Last spring, Walsh hit a wall.
In fulfilling a promise to his mother, he reluctantly visited a doctor for a check-up appointment, something he “avoided like the plague.” As he stepped onto the scale to have his weight measured, he watched the numbers climb to the highest total they had reached in his lifetime.
“401 pounds … I hit 401 pounds,” he recalled. “I became the largest I’d ever been.”
His doctor informed him his blood pressure was “sky high,” he was pre-diabetic and, at the rate he was going, he may only live another decade.
Shortly after that appointment, as Walsh celebrated his 40th birthday in May, his daughter Lauren, 20, approached him tearfully.
Using her words, she painted a picture for him, one that consisted of a world where she may one day be walking down the aisle toward her future husband, but without her father by her side; a world where she may be blessed with children, but they would never know their grandfather.
“I remember that conversation very clearly,” Lauren recalled. “We got into one of the serious talks before he considered losing weight, and I just told him … I don’t know what my future holds right now, but I know for sure I want to get married some day. If he only had 10 more years left, I didn’t know if he’d be able to walk me down the aisle.”
Lauren, who was finishing up her freshman year at Grand Valley State University at the time, was blunt with her father.
“I wasn’t trying to guilt him in any way, but I was just trying to tell him, honestly, I want you around, I want you around to see my grandchildren someday,” she said. “If he only had 10 more years left … that wouldn’t happen.”
For Walsh, it was the wake-up call he needed.
“My kids were worried about me, and there’s nothing like when your kid comes to you and says, ‘Dad, I want you to be around for when I got married, but I don’t know if you will be’” he said. “I’m 40 now, but I was looking at not even being around at 50.”
At that point, Walsh turned to a close friend for inspiration.
Gastric Sleeve Surgery
Ann Harvey, 43, who has long been involved as a volunteer with Greenville Public Schools, has been a friend of Mike’s for years. They also had something in common neither was proud to admit.
“I remember thinking, don’t hit 300 pounds, just don’t hit 300 pounds and you’ll be fine,” Harvey said. “I’ve always been the chunky little girl, the fluffy adolescent, the fat high-schooler. I always knew I didn’t want to be that, but once you’re in that role, it’s very difficult to break out of that role.”
In 2015, Harvey found herself at 314 pounds, a weight so heavy it began complicating her health and safety.
Harvey fell ill and doctors attempted to perform an ultrasound on her, but due to her weight they couldn’t capture a clear picture. Eventually, it was determined a tumor the size of a softball had grown on one of her ovaries.
“That was my lightbulb moment,” Harvey said, recalling how after doctors removed the tumor they discovered starter cancer cells. “There was no way I was not going to be a mom for my daughter.”
With her daughter Grace and husband Trevor in mind, Harvey made the decision to undergo a gastric sleeve surgery, in which 80 to 85 percent of her stomach was removed. Her stomach was then sewn up and a sleeve was placed over it to prevent it from stretching back out.
A little more than a year since the surgery, Harvey is down 158 pounds to a new weight of 156 pounds.
“I am an active part of my daughter’s life now, that’s a pretty big statement,” she said. “I don’t feel like a spectator anymore. We can go for a bike ride together. I don’t have to watch my daughter grow up, I can be a part of it, and that’s the biggest gift I’ve given myself.”
Harvey shared her experience with Walsh, and after the dire news his doctor had delivered to him, he decided to undergo the same procedure.
“I was never willing to pull the trigger, I needed to go and pray about this,” Walsh said. “I talked to Ann, and she was very encouraging. I talked to my family, and then I decided to get serious.”
Walsh began a new diet, cutting back on his regular intake of food down to 2,500 calories a day.
“That was night and day compared to what I had been intaking,” he said. “I would mound food on my plate, or stop at fast food. I’d order a double quarter pounder with cheese, fries and a shake, and add a chicken sandwich to feel healthy.”
He eventually lost enough weight to be green-lit for the gastric sleeve surgery in August. That procedure was followed by a two-week diet of 800 calories per day,
“I was looking forward to three ounces of beef jerky like it was a steak,” Walsh recalled.
After he recovered from the surgery, he found the new lifestyle choices he was being forced to make were going a long way in making him a better person.
A New Man
Walsh now finds himself eating several small meals throughout the day, consisting of protein shakes and much smaller portions of the foods he once ate without limit.
“I never felt full before. That’s been the biggest revolution with this.” he said. “I could always eat a little more. Now I feel full, and it feels good to feel full.”
Just eight months after the fateful doctor’s appointment, he lost more than 130 pounds.
Being the charismatic, caring and involved elementary school principal that he is, Walsh no longer feels hypocritical about his role as a leader in the school and community.
“Now I can get down on the floor, sit cross-legged with these kids and read them a story,” he said. “I can play with them during gym class or at recess. It’s been life-altering in every possible sense. My professional life, my personal life, my marriage, children and friendships … it’s changed everything about me for the better.”
Walsh’s wife Tara said the change has been evident within the household.
“It really has changed his life,” she said. “He’s off heartburn medication, he doesn’t have too use his sleep apnea machine anymore. He’s running up and down the football field as a coach. Just knowing that he is gong to be around for my kids, and be a grandpa, it’s just amazing, and I’m so proud to call him my husband.”
Staying Committed to Weight Loss
As 2016 comes to an end, and people consider resolutions for the new year, Walsh and Harvey believe no matter what the addiction, steps can be taken to make positive changes in life.
According to Walsh, the most difficult thing about weight loss — or any addiction — is making sure that new lifestyle changes remain permanent.
“I needed to do a complete 180 in my life,” Walsh said. “Small, little compromises would have led me back to the same path. I’m not compromising and I’m not going back. I’ve seen too much improvement this time around to fall back on old habits.”
Walsh says the key to not slipping up is to ensure that a change in life as significant as his is done for one person — himself.
Despite his inspiration from his students, staff, friends, children and wife, Walsh said if he hadn’t come to the realization that he needed to change for himself, the change would never last.
“We all come to this juncture, this fork in the road in our lives … and you have to make a change,” he said. “I knew if it was going to make a change like this, I needed to go all-in and do everything.
“The key is to do it for yourself. You have to want to do it for yourself. It’s got to be something you feel strongly for yourself, otherwise it’s not going to happen. If you are not 100 percent in this to better yourself, it won’t work. My advice for people going through any kind of addiction, you have to come to terms with what you want for yourself, and go all in. There’s no part-way, you’ve got to make the commitment and make the leap and keep trying, and don’t give up on yourself.”
For Harvey, the sentiment is the same.
“It’s not cheating if you’re helping yourself, whatever helps you become the healthiest you, that’s not cheating, that’s helping you live,” she said. “A lot of people think, because you’ve had a surgery, you’ve cheated. But you can eat out of your sleeve, you can eat around it, you can eat through it. It is a tool, it is not a fix-all. What you put in your mouth is in there. If you keep eating cookies, you’re going to get fat again.
“Everybody thinks to themselves, should I eat that second piece of cake? Now we are thinking, should I eat that first piece of cake? I still have to watch what I eat.”
As Walsh wrapped up singing on the evening of the OUR3 concert, it was evident the change he had made was a positive one.
“I’m a different person because of this whole process, and I like who I’ve become and I don’t want to go back,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to keep going, to make sure that everyone feels proud of me, and what I’ve been able to do, to keep working hard at it, for my future grandkids, for my own students, and my children.”
Article Source: The Daily News