Veteran loses 60 pounds, runs a half-marathon

Article Date: Jan 7, 2013

He's a busy father of three. He's a top personal injury attorney. And he's thinner than he's been since he returned from Operation Desert Storm in 1990—23 years ago.

After losing 60 pounds, Rich Hitz is also doing things he never imagined this time last year. He's run a sprint triathlon, finished the 10K in the Omaha Marathon and completed a half-marathon in Des Moines.

Like many lifelong dieters, Rich says he joined a new gym year after year, intending to lose weight and get in shape. But he never lost the weight. He says, "I just donated to every gym in town."

It took a friend who was into physical fitness to get on his "case" and motivate him to change. Even then, he didn't know where to turn: "I wanted something more. Not just working out. Not just stopping eating. I needed an all-encompassing approach. I asked myself, ‘How can I do this right?'"

His Alegent Creighton Clinic physician suggested a solution—Alegent Creighton Health's Weight Management Program. Dr. Joedy Istas pointed out that Rich had been putting on 10 to 15 pounds a year. "He was really good at telling me, ‘You can't keep this up."

Rich went to orientation and felt "they knew what they were doing. They made no promises. They told us it was going to be work and require discipline." He had blood drawn, went through a screening and prepared to buy the meal replacements that are the foundation of the program. But first, he splurged the month of December and gained seven more pounds.

January 3rd came and Rich joined almost two dozen others in the program at the Immanuel campus. "There was no hiding. We surrendered to the idea that we needed help."

Under the program, Rich had a minimum of two entrees or meal replacements a day, three shakes and unlimited fruits and vegetables. He liked the fact he could eat as many what he calls "authorized" entrees as he needed to not feel hungry, and he enjoyed loading up on fruits and vegetables. But he didn't like that his law firm had a retreat in Chicago—they dined at the best restaurants—and he had to stick to his program. "I still ended up having fun. They're eating their stuff and yours just looks completely different."

A big help: they talked about the trip ahead of time at a weight management meeting so he was able to plan. He took along his meal replacements and made sure he knew where the microwave was in the hotel. Rich didn't cheat, saying he had decided he was "just not going to."

About a month into the program, Rich also started exercising at the gym, admittedly half-heartedly. In early March he decided to try a run. His goal: a mile each way. He walked about two-thirds one way, then walked back: "The first time you do it is the worst." He soon was running the entire mile each way, then three miles around Lake Zorinsky. He ended up hooked: "That's when my weight loss really started clicking."
After three months on the program, Rich was ready for the maintenance portion. He found it harder than phase one because he now could go back to regular store-bought food. It helped that he had to turn in a list every week of what he was eating.

The program for Rich was about "turning the food triangle back on its right side." He kept eating lots of fruits and vegetables, then tapered off on other selections, ending with very few desserts.

He kept running. He entered a sprint triathlon in July, calling it "a big day." He swam 500 yards, rode a bike for 26 miles and ran three miles. "I felt a lot of accomplishment. It felt really good."

In September he ran 6.2 miles in the Omaha Marathon, then signed up for a half marathon in Des Moines in October. He told his kids, who are 15, 13 and 12, what he was going to do. "They rolled their eyes and had sheepish grins." But they'd seen his dedication to the program when he'd make their dinner, then eat his meal replacements with them. Two of the three were able to go to the race with him, the other had a soccer tournament. Rich was used to going to their school events and concerts. Having his children at his race—watching him run with 10 thousand other people— felt great.

The gun went off and Rich ran the 13.1 miles in two hours and 21 minutes.

He found his kids at the finish line, "I heard them. It was such a joy to see their faces, seeing how excited they were." He was ecstatic. He describes a picture someone took: "I look like I just won the Gold Medal at the Olympics. For me, it was better than the Olympics. Not because of the race but because of the work, training and dedication leading up to the race." He looks at a picture of himself on January 3rd before he started the program and says, "I still can't believe that person just ran 13.1 miles ...with no stopping, no limping, no resting. I ran the entire 13.1 miles, without a single mile over 11 minutes."

Next, Rich intends to run the Lincoln Marathon in May. He's kept 55 of the 60 pounds off but says, "It's harder now. There are no meetings every week."

He thanks the people who helped him through: "This program opened my eyes that weight loss is a happy byproduct of a balanced, well-planned life. Weight loss may have been my original goal but a healthy lifestyle was the real gift." Your program has given me that gift.

"I don't know if I am ‘cured' of over-eating and lack of exercise but I am confident that I have the roadmap and tools for continued success. I am also extremely comforted with the knowledge that Alegent Creighton Health and every single employee associated with this program will be there for me if I stumble, lose focus or revert back to old habits."

Rich looks at a picture of him standing with his kids before the race: "I get tearful looking at it. I am so proud to give them the example of a healthy dad!"

Alegent Creighton Health Weight Management programs are more comprehensive than any other weight loss program in the area. They're medically monitored to ensure safe and effective weight loss. The programs offer customized diet and exercise plans, weekly meetings, individualized coaching and long-term maintenance support.

This article originally appeared in the Alegent Creighton Health enewsletter.  To subscribe, click here.

Reader Comments
Posted: Jan 10 2013 6:18 PM CST by Matt McCahill

Enjoyed reading Rich's success with the program. Congratulations Rick! I am inspired to go for optimum health in hearing this story. I feel this is a great start. A my age of 68 (69 in 3 weeks), I am alerted to Rich's need to maintain his weight. With a self disciplined diet and exercise regimen will his current success maintain in one, two, five,and future plus years? I pray so now with renewed optimism.

Posted: Jan 11 2013 7:43 PM CST by Matt McCahill

As Richard's brother I was real proud of what he has done over the past several months. He has always been able to do what he set out to do when he really put his mind to it. Way to go "little brother"!

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