Nfld. & Labrador

Downsizing: Losing weight is hard, but it’s the only option

In the first edition of a new column, St. John's writer Dave Sullivan chronicles his decision to transform his body, and his life.

Dave Sullivan takes one small step towards a big lifestyle change

Dave Sullivan, seen performing at a Definitely Not The Opera taping for CBC Radio last year, is determined to honour a promise he made to his late brother about getting his weight under control. (CBC)

You know what’s hard about losing a massive amount of weight?

Pretty much everything.

Eight months ago I set out to change my life. I was broken. It was pretty easy to see. I was divorced, depressed, and I topped the scales at 415 pounds.

That’s big. Like really big. Like, Maury Povich “cut me out of my house and bury me in a piano box” big.

And then one day, I caught my reflection in the mirror.

It had been years since I saw my body. I’d shut my eyes tight whenever I was in front of mirrors. 

What I saw that day terrified me.

Family danger

You see, eight years ago I lost my younger brother. He died of a heart attack in his sleep. He was 22. The coroner said he had the heart of a 90-year old man.

Heart disease doesn’t just run in the family. It gallops.

Eight years ago, I promised Andrew that I wouldn’t go down that path.

I had broken that promise.

But curiously, that day — when I saw my reflection — I wanted to live.

Up until that point I was killing myself slowly and methodically with food. Not consciously. But somewhere deep down, that’s what was happening.

Many years ago an image of me was drawn by bullies, and other people who set out to define me. It was built with words like fat, lazy, useless, stupid, apathetic.

And for years I aimed to make those words true.

But I am not that. I have the power to be whatever the hell I want to be. I can change my narrative. And that’s what I set out to do.

One small change

But in order to run a marathon, you need to take the first step.

For me, that first step was giving up diet soda. Completely. None. Zip. Zilch.

At that time, I was also probably consuming more than three litres of diet soda a day. I’d wake up to a Diet Coke, and I’d go to sleep with one too. It was like the nectar of the gods to me.

I hadn’t gone more than a day without soda since the age of six. Whenever I was dehydrated, I always reached for the old black water — as I like to call it.

You may think diet soda as something that helps you lose weight.

But, I soon learned that this wasn’t the case.

My partner Caitlin pointed out studies to me that show artificial sweeteners actually lead to weight gain, and even depression and high blood pressure. 

An emotional 'loss'

When she suggested to me that it may be a good idea to give it up, I had an odd reaction. I became emotional about it. Almost protective. Like a child gets when you try to take away his toys.

But the next day I decided to give it a shot.

The first five days were miserable. I was not fit. But after the first week, something strange happened. I didn’t miss it at all.

This small step taught me something huge. For years, my willpower was non-existent. I didn’t care what I put into my body.

But quitting diet soda cold turkey taught me that I don’t have to live my life in fear anymore.

I have the power to change.

And I’ll take that over a Diet Pepsi any day.


Dave Sullivan is a writer and ad creative proudly living and working in St. John's.


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