Two years ago, Vacaville resident Bill Abeling, 53, made a herculean effort to lose weight and dropped 125 pounds in less than a year. His incredible makeover was featured in the Winter 2012 issue of Wellspring. No, he wasn’t on The Biggest Loser—he created his own regime of reducing calories and increasing his exercise. And the following year it all caught up with him, as he faced both knee and hip surgery.
He began his transformation by walking two miles in the morning and two miles at lunch. He walked in the evening and started strength training. And he gave his diet an overhaul.
As the pounds melted away, Bill searched for ways to increase his weight loss. He added a 60-pound weight belt to his walking regime, then 10-pound wrist and ankle weights. “Soon I was walking 4 miles a day carrying 100 pounds of weight,” Bills remembers.
“I was so impressed by my weight loss that I didn’t recognize the warning signs of what I was doing to my joints.”
Bill’s knee was the first to complain and in January 2013 he underwent arthroscopic knee surgery, performed by orthopedic surgeon Andrew Brooks, M.D. As he was wheeled into surgery, Dr. Brooks asked how his pain was.”I told him my knee was fine but my groin hurt,” Bill remembers. “I just thought I had a groin injury, but Dr. Brooks put my leg through some movements and proclaimed my hip was the problem.”
In December 2013, Bill entered the NorthBay Joint Replacement Program at VacaValley Hospital for a total hip replacement. Again, Dr. Brooks performed his surgery.
The Joint Replacement Program offers hip and knee replacement surgery with a two- to three-day hospital stay. The first day is surgery and the following days focus on getting the patient up and walking. A friend or family member acts as “coach” to help the patient and to learn about post-surgical care. Two or three patients undergo surgery on the same day so they can recover as a group – giving each other encouragement and support.
“I was probably the youngest patient in my group by 30 years,” he remembers. “And Dr. Brooks agreed that my overzealous work with weights probably contributed to the breakdown of my hip.”
As he recovered from his knee and hip surgeries, unable to exercise, he rediscovered the joy of food, and watched the pounds return as fast as they had melted away. In what seemed like no time at all, he gained 58 pounds.
“Now I’m taking a much slower approach to losing weight and getting back into shape,” Bill says. “I’ve adjusted my diet and begun a much more reasonable exercise routine.”
The 6’4″ former athlete knows how it feels to be light and fit. “This is real life. Sometimes I feel like ‘The Truman Show,’ but I have the same goals as anyone else—to reduce my risks of disease by getting the weight off, once and for all.”