Some people look at me now and don’t recognize the smaller, more healthy version of Mike Clemons. Others look REALLY hard as if trying to make sure that I really am “Big Mike” Clemons, the overweight drummer who’s toured with Usher, Israel & New Breed and others! But regardless of the initial looks, the next question is either, “how’d you lose all that weight?” or “are you sick?” While my journey towards a healthier version of my life came from the disciplined exercising and making healthier food choices, truth be told, the catalyst for this journey is that I was sick, but just didn’t know it!
I didn’t realize how sick I was until my wife noticed how much I was going to the bathroom. As far as the stereotype goes, some men have a hard time being convinced to go to the doctor; I realized I actually was one of THOSE guys. I ignored the problem and explained away going to the bathroom so much with the rationale, “well I’m drinking more water because I’m thirsty, so of course I’m going to the bathroom more.” But when I really got tired of getting up to go to the bathroom 3-4 times a night, I finally decided to listen to my wife and make the appointment.
I couldn’t believe it when the test results came back…I had Type 2 diabetes! Diabetes is a serious disease that can cause blindness, amputation of toes, feet, and legs, and even death, and I wanted NO part of that! I was like this is for real and I knew it was time for me to make a lifestyle change. In addition to taking my medicine, I started off with small changes to my diet. I ate less pasta, white rice, and for the most part ate less sweets. Apparently I wasn’t taking it seriously enough because when I went back to the doctor a few months later, my blood sugar levels were lower, but still not low enough. Months later I had another visit. I remember feeling horrible that day; light headed, sluggish, and soooooo scared. I said to myself, “ok that's it, I’ve got to do something different!”
That “scared straight” moment was my point of no return. I took it to the next level and did what I was supposed to. I was even more committed to eating right, I started working out and focused on my health and began losing weight and feeling better again. My next visit was better, I was doing well and was so happy. Then one day I ran out of pills and I “decided” I didn’t need them since diet and exercise seemed to being working out JUST fine. That was the wrong move. My blood sugar levels went up again! My doctor broke it down for me and my wife who there supporting me. He said, “if you don't do all you can and take your pills you will just make it worse on yourself.” His words affected me, but the fact that my wife was angry with me changed my life. Once we got home, we had a long hard talk.
“Listen if you want to die then do that on you own dime. You have a family that loves you and right now you are being selfish to think about yourself and not your wife, kids and other people that love you. You have to be an example to everyone and yourself. It's not our fault that you have this but you can control it if you do what you’re supposed to, so stop it and do what you have to do!”
That’s pretty much the edited version of what she said, but you get the point and so did I! Her words were the “tough love” and reality check I needed. She was right. If I eventually died because of complications from my diabetes, who would support my family, especially considering the fact that I applied for life insurance and was denied because my numbers were so high. It hit me and I realized how much diabetes could really ruin my life and that of my family if I didn’t get it in check. So I did.
Like a drug addict determined to get off drugs, I went cold turkey and stopped doing anything that could keep me from being the healthy husband and father I knew I was supposed to be. I had a boot camp approach and dedicated myself to a “lifestyle” rather than a diet or weight loss plan. I mean I went to the extreme on everything. I worked out at the gym two times a day,
ate only brown rice and wheat pasta, if any, and no fried foods. Knowing my personality, the only thing that worked for me was to admit I was too undisciplined not to “cheat“ and eat unhealthy foods; I told myself if I ate anything bad I was going to die. Now for some people, that may have been too much, but I was on a path headed for an early death if I didn’t turn my life around with a quickness, and there would be no life insurance for my family. I had a second chance to change my life and I was going to make sure it worked!
Today I’m healthy, fit and still working on being the best I can be. It's not a diet, it’s a lifestyle change, and I’m VERY happy about how my life has changed. My family is proud of me too. My youngest son likes my muscles and thinks I'm the coolest. I don't force strict eating on my kids, but I give them healthy choices, cut down on things like fast food, and cook more at home where I know the quality of the food and how it‘s prepared. I want them to see healthy habits at home so they can live a healthy life and eventually teach their kids when they get older. My experience has taught them how food and health are connected, and gives new meaning to the phrase “you are what you eat“. Now I eat healthy so I am healthy!
I remember the days when I wasn’t healthy. I was fat. I was uncomfortable. I felt bad about myself emotionally and my body felt like a kind of prison. I know what every fat person goes through, feels, and struggles with. Even with as much career success as I had, deep down I knew I wasn’t living the life I was supposed to be living. If you have never been fat you might not understand, but I do. If you are dealing with obesity like I was, you can overcome it and make a lifestyle change to positively affect the quality of your life forever. It's a choice that ultimately only you, and you alone, must make.
It's a choice I had to make. I didn’t want to feel “sick” anymore or head down a path to an early grave…I didn’t want to make my wife a widow or have my kids have to grow up fatherless. A few years ago I was on that path, but now I'm in MY best shape ever and it feels WONDERFUL. I like me even more now, and want to inspire others who feel like they can’t get fit and live a healthy life. I think God let me learn how fulfilling life can be through this experience, and if you are overweight, I want you to experience that victory too. My life is changed forever and I am happy about it, so remember, the longer you wait to lose weight, the longer your new life is on hold…YOU CAN DO THIS!
-"Big" Mike Clemons