the mailbox and back.”
As of July 2013, Jim Carpenter weighed in at 227 pounds. The man who had once been reluctant to go to restaurants or visit friends for fear of sitting in a chair and breaking it had lost an astonishing 290 pounds in 20 months. He has been able to eliminate all oral diabetes medications, stop all insulin shots, discontinue his blood pressure and kidney medications, and greatly reduce his cholesterol medication. He is currently in the maintenance phase of the NutriMed program.
“People who have not seen me in awhile are stunned,” says Jim. “They tend to look at me like they are not sure if it’s really me. Then they tell me how good I look and ask how I did it and if I had the lap band surgery. When I explain it was done with diet and exercise they always want to hear more about the program. When I’m out in public or at a store shopping I blend in with the crowd, people look at me like I’m just a normal guy. I no longer feel like everyone is looking at me because of my size.”
More importantly, Jim has a new life ahead of him — one of joy, success and promise.
“My quality of life has improved in every way possible. I’m able to get out and enjoy life, and do things I could not do before, like spend quality time with my wife and family members. I feel like I am in control of my weight and health issues — my weight and health issues are not in control of me. Because of the DECO Healthy Living Program/NutriMed Weight Loss Program, life is good.”