Mike Dean, a trial attorney in East Lansing, Michigan, has a familiar story: He was fit and lean in high school, but over the next few decades he gradually put on nearly 100 pounds. Eventually, Mike was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. He got serious, exercised, dieted, lost weight … and gained it back again.
Today, though, Mike is nearly back to his college weight, and feeling prouder than ever of his healthy lifestyle changes. Mike has used just about every option available to him — diet, exercise, medication, a nutrition app, and a whole lot of biohacking technology. We are delighted to share his success story.
For years, Mike just accepted that his expanding waistline and growing health problems — in addition to diabetes, he has experienced high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and gout — were out of his control. Weight gain just seemed like something that naturally followed aging, fatherhood, and a busy career.
“The thing that held me back for a long time was, you get to a certain weight and you think: This is just the new me now.”
“And we always have a capacity to self-delude ourselves, to think we’ll fix the problem next week.”
When he ballooned up to 260 pounds, Mike was finally ready for a change.
“Around 2018, I had a ‘come to Jesus’ moment with myself and spent six months dropping a lot of weight.”
He threw himself into an intense weight-loss program, counting calories and exercising almost every single day. This energetic approach worked — until it didn’t.
After months of steady weight loss, Mike’s gout intervened. Gout, a form of arthritis characterized by painful flare-ups in the joints, is very common in people with type 2 diabetes. An attack landed Mike on the couch for a week, and that was the beginning of the end of his first major weight loss effort. “It really messed with my workout routines, then I fell back into some bad habits. I kind of fell off the wagon.”
“It was a slow progression back up.”
The weight came back.
A Wake-Up Call
Around Christmas in 2021, Mike ran out of his diabetes medications. It was the end of the year, his prescriptions had expired, and he needed to see his doctor to get them renewed. Mike was busy, stressed, and perhaps hampered by the malaise of diabetes burnout. Whatever the reason, Mike didn’t get to his doctor’s office, and he simply stopped taking the glucose-lowering drugs he’d been prescribed.
The effects were predictable: “My blood sugar numbers really got bad, and I could feel it.” Mike realized that his vision had severely declined. Eyesight problems are a symptom of acute hyperglycemia, a sign that his blood sugar numbers had skyrocketed into a very dangerous range.
When he saw the doctor, his A1C was over 12 and his cholesterol was up over 1,000. That was the wake-up call. He needed to make a change.
“I finally said, ‘I can’t do this anymore.’”
An Incremental Approach
Mike knew that he was capable of losing weight — he’d done it before — but he also knew that his old, intense approach wasn’t sustainable. This time, he promised himself that he’d make incremental changes and focus on small goals.
“I was just looking at 10 pounds at a time. When I got below 250, I told myself that 250 would be the high-water mark and that I could push down to 240. When I got to 240, I told myself that I would never get past 240 again and started looking at 230.”
Instead of going whole hog with a restrictive diet, Mike added new eating goals with every 10 pounds.
“I wasn’t trying to change so many things at once, juggling all these balls in the air. I was looking at the long term rather than trying to drop weight superfast.
“The key was that I made incremental diet and activity changes rather than big dramatic changes in the beginning. I made sure I could live with each change before I added something new.”
Step one: Cut out the soda. Mike quit sugary beverages cold turkey. As he went on, he patiently added other diet goals, like choosing a healthy daily breakfast smoothie (“full of fiber and fresh fruit”) and banning himself from lunchtime fast-food runs. Now he’s trying to up his protein intake.
Using Smart Technology
Mike’s been tracking his food intake and progress with the Lose It! weight loss app. Lose It! makes it easy to count calories and macronutrients, and it offers all sorts of useful data on your nutrition and weight trends. It was key to his success.
“Just the act of tracking helps you make better choices. You really don’t want to log that bag of potato chips.”
The app also makes it easy to find nutrition details for new foods and input family recipes. “Lose It! is probably the best tool I have.”
He uses another app, Glucose Buddy, to track his blood sugar numbers. He has a smart digital scale and a smart blood pressure cuff. Most of his numbers get automatically uploaded to his doctor’s office. “That’s been a great thing. It spurs me to take all those measurements, and it really helps the doctor understand my health.”
Mike, feeling slim in his kitchen
Meanwhile, Mike’s also been exercising as much as possible. While there’s no doubt that exercise has exceptional metabolic benefits, experts have come to believe that it usually doesn’t contribute very much to weight loss, unless you can devote a huge number of hours to the practice. Mike, despite his busy career, is the exception. He hits the gym five or six times a week for pickleball, the elliptical machine, or strength training. And he keeps track of everything on his Fitbit, frequently doubling the standard goal of 10,000 steps per day:
“I usually try and get as close to 20,000 steps as I can. 10,000 steps just don’t feel like very much now.”
His Fitbit is linked to LoseIt!, which adjusts his daily calorie goals for his physical activity. He loves seeing exactly how much extra he’s allowed to eat after a day of heavy exercise.
Mike has lowered his A1C down to 6.5 percent, barely within the diabetic range.
“I attribute that to the diet, getting back on medication, and working out constantly.”
Mike is currently in the 210- to-215-pound range, down about 50 pounds from his peak, and recently passed a joyful milestone: He is no longer considered “obese” on the body mass index (BMI) charts. His cholesterol is down under 200. He expects to see 199 on his scale for the first time in decades before the end of the summer.
Last year, Mike’s closet was full of size 42 pants. Now he fits into size 34, a size that he hadn’t worn since the late 1980s.
Mike still takes several diabetes medications — metformin, dulaglutide (Trulicity), and empagliflozin (Jardiance), all of which have likely helped with his weight loss. Given his progress, he’s optimistic that his doctor will soon ask him to drop one or more of them.
He’s also completely changed his relationship with exercise: “I used to, if not hate exercise, at most feel like it was an imposition on my time and a chore. Now, I’m looking to add movement and new exercises to my day whenever I can. I feel like I can’t wait to get a workout in or a game of pickleball.”
Mike is a terrific example of a person with diabetes who has used every option at his disposal —not just diet, exercise, medication, and technology, but also hard-won personal experience — to design a sustainable weight loss plan that really works for him.