Here's How One Doctor Lost 125 Pounds in 18 Months After the Death of His Sister
"What she was going through wasn't her choice. What I was doing to myself was."
At his heaviest, Dr. Kevin Gendreau, 31, a primary care doctor in Fall River, Massachusetts, weighed more than 300 pounds. But after losing his father and then sister to cancer, he started to appreciate how precious his own life was. "As things were starting to look more and more grim, the concept that what I was doing to my body was my choice increasingly solidified," Gendreau told Best Life. That's when his 125-pound weight loss journey began.
Back when Gendreau was just 17 years old, he watched on helplessly as his father slowly succumbed to terminal cancer. The experience was devastating, and, like many people, he turned to food for comfort. "I basically began to eat my feelings in sugar and processed carbohydrates and use food as an anti-depressant," he said. "When you eat junk food, your brain releases dopamine and increases serotonin—both 'feel-good' hormones—so it's kind of like a hit of a drug."
But what began as a coping mechanism soon spiraled into a full-blown addiction to food, one that wreaked havoc on Gendreau's physical and mental health.
"I was diagnosed with high blood pressure, hypertension, high cholesterol, fatty liver disease, and sleep apnea, among other things," he said. "I knew they were all because of my eating habits, but I just couldn't stop."
At his heaviest, Gendreau was 306 pounds, which was clinically obese for his height. And while he had achieved his dream of becoming a primary care doctor, being a physician while clinically obese was extremely uncomfortable. "I felt like such a hypocrite telling patients to eat clean and then going home and having an entire box of cookies and a carton of milk," he said.
His social and love life also suffered. "I kind of just built a wall around myself," he said. "I didn't have my first boyfriend until I lost weight because I just didn't want to face the dating world. It was really harsh to be single and so uncomfortable in my own skin."
Then, in 2016, Gendreau's older sister, Rachel, was diagnosed with a very aggressive form of ovarian cancer. It was similar to their father's cancer in that it was metastatic, and watching her go through rounds and rounds of surgery and radiation gave him a deeper appreciation for how significant and precious his own physical health truly is.
"I knew she was going through all of this just to buy more time with her two children," Gendreau said. "What she was going through wasn't her choice. What I was doing to myself was."
On August 1st of that year, Gendreau said he "woke up and decided that this was going to be the day that I changed my whole life."
Sadly, Rachel died on June 1, 2017, at the age of 32. But this time, the tragedy didn't have Gendreau turning to food. He instead was more motivated to build upon the changes he had already made to his diet, so that he could be around to help raise Rachel's children, who were six and two at the time of her death.
Gendreau cut out all junk food and started to eat a whole food diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, and protein. He used MyFitnessPal to track his calorie intake, and the pounds began melting off.
After losing 70 pounds, his weight plateaued, which is when he used intermittent fasting to shed 55 more pounds.
"Losing the weight completely cured me of all of my medical problems, and it brought down the wall," he said.
Now at a healthy 181 pounds, Gendreau hopes his story inspires other people who might be struggling with addiction, whether food or otherwise.
"When you're wrestling with an addiction, it's so hard to get yourself out of that cycle," he said. "The best advice that I can give is to find a motivation to change. For me, it was my sister getting sick and needing to be there for her kids, but it could be anything. Once you find that reason and commit to it, you're good to go."
And for another inspiring weight loss story, check out This Man Lost 70 Pounds And Now Looks Like a Disney Prince.
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