How did Phillip Brenneman lose 200 pounds and get off insulin, metformin and his cholesterol and blood pressure medications?
The Garrett, Ind., man says he did it literally one step at a time. And in the beginning, even that was more than he could manage.
Brenneman’s first attempts at exercise took place in his chair at home. Arm circles and leg lifts were all he could handle when he decided, the morning after a Super Bowl party in 2015, that he had to make changes or risk missing his daughter grow up.
At 400 pounds, what people noticed was his weight. But while that was the most obvious part of his misery, he knew his type 2 diabetes was the real danger. He had watched his mother die from complications from that disease. Now in his mid-40s, he was on the that same path, and just a few years from the age at which she died.
Brenneman never went on a diet, per se. But he did start reading labels and buying healthier food. Instead of picking up dinner at the drivethrough, he began preparing veggies and lean grilled meats at home. The only processed foods in his diet were low-calorie products like Lean Cuisine frozen dinners and Skinny Cow treats. Eventually he cut those out as well, preferring natural, organic fare he cooks himself.
After he lost 40 pounds or so, Brenneman joined the local YMCA. He started on the elliptical machine, eventually adding walking and jogging to his regimen. By the time he saw his doctor in October 2015, he’d lost 120 pounds. His lab tests were normal. His doctor, stunned at the change, agreed to take him off his medications, provided he continue to monitor his blood sugar.
Brenneman eventually lost 200 pounds. His methods aren’t the quick fix people want to hear. But because he simply began to eliminate unhealthy behaviors and consistently worked to slowly improve his diet and exercise habits along the way, he now finds himself doing things that feel both comfortable and sustainable.
Having gotten used to the way premium foods fuel his body, treats that used to captivate him no longer seem so alluring. For Thanksgiving, he mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes. His family is on board with his lifestyle changes. His wife has lost 60 pounds and his daughter, now 5, is learning to love exercise. “We don’t even plan on desserts,” he says.
Brenneman, who has appeared on CNN and NBC’s “Today” show, now says he checks his blood sugar more regularly than he did when he was overweight, generally at least once a day and whenever he feels “off.”
“If I overload on carbs, I can feel it,” he says. “It’s never going to go away.”
But he’s been able to control his blood sugar and maintain his weight loss by eating sensibly and exercising regularly. He completed his first half marathon in October 2016. The following month he placed third in his age group in a 5K turkey trot. Though he’s sometimes tired when his alarm goes off for his morning workout, he reminds himself “that’s just a mindset.” He’s learned that his body will respond once he begins working out.
“Most people know what they’re doing wrong,” he said. “You’ve got to own up to it. I’m the one who put all that unhealthy stuff in my body.”
Now he’s taking responsibility for his health, one step at a time.