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Good Living
100 pounds later, A NEW LIFE PDF Print E-mail
Written by BILL SCHANEN IV   
Wednesday, 24 January 2018 17:49

At 312 pounds, he turned to a demanding Aurora diet program with spectacular results

    These days, people pull Duane Woelfel aside and, with serious looks on their faces, whisper in his ear.
    “They ask me if I’m sick,” Woelfel, the Port Washington-Saukville School District’s director of special services, said.
    “When I tell them no, they congratulate me.”
    That’s how dramatic Woelfel’s weight loss has been.
    Since August, he has shed 103.5 pounds, going from a weight of 312 to 208.5 pounds in less than half a year. His goal is to drop another 9.5 pounds  and enjoy life at a comfortable weight of 199 pounds.
    So, no, Woelfel isn’t sick. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
    “I feel fantastic,” he said. “Of course I feel great physically, but I also feel great psychologically.
    “I have so much more energy, and it seems that everything is that much more fulfilling for me now.”
    Woelfel traces his day of reckoning — the moment he was confronted with the fact he needed to make profound changes in his life — to a milestone in November 2016.
    “I turned 50,” he said. “That gets you thinking about your lifestyle and how you want to be around a lot longer to enjoy life.
    “And turning 50 means you should have some routine medical tests.”
    For Woelfel, those tests included a full blood panel.
    “The results were not flattering, to say the least,” he said. “I had high triglycerides, which was no surprise, and high cholesterol, also no surprise.”
    Woelfel and his doctor talked about strategies to improve his health and scheduled a follow up visit.
    “I went back six months later for more tests and the results actually got worse,” he said.     
    Woelfel knew he had to make changes in his life, and he knew he was going to need help.
    “I have begun and failed on the diet roller coaster so many times I can’t count them,” he said.
    Turning 50 also motivated Woelfel, as he said, “to join the 21st century” and create a Facebook account. Not long after, he befriended a former student who had turned his life around by losing a significant amount of weight through Aurora Health Care’s Health Management Resources, a medically supervised weight loss program.
    Woelfel was inspired, and after researching the program, he decided to give it a try.
    The program offers various diet levels, and Woelfel, determined to take off the weight he put on over the course of his adult lifetime in just months, chose the most restrictive one, called Decision Free, which he began in August.
    “I went all in,” he said.
    A former cross-country runner, Woelfel admits he was embarrassed that he let his body slide. It happened insidiously over the course of decades, he said.
    “First, there was the freshman 15 in college,” he said. “Then, if you think about it, you gain five pounds every year, and after 20 years, that’s 100 pounds.”
    The Decision Free program meant a radical departure from Woelfel’s normal diet and lifestyle and what he calls his “unhealthy relationship with food.”
    He could only eat prepared Health Management Resources food — at least two small entrees, of which there are 25 to 30 to chose from, and a total or combination of three shakes, soups or oatmeals a day.
    Fruits and vegetables were forbidden, as was alcohol. He could drink water, diet soda and coffee.
    “The coffee would have been the deal-breaker,” he said.
    The program also requires participants to burn 2,000 calories a week through exercise.
    Every week, Woelfel visits the Aurora clinic in West Bend, where he selects his food for the week and consults with medical professionals.
    “And because of the amount of weight I needed to lose, I also met with a doctor every week,” he said.
    The results were almost immediate. Woelfel lost 13.5 pounds after his first week in the program, although he notes most of that was water weight.
    By the time he went to see his primary care physician in November, he had lost 75 pounds. His blood tests reflected even more important changes.
    “I’m not overstating it when I say that not only were my blood tests in the normal range, they were solidly in the normal range,” he said. “Before that, my doctor said my triglyceride and cholesterol levels were in the top 5% of any results he had ever seen.”
    Physically, Woelfel’s transformation was stunning, and maintaining a wardrobe of clothes that fit became a challenge.
    “Every three week I had to turn over my wardrobe,” he said. “I went from shopping at Men’s Wearhouse to Walmart.”
    His shirt and jacket size went from triple extra large to large. And while he was “squeezing into size 48 pants” before the program, his waist size is now between 34 and 36 inches.
    But most rewarding for Woelfel was the change in how he feels — physically and mentally.
    “I’m doing things now that I haven’t done in a very long time,” he said.
    He has rediscovered his love of exercise and is running four to five miles a day, six days a week.
    “I have so much energy now, and that spills over into everything I do, my personal life and my professional life,” he said.
    A sportsman, Woelfel used to labor through fields in search of pheasants.
    “I’d be huffing and puffing, but now the guys tell me I have to slow down,” he said. “My wife tells me the same thing when we’re shopping, and I don’t even realize I’m going that fast.”
    And he has ended his unhealthy relationship with food and the lifestyle it created.
    “Pretty much every night at 9 I’d make my way from the couch to the refrigerator,” he said. “Now I feel guilty when I take a day off exercising.”
    The results have been transformative, but they didn’t come easy and wouldn’t have been possible without the support of his family, Woelfel said.
    “Support is critical if you’re going to be successful, and my family has been so supportive,” he said. “My wife has been my rock.”
    Woelfel’s wife Judy and their adult children made a paper chain for him — a link for each day bearing an inspirational message.
    “Each day, either before or after working out, I’d read one of the links, which really helped me,” he said.
    Holidays were particularly challenging. While those around him were feasting, Woelfel had Health Management Resources entrees to chose from.
    Luckily, he said, his wife is an “amazing cook,” and managed to combine one of his entrees with a Health Management Resources soup to create something that tasted a lot like stuffing and gravy for Thanksgiving. She did something similar to create a dessert that resembled apple crisp.
    Last week, Woelfel started the second phase of the Health Management Resources program, which focuses on maintaining his weight and continuing his healthy lifestyle.
    He is now allowed to incorporate fruits and vegetables into his diet, and said he didn’t know what he’d been missing.
    “I was never a fruits and vegetables guy, but now I’ve discovered a new appreciation for them,” he said. “Now, I can’t get enough of them.”
    Woelfel has come a long way in a short amount of time, but he knows that the mental and physical challenges will continue.
    “When you lose that much weight, your body fights back,” he said. “Your body doesn’t know the difference between dieting and starvation, so maintenance is important.”
    That’s where willpower comes into play, and Woelfel has rediscovered the fact that healthy foods and exercise can be as addictive as junk food and sitting on the couch.
    “For me, the motivation is definitely there,” he said. “As rewarding as it has been to lose all this weight, it would be equally as devastating to put it all back on.”
    Once an unlikely role model for health and wellness, Woelfel said he hopes his experience inspires others to make seemingly impossible changes in their lives.
    “I sincerely want people to take a look at this and say, ‘I can do that too,’” he said. “As cliche as it sounds, if I can do this, given my unhealthy relationship with food, anyone can do this.”

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