Weight loss is no light task for millions of Americans as the market is flooded by short-term fixes and crash diets, but one university administrator decided to change his life and watched the pounds disappear.
Tom Idema, director of Student Conduct at Central Michigan University, was tired of being the big guy and set out to do something about it.
“I’ve always wanted to lose the weight and be fit,” Idema said. “I’ve struggled with my weight since college when I began to have unlimited food options.”
Last spring, Idema began his journey toward better health through MidMichigan Health’s Medical Weight Management Program. After four months in the program, Idema lost 120 pounds.
Idema tried dieting before, but ultimately found it hard to keep up since the programs were mostly self-monitored without medical supervision.
“I’ve tried diets like the Atkins diet where you experience temporary success, and then go back to the way you were,” he said.
This program, he said, was different.
As he started the regimen, Idema chose the program’s quick start plan. This plan entails eating 600-800 calories per day for four months.
During his involvement with the program, Idema met with a dietician, behavioral specialist and an exercise physiologist to supplement his weight loss.
The biggest obstacle, he said, was whether he thought such a substantial weight loss was possible.
“The biggest challenge I had was that they told me I would lose 3-5 pounds a week and being able to accept that that was possible,” he said.
Idema’s motivation to get healthy went beyond trying to lose weight.
As a type 2 diabetic, Idema was on a number of prescription medications. With his involvement in the program, he takes three medications as a precautionary measure.
After being on the program for four months, Idema was able to start adding calories back into his diet.
His blood sugar levels, for the first time in years, are now considered normal.
“I’m almost off all medications,” he said.
A change in lifestyle
The quick start program, Idema emphasized, was about a lifestyle change and nutrition training, not a diet. He learned to think about why he’s eating and how eating provides fuel until your next meal.
“They never called it a diet,” Idema said. “They educated you on nutrition. Any exercise I could do was (also) encouraged.”
Sara Krebs, coordinator for the Medical Weight Management Program at MidMichigan, was Idema’s exercise physiologist. Although she was on maternity leave for part of his time on the program, Krebs said the changes in his health were quickly noticeable.
“When I came back he was very confident in his choices and trying to manage his weight long-term,” Krebs said.
Krebs said she knew Idema was ready to make a change the first time she met with him.
“He’s taken any suggestions that we’ve made and he’s worked on them,” Krebs said. “He knows he has to do the work.”
Idema credits staff members like Krebs as one of the reasons he’s stayed in the program.
After he finishes the program in May, Idema said he will continue to recommend it to others.
“I think one of the coolest parts about this program was that the staff was nice,” Idema said. “They didn’t judge or belittle me. They were positive, encouraging and supportive.”
Aside from health, the benefits can be felt in his personal life, as well.
Last summer Idema coached his daughter’s soccer teams and played basketball and softball with other faculty at CMU.
People around Idema noticed his commitment to the program throughout the four months, including his wife, Judy.
“He had his goal in mind from the beginning and was relentless in persevering,” she said. “We’ve changed some of our recipes to be more nutritional.”
The positive transformations Judy saw in her husband since he began the program were not only impressive, but worthwhile.
“I think he has more energy,” Judy said. “We’ve changed some of our recipes to be more nutritional. Going through this program Tom has realized his health has to be a top priority.”
With his success so far, Idema is conscious of helping others on their health journeys, even just by talking about his own path.
Idema’s advice to college students trying to manage their weight is portion control. He wears an armband that tracks how many steps he takes each day as well – steps that have led him down a healthier path.
“If you’re not hungry, ask yourself, ‘Why am I eating what I’m eating?’” he said. “If you can, go to the SAC or somewhere you can walk in the winter.”