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Need Advice Please, Very Concerned!!!
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Need Advice Please, Very Concerned!!!

I hope someone can give me some advice on how to handle this. I am very concerned!

My boyfriend is 53 years old. He is a cancer survivor, and had to have extensive chemo and radiation treatments to kill it (this was over 15 years ago). He has always had athsma, but it has gotten worse over the years. Plus, because of all the chemo and radiation, he now only has a 1/4 of one lung left that is functioning, and 3/4 of the other one. He is on at least 4 different medications (inhalors).

I've been only dating him for about a year or so now, and care deeply about him and want to help him get healthy, since he isn't at the moment. He is about 5'7" and weighs over 245lbs. He also suffers from severe sleap apnea and needs a machine to sleep at night, part of which is probably from his weight gain. He was quite thin about 10 years ago, and because of poor diet, lack of exercize (due to the fact that he feels like he can't breathe well and can't do what he used to be able to), and lack of motivation to get up and do anything, he has gained a substantial amount of weight. He has also gained quite a bit of weight since he's been dating me, probably due to a more sedintary lifestyle (he doesn't have to clean, do his own laundry, etc...). He is also a fantastic chef, which is bad because most of the foods he cooks are italian dishes with lots of carbs and fats.

Right now, because he can't breathe well (he sees his pulminologist regularily) and because he has gotten to be quite large, he doesn't do any exercize because he gets tired out easily, and has to use his inhalor almost instantly. Even walking longer distances can be a real challenge for him. I've been trying to prepare fresh, healthy foods for meals when I cook, but he drinks a lot as well, which just replaces the calories I took out of the meals. The "fat" on his body is almost exclusively in his midsection. The rest of his body is about your average body type (maybe even a little more muscle than most). But his stomach protrudes out and has a more solid feel, so I'm not sure how to get rid of something like that  -- I'm sure that losing the weight around his midsection will improve his breathing drastically!!!

I am bringing an exercize bike of his downstairs and am going to put it in front of the TV and try to gently push him to use it (I'll even use it to help motivate him). I am also going to try to get him hooked on more fruits and veggies. But, other than that, what can I do to help him lose weight? I don't care about his looks, I think he's dead sexy as he is, but I don't want him to have a heart attack and die, or just have a bad enough of an athsma attack and faint. Please! Help me with some ideas on how to help him?

I realize that I cannot force him to change his habits, or force him to get healthy. Also, he is the "macho" and "manly" type of man, who doesn't like anyone to worry about him. He used to be a very active athelete, which I think is the reason why he doesn't like to leave the couch anymore -- he's depressed about his size and thinks that because he can't exercize that he can never lose the weight.

Please help me! I appreciate ANY advice or tips.
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You should make sure you get permission from his doctor before starting him on any type of exercise program; however, the exercise bike sounds like a good idea - provided that his doctor okays it.  

In addition, walking is always good exercise; it doesn't take an hour long work out to be able to see results.  He could try just walking around inside the house to begin with; or when you go shopping, try parking a couple parking spaces further from the door than you normally would, then after a while, move a couple more spaces further out.  

He did not get this way overnight, so he can't lose the weight and/or get healthy overnight. He does not have to move/walk/peddle fast, or far; slow and steady will take longer, but will do just as well in the long run, at least until he can build some stamina.  

That's the exercise portion (Reader's Digest version) of getting started.

Turning to the diet....... not all carbs are created equal, so when HE's cooking, try to get him to switch to whole grain pastas, brown rice, etc.  Whole grains are complex carbs and take longer to break down, so you fill up faster and stay fuller longer AND they don't spike the blood sugar like simple carbs (white sugar, breads made from white, refined flour, regular pastas, etc).  

Fresh veggies also provide complex carbs (fiber) that take longer to break down in the body - this process also uses calories.  And don't forget the vitamins and minerals in them.

Fats -- like carbs are not all created equal, neither are fats.  The body requires some fats to help break down other nutrients, plus fat makes us feel satisfied - think how good you feel (at least I do) after eating a big, juicy, well marbled steak.  You can get the same satisfaction by switching to olive oil for cooking; or you can also try other oils, such as grape seed or coconut oil.  For an oil that really tastes good, try sesame oil.  At 14 grams of fat/tablespoon, the calorie count for sesame oil is pretty high, but 12 of those grams of fat are polyunsaturated and monounsaturated, which are the "good" fats that your body needs and can actually help with weight loss.  Read labels carefully and opt for those oils with the most mono and poly unsaturated fats.  Steer clear of most saturated fats, such as that found in that big, juicy, well marbled steak that I like so well.  

Protein -- make sure there is plenty of protein in every meal.  Some people do best eating several small meals/day, others, like myself prefer 3 meals/day, with a couple small snacks. Opt for chicken, fish (more good fats), turkey, very lean cuts of beef or pork.  

Dairy is also an excellent source of protein, plus vitamin B12 for energy... and who can't use more of that?  Studies show that the calcium in 3 servings/day of low/no fat dairy (including  milk, cheeses, yogurt, sour cream) can actually promote weight loss. Calcium supplements don't seem to work the same way.  

Nuts also fit into both the protein and "good fat" categories so controlled amounts of those are great, as are avocados, olives, etc. Bean and lentils are loaded with fiber, so enjoy, within reason..

Then we hit the fruit aisle......... While fruits have lots of vitamins/minerals that we need, we must be careful here.  The sugar in fruit (fructose) acts almost identical to white sugar when it hits the blood stream -- it's shoots blood sugar up in a hurry.  For instance, while oranges are chock full of vitamin C, they are also chock full of sugar (my son is diabetic and was advised to drink OJ when his blood sugar went too low, because that would bring it up quickly).  Limit fruits that are high in sugar and opt for those that are  highest in fiber, such as apples, pears, etc.  Don't forget that the nutrients of a lot of fruits (and veggies, like tomatoes, potatoes, etc) are either in, or just under the skin, so peeling them often gets rid of a lot of nutrients.

All of this said -- the most important advice I would give is to make changes that your boyfriend can live with, from now on; don't go for some gimicky diet that promises anything fast.  Make changes slowly, get used to one change before making another - such as switching sodas for water.  Don't know if your boyfriend drinks sodas, but if so let's set an example -- if he drinks 6 sodas/day, start by switching one of those for a large glass/bottle of ice water (it takes calories to warm up that water)....... after a few days, switch another of the sodas for a large glass of ice water.... continue doing this until he no longer drinks sodas, but if on occasion, he gets a craving for a soda, don't deprive him of it.  Don't forget that diet sodas are just as bad as regular sodas in spite of the fact that they have no calories...  Sodas is just one example of things that can be traded for a healthier food -- swap candy bars for fresh carrots, celery with peanut butter or an apple, etc.

Be sure to calculate your boyfriend's proper calorie needs.  It takes so many calories/day just to sustain bodily functions, such as heart beat, digestion, brain, lung, kidney, liver function...... every bodily process requires calories and if you cut calories too much, the body will hold onto fat because it knows there's not enough food coming in...  

The minimum number of calories required (Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR)) is calculated using the persons current height, weight, age and activity level.  If you need help doing this, let me know and I'll be glad to help you.

Another thing I'd advise is that your boyfriend should "eat every time he's hungry" but only enough to appease the hunger.  It's not necessary to eat until we are stuffed.  

This didn't happen overnight, it can't be rectified overnight, and every change must be something he can live with.

Last, but not least -- have his thyroid levels been tested?  With all that chemo, there could be an issue there... the thyroid controls metabolism, so if it's not functioning properly, weight gain/inability to lose are sure things - I know this from my own experience.  

I'd suggest that he get tested for Free T3, Free T4 (thyroid hormones) and TSH (pituitary hormone that stimulates the thyroid to produce hormones).  

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