My Wellness Progress

Many of you have been a source of encouragement for me on my wellness journey and many have also asked about how I am doing so I thought it was about time for an update.  I’ve held off on doing an update on my progress in the Weigh To Wellness Program to wait for metrics on cholesterol, but since they will not be forthcoming for another few weeks I’ll wait until then to report progress on my biometrics including BMI, blood sugar, blood pressure, cholesterol, etc.  However, I will report on one major statistic – I recently lost my 75th pound.  Take a look at the photo included below.  Mr. Tim Sobie, owner of Sobie Meats with his wife Teresa, located on Remembrance Road in Walker, put together 75 pounds of meat in two tubs to show what this weight loss looks like in terms of red meat.  I was initially hoping for 75 pounds of fat which would look much larger, but they don’t ever have that much fat on hand.  I think you’ll agree that it is quite the pictorial representation for my weight loss!

My first appointment with the good folks at Weigh to Wellness was back on September 21 and I was put on 1,000 calories per day to get  ready for the beginning of the program the following week.  For that first week I ate Lean Cuisine and Michelina’s Lean Gourmet type meals.  On September 28, I was put on an 800 calorie per day diet through December 19th.   Meals during this phase consisted of product purchased directly from Weigh to Wellness.  All products (with the exception of the protein bars) came in a small packet which was mixed then with water and either heated or just drank in the case of the shake.  The products were soy based and had high protein content.  A typical schedule/diet for the 800 calorie per day phase looked like this:

6:00 a.m.              Oatmeal

10:00 a.m.           Shake

12:00 Noon         One of four types of soup or chili

3:00 p.m.             Protein bar

6:00 p.m.             Two pancakes

9:00 p.m.             Protein

On December 19, I graduated to the 1,000 calorie per day phase and was allowed to remove one to two meal replacements and add up to 6 ounces of lean meat and up to 4 cups raw or 2 cups cooked green or non-starchy vegetables per day.  On Wednesday of last week I graduated to the 1,000 to 1,200 calorie per day phase. This added to my diet fruits, grains, dairy, and pretty much everything except sugar.   My first day eating “real food” I had an egg and toast for breakfast and a yogurt and cheese for lunch and it tasted wonderful. 

I have a doctor appointment at Weigh to Wellness each week, usually on Wednesday mornings at 7:00 a.m.  I weigh in, have my blood pressure taken and meet with a doctor or nurse to discuss progress and how I’m doing.  I’m also doing a lot of reading on the psychology and biology of eating and meeting with a behaviorist every other week to discuss the readings and ultimately how to prevent regaining the weight once the program has ended. 

The program emphasizes a lot of water intake, a minimum of 64 ounces per day.  Cells have to be hydrated at a certain percentage for weight loss to take place.  Strenuous exercise is prohibited until the carbohydrates are added back into the diet.  If someone exercises too much in the 800 to 1,000 calorie stage, it can force the body into survival mode, or what I have fondly come to call the “lost in the woods mode.”  If you were lost in the woods you would might be desperately exerting yourself to find a way out and if you were also without food your body would retain water and fat for your protection.  This happened to me three times on the diet, once when I swam and walked in the same day and once when I split and stacked wood for 4 hours.  In that case I ended the day 5 pounds heavier than I started the day! I started out walking 1.5 miles 3-4 times per week and then doubled this to 3 miles.  I also began swimming ¼ mile per time and will now increase this to ½ mile each time.  I am definitely looking forward to stepping up the exercise to racquetball and running now that I’m past the 800 calorie stage.    

I have about 17 more pounds to lose and have about 9 weeks left in the program.  Perhaps in a future blog I’ll try to enumerate some of the many benefits I experience daily from losing the weight so far.

Many have asked me for the contact information for Weigh to Wellness.  Weigh to Wellness can be contacted at 616-685-1490 and  Since their locations are on the East Beltline and Wealthy St. in Grand Rapids, I included the contact information for a similar program that offers services in Grand Haven and Holland in a recent Digest.  This program is The Medical Weight Loss Clinic and can be contacted at 1-800-GET-SLIM.   If you know of other programs I would be glad to put them in the Digest or a future blog.  The best way to access a program is to start with your doctor.  If you have a certain number of risk factors that exceed certain benchmarks, our Priority Health insurance will cover the program.  I’ve already had some employees tell me that they checked this out and though they are overweight they did not have enough risk factors present to allow their doctor to prescribe them to the program and have the cost of the program covered by the health insurance benefit. 

Support at home is crucial.  My wife Leslie has lost 37 pounds since I started the Weigh to Wellness Program.  She started about the same time I did and basically cut her portion size to about palm size and eventually began counting calories.  She did not change the type of food she ate.  It also helps a lot that she is an excellent cook.

It is a strange feeling to completely start over with clothing at close to age 50.  Almost every stitch of clothing that I owned has been given to Goodwill, Inc., given away, thrown out, or reduced to the rag bag.  I haven’t wanted to purchase much in the way of clothing when it will only last a month so I have purchased some clothing from Goodwill, Inc. until the weight loss is completed. 

I’ve learned much over the past four months and look forward to the last couple months of the program.  I approach all of this with proper humility as my failures with keeping weight off dwarf my successes over the past 25 years.  I believe that with the knowledge and practice that the program affords that the outcome will be different this time.  More important than knowledge and practice is the mindset that this isn’t a diet that ends when the weight loss stops but a major lifestyle change that is permanent. 

A very strange and bizarre part of this process has been that I have become unrecognizable at first glance to many colleagues and friends who have known me for a long time but haven’t seen me in the past 2-3 months.  It started when two Grand Valley Metro Council Board members walked right past me and didn’t know who I was and since then a significant number of people, including my own doctor have failed to recognize me at first, though I realize that part of this was shedding the moustache.

The Health Management Committee is hard at work on wellness program development.  One facet of the wellness program will include disincentives that will require some employees to pay more for their health insurance.  The great news is that the only way to have to experience a disincentive is to refuse to participate in the wellness program or refuse to follow your physician’s advice.  Even if your specific condition does not improve, as long as you follow your physician’s advice, you will not pay a disincentive.  My doctor, Dr. Jerry Witherell, worked with me on diet issues for three years before prescribing me to the Weigh to Wellness program.  I didn’t always follow his advice and even canceled a couple of appointments so I wouldn’t have to face him.  I would have had to pay a disincentive had the wellness program been in place then.

This has been quite a journey so far with much work to go.  The bottom line is I feel great!  The good news is that if I can do this, anyone else can too!

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54 Responses to My Wellness Progress

  1. Barb Sychowski says:

    Congratulations, Al ! You are an excellent model of what’s possible to all who know you.

  2. Amanda says:

    Awesome job! Healthier habits do wonderful things for almost every aspect of your life! Keep moving!

  3. kenneth post says:

    Good job Al. I looked at the cost of the program and decided on another. You look great and my prayer for you is that you can keep it off in the future.

  4. Vijay says:

    Great, better than gym workouts ….huh…..

  5. Jeff Roffey says:

    Great job on the weight loss. Very encouraging blog article too! Would be fun to see before and after pictures in a future blog.

    • Alan G. Vanderberg says:

      Thanks, Jeff. They did take a before picture back in September and the after photo will be taken when the program ends in mid-April. They didn’t think it was very humorous when I asked if I should wear black, smile and put on a spray tan for the after photo. I plan to do a blog with the biometric data when I get that and then a last one with the before and after photos.

  6. Rachael Harper says:

    Very inspirational to me. I am working on a couple of issues that may not be clearly visible to most people, but are strategic for my future health. Your strides have stepped up my pondering process, and I thank you for sharing. By the way, you seem to be walking much taller ~ good for you!

  7. Betty Blase says:

    Hi Al,
    Congratulations on your current (and I’m sure, future) success with this. What a great role model! I’m working on my diet and exercise to improve blood pressure and cholesterol as well, and I’m more inspired after reading your thoughts. Thank you for sharing.


    You are an inspiration to us all Al–I am hoping that my husband can qualify for the Medical Weight Loss Program as he has suffered a stroke, is overweight, has high blood pressure, and is on a host of medications.


  9. Jon Hulsing says:


  10. Barry Shanley says:

    Wow Al!

    Terrific beyond words or websites. REAL LIFE!
    Has anyone in the local media up there done a story on you and your site etc.? If not maybe I can convince them.
    Channel 13 called me last week and asked if I, for part of its 50th year anniversary in May, would come back and anchor the 6 and 11 with Lee for a couple of days. (Despite the way my health issue has rendered me looking more like Yoda now than a younger Robert Redford, like back in the day. You remember, right?

    Way to go. When you get a minute maybe you could let me know if anyone up there has done a story.


    • Alan G. Vanderberg says:

      Thanks, Barry and great to hear from you. I’ll look forward with anticipation to your return to the anchor desk. Yes, you did indeed look very much like a young Robert Redford :) Though I’m sure that Yoda is a bit of an exaggeration at least he was very wise! No-one up here has done a story as of yet.


  11. Maureen Eberly says:

    Wow!! You are an inspiration to us all. I’m out of excuses… Congratulations!

  12. Maggie Undewood says:

    What is the number for the medical weight loss for Holland?


  13. Daryl Delabbio says:

    I admire your discipline Al! Great work!

  14. Leslie TenBrink says:

    Congratulations, and you look fantastic! Our friends, Ed and Molly Schief, are certified health coaches at Take Shape for Life – Medifast (in Holland) and they have success stories of their personal weight loss, as well as many others whom they coach, if anyone is looking for program in Holland.

    • Alan G. Vanderberg says:

      Thank you Leslie and thanks also for the tip. I hope that through the wellness effort we can build a great resource on a variety of health related topics, potential solutions and providers to help those who are trying to improve their health.

  15. Lee Fisher says:

    Congrats Al! Stories like yours help me stay on track. Thanks.

    • Alan G. Vanderberg says:

      Thanks, Lee. I just hope that I can get to a level of exercise like you have to help the maintenance process. I think you have inspired a lot of folks out here at the Fillmore complex by your dedication to exercise.

  16. Sandy Castle says:

    Congradulations!! You are looking great and congrads to your wife too!!! I see you running the Fifth Third Marathon in the near future….:)))

    Way to Go!

  17. Jana Reenders says:

    Congratulations! You look great and I bet you feel great too!! Keep it up, you are certainly an inspiration!!

  18. Sara Fillman says:

    That explains why I didn’t recognize you at the town hall meeting in Grand Haven last week?
    Great Job!!!!

  19. Rick Taylor says:

    Congrats! You look great and probably feel even better. I frequent Sobies myself. Tim and Teresa are great.

    • Alan G. Vanderberg says:

      Thanks very much, Rick! You are one of my role models in this effort with the amazing transition that you made a number of years ago now and you have successfully kept the weight off. Thank you and congratulations to you as well!

  20. Leslie Vanderberg says:

    I’m so proud of you for sharing the story of your struggle with everyone. You’ve worked very hard to make this a lifestyle change and not a diet. Thank you for setting such a good example for me and for our kids. And thank goodness you spurred me on to lose some weight too or you would weigh less than me right now! I’m looking forward to meal planning and exercising together for the next 28 years and beyond. Love you!

    • Alan G. Vanderberg says:

      Thank you for your incredible support of me in both successes and failures. I don’t think I could pull this off if you didn’t come alongside me with your Kolbe yellow approach to learning and cooking and helping figure it all out. I love you too!

  21. Thomas DeMaat says:

    Great job Al! Keep it up. Any chance the “stache” is coming back? Haha.

    • Alan G. Vanderberg says:

      Thanks, Tom! Most women comment that they like it off and most men seem to think I need to grow it back. My daughter Sams’ first comment when she saw me for the first time in her 21 years without a stache was that I look like a turtle. One of the WEMET Boardmembers wanted to require me to grow it back this morning. Of course John Campbell does have a pretty major moustache himself.

  22. Debbie Bassett says:

    Congratulations….you look great! I started losing weight on my own back in April of 2011 by counting calories, lowering my carb intake and started jogging..I have lost 30 pounds and plan on keeping it off. I too, have looked at this as a lifestyle change, not a diet.

  23. Kim Oostindie says:

    Congratulations Al. Wishing you continued success on your journey. I am very interested in hearing how this affected your biometrics when you receive the data. Thank you for sharing your real-life, inspirational story, it is sure to help others.

  24. Matt & Amy Hehl says:

    Great job Al! Your hard work & dedication are again very effident in your sucess! Amazing- keep it up!

  25. Shannon Felgner says:

    Way to go, Al! You should join me in a 5k or 10k in the future. I should warn you, however, that I’m awfully competitive!! :)


  26. Cheryl Clark says:

    Congratulations Al. I am enjoying your blog and seeing your success first hand. Our church has started up their Biggest Looser program which will run for about 6 weeks. At the end of the program the total number of pounds lost is then purchased in food to be donated to a food bank. I have joined the program and hope to loose some weight to help out the food bank.

  27. Douglas Flamboe says:

    WOW, it was a shock to see you 2 weeks ago, I could not believe it. It was not a little difference, it was a big difference! I did not even recognize you right away. Great job Al, and hope for your continued success in your new body. Many times in drill, we both were huffing pretty hard, I bet you could do a march like no problem now. Hoping I can get the same success in weight loss as you have. I bet it is awesome seeing all the colors and patterns that are more available in the smaller sizes now. Hat’s off to you LT.

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