Four years ago, Doug Siverly was getting ready to walk in his son’s wedding. At 148 kilos, he could barely make it across the store’s parking lot to look at tuxes without huffing and puffing, and when he did settle on one, getting it altered was quite the process—or in his words, a disaster, embarrassing, and eye-opening, to say the least.
The 53-year-old San Diego resident had been recently diagnosed with gastric lymphoma, a type of stomach cancer, and was understandably worried about his future.
“I felt sorry for myself, so I ate a lot of milkshakes and ice cream, and put on a lot of weight all through chemotherapy,” he says. “I wasn’t feeling very good about myself at all.”
Even though he went into remission in 2015, Siverly was diagnosed with diabetes soon after. This diagnosis, coupled with the experience getting his tux altered, made him realize that it was time to completely overhaul the way he was living.
“The human nature doesn’t like to lose control, and as a recovering cancer patient, you’re clearly out of control in that scenario,” Siverly explains. “So I did everything to re-establish control.”
The first thing he did was was cut down on his portion sizes and eliminate the sweets and refined, processed carbs he’d been eating so much of. His sister recommended he use an app called Lose It! to keep track of what he ate and how many calories he consumed, which kept him honest.
“I’m an engineer, so I’m a data freak,” Siverly says. “It’s fun to channel it into something constructive.”
It was easier said than done, but Siverly knew he had to nix his 40-year-old smoking habit. He regularly puffed through a pack a day.
“It seemed on some level ridiculous to go into my oncologist’s office overweight and smelling like cigarettes and say, ‘Thanks for saving my life,'” he says. “So I thought [quitting] would be a good way to thank her.”
Adding exercise into his daily routine came a bit later, and because his age and weight made him worry about injuring himself, Siverly took to jogging in his local pool in the beginning. Soon after, he began walking as far as he could go around a tennis court with five-pound dumbbells (like these) after his pool sessions.
“My BMI was 26.69, and I got it down to 24.97. When you see your name next to the words ‘morbidly obese,’ it’s shocking. It makes the motivation pretty serious,” he explains.
Now, his days look a little like this: After having his morning cup of coffee, Siverly goes for an hour-long, 8-kilometre run with his 4-year-old rottweiler named Lacey. He finishes with an hour-long walk, now with 5-kilogram dumbbells.
From there, he has oatmeal and yogurt, goes for another hour-long walk, which is followed by a more substantial breakfast of two eggs with spinach, mushrooms, and onions. Lunch is usually two cups of chicken soup, and dinner—which he tries not to eat after around 6 p.m.—is something lighter, like a vegetable stir-fry with chicken or salmon.
“I don’t do fast food at all,” he says. “I thought I wanted fish and chips one time, so I walked into the restaurant, smelled the fried food, and just couldn’t order it. If i eat something that’s overly processed, I feel it. I don’t think I’ll touch a hotdog again.”
At 57 years old, Siverly now weighs 79 kilograms, and has almost completely reversed his diabetes.
“They do a test called an A1C that checks your blood sugar. My last A1C was 5.8m which is at the bottom of pre-diabetic—5.7 is the top of normal. So I’m just about there. I think by the end of the year I will be.”
Siverly has three grandchildren who he’s been able to teach how to ski, surf, and play basketball. They’re even in the process of planning a family backpacking trip. What’s more, he’ll run his first 5K race in February with his oncologist, who is the chair of his local Lymphoma Society.
“She inspired me to do it, and some of my friends who are runners that showed up when I was sick are going to do it, too,” says Siverly.
The key to his success? Consistency.
“Even when it’s cold and rainy and no one’s looking, you just have to be out there,” he says. “You didn’t gain a bunch of weight in a day, so you can’t solve it overnight. Start small and work your way up—that’s the most realistic approach. Slow and steady.”
By Danielle Zickl