Dr. Britell’s SANE Story: Healing Myself While Having Fun

by Catherine W. Britell, M.D.

I’ve attended every medical educational offering on obesity that I could find. Despite continued dieting, my weight crept up to 230lbs. I decided to give eating more and exercising less a try. Went off half of my blood pressure medications, my blood sugar improved, as did my serum lipids. I’ve gone from a size 22 to a size 14 and have lost 45 lb. and kept if off for over a year!

“As a physician who specializes in Rehabilitation Medicine, my goal has always been maximizing healthy functioning in my patients – and myself. I was a “chubby” child, always more interested in books than sports, but with puberty, through high school, college and medical school, I worked long hours, ate very little, and I suppose I could have been considered “shapely” but not obese.

But then came pregnancy, with gestational diabetes, two C-sections due to very large babies, and significant weight gain. After our second child was born, I developed hypertension and despite a very low-calorie diet and daily intense walking program, never lost the weight I had gained. As time went on, the hypertension became worse, and hyperlipidemia developed. I was given statins and developed severe muscle inflammation as a result. I continued doggedly following my doctors’ advice, eating a very low-fat, low-calorie diet and exercising moderately every day. With menopause came more weight gain despite continued starvation dieting and long hours of exercise. As I continued a very busy life as a mother and physician and medical educator, I was always quite embarrassed about my body. I thought doctors should know better than to be fat; but despite my very best effort, I was still – well – fat!

Over the years, I’ve attended every mainstream medical educational offering on obesity that I could find; anxious to learn something new that would make me healthier. On my doctor’s recommendation, I maintained my very low-fat, low-calorie diet, keeping food diaries and exercising at least 45 minutes to an hour a day. I worked with a dietitian, who was convinced that I was not being honest about my food intake. She suggested psychological counseling around my “overeating problem”. I was sent to a cardiologist because of some heart rhythm abnormalities and as we talked, I mentioned “I know it would be good if I could lose weight, but I’ve tried everything, and I guess I’m just pretty much a failure at that…” I’ll never forget his comment: “Cathy, don’t beat yourself up about being overweight. I’ve never seen a post-menopausal woman with your numbers who COULD lose weight. You’re just going to have to deal with being the way you are, and I have to try to help you.” At least he believed that I was trying!

Over the next few years, my weight crept up to 230 lb, despite continued dieting. I hated oatmeal but ate it religiously for breakfast every day, because I was a very good girl and the doctor and dietitian said I must. I developed a fatty liver and gallstones, and underwent a cholecystectomy. It took 3 medications to control my blood pressure. My hips became painful, and I was happy that the elliptical trainers became widely available at the gym so that I could get on them for hours, keeping my heart rate in the “target range” prescribed by my trainer, and listen to continuing medical education lectures on my MP3 player.

Then I read that a vegan diet might be useful both in controlling serum lipids and arthritis, as well as weight loss, so I adopted a very low-fat, low-calorie vegan diet. Just a few beans and a lot of gas. I seldom ate at restaurants or friends’ homes, and often made two dinners, because my husband was not enthralled with the vegan fare. I was chronically cold and tired; fighting to get through each day. My blood sugar was continuing to creep up and I started taking metformin, which caused a horrible taste in my mouth, making food completely unappetizing. I was afraid to get to close to people for fear that they would smell my horrible “metformin breath”. I hated the vegan diet and the gym and the elliptical trainer, and the medications…but I was afraid to change anything for fear that I would REALLY balloon up; so continued on that way for two years. I managed to lose 5 lb over that time.

Then one evening in February of 2012 I saw Jonathan Bailor on the evening news. I was intrigued, bought “The Smarter Science of Slim”, read it, and A LIGHT CAME ON! This made sense! How had I missed all the literature he’d reviewed? Why hadn’t any of the courses I’d attended included that? He described my situation perfectly, and outlined a path OUT OF THE QUAGMIRE of starvation and long hours of useless exercise! With more than a little uncertainty, I decided to give it a try. After three weeks, I was sold! My clothing already was becoming looser, I was warm, I was eating wonderful, plentiful meals, and I laughed a lot more! In the first six months, I lost 20 lb, two dress sizes, and half of my blood pressure medications. My blood sugar improved, as did my serum lipids. After a year, I had lost 35 lb and gone from Size 22W to Size 16. Now after 18 months, I’m down to Size 14 and have lost 45 lb. I’m not looking like a skinny model – yet – but in truth, I never did and I don’t really want to! And even though I’m only losing about a pound a month at this point, my body is still changing – adding muscle, losing fat, firming up, and getting smaller. I can now run up hills, lift heavy things, and take part in physically challenging activities just for the fun of it. I sleep like a baby and wake up refreshed. My joints are completely pain-free, my serum lipids and blood sugar are normal, fatty liver is gone, and I’m bursting with energy! At 66, I feel younger and more vibrant and pretty and fun and happy than I did at 45!

I still have some fat loss goals. I’d like to lose a few more pounds, add some muscle, maybe wear a Size 10 dress. Considering my age, history, and hormones, I’m not sure that will ever happen. Whether it does or not, I now have a body that is comfortable to be in, works really well, and is still GETTING HEALTHIER! I have a whole lot more time and energy for FUN! I LOVE eating MORE delicious food than ever, and my husband is thrilled with our lifestyle. I’m still working as a physician, educator and consultant, and lately have had the honor and pleasure of adding my expertise and energy to Jonathan’s team to help bring health and well-being to others. What a JOY!! Thanks, Jonathan!!”

– Catherine W. Britell, M.D.