Duluth man’s inspiring weight-loss journey with help from Essentia Health

David Westerberg’s light-bulb moment came after visiting a loved one who’d had a heart attack. A case manager for the Salvation Army, the 47-year-old Duluthian didn’t get much activity in his daily routine. He knew he needed to change his diet or face the health consequences of weighing 408 pounds. That’s when he reached out to the Weight Management team at Essentia Health’s Duluth Clinic.

Since July 2017, when David started his weight-loss journey, he’s lost 48 pounds and transformed the quality of his life. At the same time, he’s been paying it forward by fundraising for the Multiple Sclerosis Society. He’s collecting pledges from friends and family for every pound he loses. A relative has MS. “By raising money, I’m helping to find a cure so my loved one can live a normal life. That makes it easy to say no to a cookie or donut when plain willpower won’t do it,” David says.

“David is inspiring and inspired,” says Dr. Christine Depenthal, who specializes in weight management at Essentia. “Not only is he working hard to improve his health, but he is also using this experience to benefit others.”

As David continues his weight-loss efforts, he credits the guidance he’s received from the Weight Management team, including Essentia Health Physician Assistant Ryan Vanderscheuren. “They have given me the tools and the support I need to succeed,” David says. “I’ve made big changes a little at a time.”

Those changes include more activities, more diversity in his diet and fewer carbohydrates. “I’ve learned a new way of eating. I don’t like vegetables, but I’m adding vegetables like zucchini to recipes. I eat a lot of spinach – I’m like Popeye. And I’ve experimented with recipes – like mashed cauliflower,” David says. “I haven’t given up on pizza. I’ve just found new ways to make it, including using tortillas for the crust. What you eat has to be appealing and taste good, otherwise you can’t maintain those changes.”

For exercise, David bought a fitness tracker and began challenging himself to get up every hour and walk. His knees and feet hurt at first, but it’s now easier and pain-free. And regular appointments with Dr. Depenthal and Ryan keep David encouraged and on track. A recent trip to Disney World in Florida reinforced how the changes are making a difference. “It started on the plane. For the first time in years, I was comfortable in an airline seat and the seatbelt fit. It felt amazing,” he says. “We must have walked seven miles a day in the park and I felt good. I also could fit on rides that I couldn’t go on before.”

Weight-loss resources:
Essentia Health offers non-surgical and surgical weight-loss programs. To learn more, go to www.EssentiaHealth.org and under “Find a Specialty,” search for weight loss.

Tips to improve your health:
When he began his weight-loss journey, David Westerberg had a goal of just wanting to feel better. Now that he’s almost 50 pounds lighter, he shares some tips for success:

  • Look for phone apps and online resources. David uses an app called My Fitness Pal to track his calories and carbohydrates.
  • Consider investing in a fitness tracker. “I’ve set a daily step goal and it reminds me to get up and get my steps in,” David says.
  • Tell family and friends about your fitness plans and enlist their support. “My wife, Deb, has been incredibly supportive, finding new ways to alter old recipes,” he says, adding that if your friends know you’re trying to lose weight, they’ll understand if you say no to treats and fast food.
  • Challenge yourself with specific goals. Once a week, make a new recipe, cook with a vegetable you’ve never tasted before or sign up for an activity you’ve never tried, such as water aerobics, Zumba or yoga.

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