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Too Fat to Travel: How We Lost 170 Pounds

Dang, I griped to myself, the airlines sure have shrunk the plane seats. I guess that’s so they can squeeze more people into every plane. I can’t even cross my legs sitting here. Sheesh.

Travel is only fun if you’re healthy. When you’re fat (or overweight, if you prefer to be PC), climbing stairs takes more effort, walking uses more energy, and you avoid mirrors and photo ops. And you sure don’t want to be squeezed into a child-size seat at 30,000 feet for hours on end. Ugh.

But that’s not the worst of it: Dan developed DVT on our trans-Pacific flight to Bali, a life-threatening condition. The blood clot in his leg lasted for weeks, I was freaking out, and he didn’t feel like going anywhere. Way to ruin an adventure, right?

He was not happy about being on his feet in this shot.

Denial is not just a river in Egypt

It’s not as though we didn’t know we were overweight. That much was obvious, duh. I could pretend that the airplanes and clothing companies had resized, but I knew it was me. Photos of us in various places around the world were undeniable evidence that we needed to lose weight. I hated most of the shots Dan took of me because of how I looked. I especially hated posting them online where everyone could see my size.

Here's why I didn't like being in photos.
And here.

 

 

 

Thank goodness for closeups. I still look fat … but at least my hips and belly are out of sight.

Dan was carrying 120 extra pounds around. My size 16 clothes were getting tight and I was at least 50 pounds heavier than I had been in high school. Over the years we had tried “eating right,” Weight Watchers, Atkins, Nutrisystem and more. We had moderate success and made many lifestyle changes, but nothing lasted. We were still too big.

Dan on Carnival
Photos can be brutally honest. Honestly.

After we returned to the US last year (read about how we were kicked out of Ecuador here) we decided to stay put for a while and try one more time to conquer the weight. And so that's how we spent most of 2014. Staying in one place was the polar opposite to how we spent 2013, traveling all over the globe.

How it all started

It all began in Panama when I found a doctor who was willing to work with me to solve my weight issue. Fluent in English, he had trained and worked in the United States but had returned to his homeland. He had tired of battling insurance companies and he wanted to get to know his patients and dig into their lifestyles to find what might be causing their issues. Back in the US he had to move patients along because he needed the revenue to cover his overhead.

Anyway, after medical workups and blood tests he gave me a series of options to try, and one by one I tried them. Long story short: nothing was working and I was getting desperate. I finally agreed to try a medical weight loss protocol he had been recommending.

Who would blame me?

  • I don’t like being hungry.
  • I like food and I’d be watching Dan enjoy whatever he pleased.
  • Cooking is Dan’s therapy and muse. He has claimed the kitchen as his domain.
  • I had read on the internet that the protocol was dangerous.

But if I didn’t bite the bullet and do that I would continue to gain weight. I really had little choice.

I knew Dan would never give up control of the kitchen, but he has always been supportive. Knowing that I’d need his help to succeed, I made an appointment and asked Dan to come hear the doctor explain how it worked. He needed to know what I could and couldn’t eat so he could plan our dishes correctly.

Cooking Green Turkey
Dan making “green” turkey rub for Thanksgiving in Panama.

Minutes into hearing about my program, Dan was using the word we instead of she.

I’m not sure what made him decide to join me. Maybe it was the incredible results we could expect: as much as a pound of weight loss per day, or the fact that it was a long-established medical protocol, or that we only had to be be on the most restrictive diet for a month. Or maybe it was because of that DVT or that he suspected he might be pre-diabetic. (Which I already knew.)

Whatever the reason, we both decided to go for it.

How it works

Our doctor was extremely clear: This is not a diet, it’s a bona fide medical protocol that has been around for over 50 years. It was developed by a British military doctor, Dr. A.T.W. Simeons, he said, so treat it as such and take it seriously. This is not a diet program that allows cheating. At all.

At the heart of the program is a natural hormone that is produced during pregnancy called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG). HCG is what makes it possible for a woman to deliver a healthy baby … even if she has morning sickness the whole time and can barely eat a thing. The theory is that HCG causes the brain to trigger a release of fat stores.

Although HCG is naturally produced only by pregnant women, it has the same effect on everyone, both men and women. When administered in very minute doses and coupled with a very low calorie diet, people routinely lose between 0.5 to 1 pound per day, often more. His patients who have used it swear that it is the only program where they have been able to keep the weight off afterward.

What can you eat?

In the early stage foods are limited; only a few meats, fruits and vegetables are permitted. No fats here either, except for a bit of coconut oil. One grissini or melba toast per meal – lunch and dinner only. You don’t eat breakfast but you can have coffee or tea if you wish. 

You might think it could be boring but no – Dan appreciated the challenge to get really creative with seasonings and prep methods. Anyway, we could tolerate our limited food choices because it was only temporary.

As for exercise, walking is permitted but not heavy exercise. That’s fine with me, ha-ha.

But is it safe?

I am embarrassed to admit that I could have been thin years ago—if I’d done my own research. Instead I blindly believed what I had once read—that this is a dangerous way to lose weight because no one can live on 500 calories a day. True, the doctor clarified, but we’re not talking about low calories here, it’s low intake. When HCG is present the body gets all the extra calories it needs from fat stores, just as it does in every other diet on the planet.

The difference with other diets though, is that HCG would curb my appetite.

I gave an internal cheer. Woo-hoo! If I’m not hungry, I can do this!

And then he gave me something to think about: Weight loss is a multi-billion dollar industry. Heavy people often need medications for weight-related illnesses, while diet pills and shakes are often made by pharmaceutical corporations. Who stands to lose if a weight loss program works too well?

Hmmmm.

Our weight loss results

Boosted by the information he gave us, we were convinced. Once our doctor recorded all our baseline measurements (bone density, fat, muscle, etc.) with a machine, we left his office with the booklet outlining the protocol and the homeopathic medication we’d be taking for the next 40 days.

As required, we weighed daily. Over the next 40 days I lost an average of 0.4 pounds/day and Dan lost twice that. (Unfair how men always lose so much faster!) Who cares, I was excited: 18.2 pounds lighter in just 40 days!

We did a few more rounds of the protocol while we were in Panama but to be honest we got lazy and stopped paying attention to our intake. We had read that the protocol resets the body’s “set point” and thought we could eat anything we wanted to without gaining any weight.

WRONG.

If anyone tells you you can eat whatever you want forever and never gain weight, they are delusional. Run away. Quickly.

Here we go, again

By March 2014 I was back where I started and Dan was at least 30 pounds heavier as well. We agreed that it was time to get serious about keeping the weight off.

As I researched the protocol further I discovered something important: Dr. Simeons was incorrect: It is actually possible to stay on the protocol for more than 40 days without developing a resistance to HCG. (I guess it stands to reason: Pregnant women have HCG in their bodies the whole time, right?) We also learned how to monitor our weights afterward so the fat doesn't return in apocalyptic proportions. 

We devoted ourselves to stay on the protocol for as long as it takes. And that’s how we’ve finally reached our weight loss goals. 

2014 saw us do three rounds of HCG and I am thrilled with the results. Between us, we have lost close to 170 pounds and are maintaining that loss. At 120 pounds lighter Dan jokes that he almost lost his wife!

Goofball.

How we lost weight: before & after
Okay, not really “After.” We lost more weight after this was taken.

But seriously: When we started we got winded and broke a sweat just walking a mile. Now we easily cover 4 miles in about an hour. I’m hovering at 130 now, far happier—and healthier—than I was in the 170’s. And I'm not done yet; I've set a new goal. Dan’s satisfied to remain in the 150s and friends tell him he looks like he did in high school … with no more DVT or sugar shakes to worry about.

Now how good does that feel?

The hidden benefit no one talks about

Remember that I mentioned daily weigh-ins? The goal is to stay within two pounds of your weight (from the day you took the last dose) every day for the rest of your life. (There are ways to correct it, but that’s beyond this article.) As you enter the maintenance phase of the diet (there are four phases), you will reintroduce one food every day and monitor how your body responds on the scale the following day.

Through reintroducing foods one by one, I have learned which foods my body can handle and which ones it doesn’t like. When I eat wheat, for instance, my belly will quickly pooch from bloat and the numbers on the scale will rise by at least two pounds for a couple of days. I had an aha moment when I realized that. Now I can make informed, conscious choices: Do I really want that bread/pastry, or not? Sadly, it looks like I have similar reactions to rice and oats, so gluten-free may not be enough. But at least I know.

It’s all about awareness and empowerment, and that’s where this program shines.

Breads and pastries everywhere … we don't crave them like we used to.

Other benefits

  • Going without sugar retrained our taste buds. Things that used to taste yummy taste way too sweet now. 
  • Drinking water has become a habit.
  • We've learned that coffee without cream doesn't taste too bad.
  • We became aware that boredom and stress are triggers. We no longer head straight to the refrigerator to deal with them.
Inspired?

Friends often ask about our weight loss. We can tell who is ready to shed some pounds by their reactions when we tell them how we lost weight, everything from “I can’t live without bread for a day” to “I want to do that!” .

If you’re intrigued, I recommend:

  1. Start by reading the original medical paper that Dr. Simeons wrote: Pounds and Inches: A New Approach to Obesity
  2. Join a Facebook group or two. Ask questions. (Of course you can ask questions below too, silly!)
  3. Read Weight-Loss Apocalypse by Robin Phipps Woodall, watch her on YouTube or read her Weight Loss Apocalypse blog
  4. Decide if you want to take a homeopathic medication (drops under the tongue) or do injections. We began with the HCG drops (over the counter). When we ran out I ordered online to save money. (I stuck with the brand we knew because not all homeopathic drops work.) It works but can be hard to remember to take it 3 times a day. HCG injections (prescription required). Once our doctor said he had better results with once-a-day injections we decided to try it. We had better results and it was far more convenient. Plus, surprisingly, those diabetic syringes are painless. (Who knew?)
  5. Find a good HCG diet coach. Your mileage may vary but we had great success with Colin F. Watson and his HCG Body for Life podcast (I listened on iTunes). Maybe start with this recording: HCG Body for Life Phase 1 & 2. Us? We listened to all of them.
  6. Many US doctors offer the HCG diet protocol, though their programs can be outrageously expensive. It is also possible to buy everything you need online. We did that because going to an M.D. in the U.S. was way out of our budget.

Please share your thoughts below.

Written by Linda

Linda is multilingual and has been to over 50 countries She has an insatiable love of travel, cuisine, and foreign languages. Her goal is to make travel easier for others and to offer a brief escape to another land.

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24 thoughts on “Too Fat to Travel: How We Lost 170 Pounds

  1. Good for you! My husband lost over 100 pounds a few years ago on a doctor-approved diet. And surprise, he gained all the weight back when he stopped eating the diet program food. He is back on it again, having lost 50 pounds. I work in the medical field, so I know that however you lose weight, it has to be something that will work for you – for LIFE.

    Keep working your program! It is so worth it.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement, Chris. Having regained weight ourselves, we sympathize with your husband. Lesson learned. Must. Remain. Dedicated.

      Here’s hoping he has better success this time around.

  2. Congratulations guys!

    I am a workout nut and have eaten light most of my adult life so I’ve been kinda aligned with staying light but heck, I know well the discipline it takes to keep that weight off.

    Kudos to you! Simple choices that are both freeing and uncomfortable as heck sometimes can help one live a healthy, fit lifestyle.

    You guys look great and more than that you seem to be feeling so much better. This is the point, the end goal really, because when you are at your optimal weight you’ll feel so much better and the quality of your life will improve.

    As for walking it’s just about the best form of cardio. Keeps your weight down and it’s low impact. We’ve walked virtually every day of the past year with walks ranging from 30 minutes to 2 hours and we’ve kept to this sked for years, really.

    Thanks for sharing your inspiring journey.

    All the best!

    Ryan

    1. Your note means a lot to us, Ryan, thank you.

      You’re right about the simple choices. Even small changes can add up and, as you said, that’s the end goal, to have a change of lifestyle.

      I’ve seen your photos and you do look amazing. What types of workouts do you do? Up ’til now we’ve not been able to find a way to become “workout nuts” like you, so in that, I envy you. Perhaps it’s that we’ve not found a type of daily exercise that we enjoy enough to dedicate ourselves to. Not yet, anyway, but we remain hopeful.

      We agree that walking is just about the best form of cardio, and it isn’t just the physical heart that it helps, it’s also the emotional heart. When Dan and I walk we have the best conversations. It really bonds us even closer together. Great for relationships.

      All the best,

      Linda

  3. Crikey, good on you guys, you look incredible!! Thanks for the motivation to shift some pounds from my own upcoming trip too <3

    1. You’re right,Cat … nothing is as important as health. I hope our story gives hope to other people. Finally fitting into those plane seats is a great reward, if nothing else.

  4. Wow! The whole time I kept waiting to see the before and after picture and the results are amazing. I don’t know too much about diets or hormones when it comes to losing weight but obviously something worked for you two! You guys look so much happier and radiant in the last picture, great job and keep it up!

  5. Very interesting and wonderful post. I went through a similar transformation, and many of the ideas and thoughts you discovered during this journey resonated with me. I drastically changed my diet and lifestyle (I went vegetarian and very plant based) and I ended up losing 60 pounds! It is very important to make changes in the way you eat, losing weight isn’t about exercise much at all, but what food you ingest and how your body processes that food. I discovered a love of cooking while losing weight, and find it fun to try out new, delicious, and healthy things in the kitchen. You can really make healthy stuff taste amazing if you add the right ingredients, spices, and herbs.

    And as far as travel goes, you are so right; traveling is very uncomfortable when you are overweight. I feel like many people who are overweight will never admit this, but it is a point that needs to be made. Being overweight is not healthy, and it is not comfortable. feels. One of the very first things I noticed when I started traveling again, 60 pounds lighter, was how much more room in the seats there really was, and how much more comfortable my body was in transit. So yes, it wasn’t the planes, it really was me. Thanks for sharing your amazing story with me and I am interested to hear about your travels in 2015! Keep up the great work in the kitchen cooking healthy meals 🙂
    Katie

    1. Spot on, Katie! Changing the way you eat is key, far more than exercise. Lifestyle decisions result in weight gain, so it stands to reason that lifestyle decisions will also result in weight loss. We are eating far fewer grains and meats than we used to and feel a LOT better.

      One of the reasons we enjoy travel so much is that it gives us an opportunity to try new spices and dishes. The same ingredients can taste completely different with only a change in seasonings. Oh, the joys of cooking!

      Great job, losing 60 pounds! It does feel good, doesn’t it?

  6. Wow! What an amazing accomplishment! Kudos to the both of you for taking the time to care about your health and for making the necessary lifestyle changes. You guys look great and what a transformation!! I bet the slimmer versions of you don’t mind those steps or long walks while traveling anyone!

    Happy traveling!! I hope your 2015 is off to an amazing start! I bet it is certainly ‘lighter.’ 🙂

  7. It’s definitely nice to be able to lose weight, but I think the best part of transformations like this is the way you feel afterwards. Hopefully people will understand that a bit more when they try to make excuses not to get healthier. We all have something that we need to work on, and if it’s something like this, it only makes sense to jump in and try to do anything that can help you.

  8. I envy your travel so much. I would love to do this next year after reading your blog. My doctor has given an advised to travel outside the country to relieve stress and my depression. I’ve been over fatigued for 2 weeks and I guess I need to take his advice. Now, I’m planning on doing it next month with my friend. I can’t wait to have the same feelings that you felt in your travel. I’m planning on going to South America like Peru, will that be a good idea?

    1. South America is a wonderful destination choice, Haley. Both Peru and Ecuador offer so much diversity – everything from rainforests to mountains to beaches and I am sure you’ll have a wonderful time. It sounds like you’ve found a creative doctor and you were wise to heed his/her advice. Everyone needs a little adventure, I always say!

      I am thrilled if we’ve inspired you to travel. It’s all do-able, and there are lots of ways to do it economically. How long do you plan to be traveling … and by the way, how is your Spanish?

  9. Hi Linda,

    Very nice of you for sharing this.

    Travellers have a problem of their weight as they are supposed to move or roam, energy is the most required thing to a traveller and fat person gets tired easily. A reason for it is also that we take many of fast foods and different dishes of different regions while on travelling.

    THe points you have discussed here are useful and can be used by someone facing like this problem. One can take care of it by following serious routine on travelling too for his diet and exercises.

    Thanks for posting it, keep going like this.
    Have a nice weekend.

    ~ Harshwardhan

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