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A Tool for Weight Loss

A Tool for Weight Loss

When Rick Reuwsaat works in his woodshop, he has every tool he needs to make incredible projects.

Whether he’s crafting custom furniture or simple boats for the grandkids, he can spend hours cutting, planing and sanding until the project is just right. Neighbors and family stop by, knowing that he has the skill – and the saws and clamps -- he needs to create just what they’re looking for.

After years of struggling with weight that complicated his diabetes and caused a variety of different health problems, the 57-year-old Sioux Falls social worker was looking for a different kind of tool. This time, it would be a tool to help him save his health.

“I had tried just about everything and the writing was on the wall,” says Rick, who works everyday with patients seeking organ transplants. “What I needed was a tool to help me lose the weight before things got any worse.”

Serious health problems

Rick had fought to maintain his weight for years due to the side effects of medication. As a Type II diabetic with a system that was resistant to insulin, he had to give himself multiple injections a day to keep his blood sugars under control. The amount he needed to inject crept higher week by week until he was using boxes of insulin on a monthly basis.

At the same time, his weight kept increasing. As he neared 300 pounds, other health concerns developed. His blood pressure skyrocketed and he was treated for sleep apnea. Even more frightening, he was diagnosed with stage three kidney disease, a condition he had watched his sister battle before her death at age 41.

“I was doing everything that I was supposed to be doing, but it just didn’t work,” Rick says. “The more insulin I took, the more weight I put on and I didn’t see any end to it.”

Rick began to research the possibility of weight-loss surgery to help him make the complete lifestyle changes he needed to lose and keep off the weight. As the husband of a dietician, he had done his best to eat healthy and was active, but he knew that he needed something more. He decided on gastric bypass surgery since it would require a total commitment to change.

“I have five kids and nine grandkids,” says Rick, displaying the Mancala game he made with the help of a granddaughter in his woodshop. “I wasn’t looking for a cosmetic change. I wanted to be around for another 20 years and not on dialysis.”

A way to change

In March 2010, he underwent gastric bypass surgery, a procedure to reduce the size of his stomach and bypass part of the small intestine. Almost immediately, the weight started dropping off.

Although he’s always been active and very busy, Rick found it much easier to do all of the things he’s enjoyed, such as painting and home improvement and even standing in his shop, working on projects. Rather than being tired and easily winded, he had dreams of running a 5K race.

“I fit into a booth at restaurants. I can see my feet, even though I had forgotten how unattractive they were,” he laughs. “There were so many things that had become nearly impossible, like just tying your shoes.”

Within six months, Rick had lost exactly 100 pounds. Today, he often has to reintroduce himself when he meets clients and friends who haven’t seen him in months, because they don’t recognize him anymore.

He’s worked to maintain the weight loss. At work, Rick’s known for taking the stairs during his lunch hour – getting in at least 400-600 stair steps a day. During the winter, he heads to the gym at least three to four days a week, working out at home on the treadmill for an hour or more on the days he can’t otherwise exercise. As soon as the weather gets warmer, he gets out his bicycle. This year, he plans to ride one of the days of the Tour de Kota, taking a 42-mile leg of the bicycle ride that winds through the back roads of rural South Dakota.

Since the pounds began dropping, he no longer has to take medication for gastric reflux or high blood pressure and his kidneys are performing well. He uses only a small fraction of the insulin that he used to use on a daily basis.

He has no problems maintaining the small meals necessary to keep his weight down. Just like the power sander in his workshop, the surgery was a tool, he says. It has helped him get the start of a new lifestyle where he has all the energy and health he needs to keep up with the grandkids. What happens next is up to him.

“This tool makes it a little easier, to be sure, but keeping the weight off requires commitment and discipline,” Rick says. “Now it’s up to me to get where I want to go.”

Posted Date: April 2011