In it to win it: Meyer sheds 242 pounds -- so far -- in weighty battleMANKATO — In the movies, a character’s moment of truth is accompanied by a dramatic swelling of the background music. Monte Meyer’s moment of truth also came with a soundtrack — a couple of pops from his foot, an audible protest that his bones could no longer bear his weight. “I was on vacation at a resort, and I heard my foot as I was walking down the dock — it literally popped twice,” Meyer recalled, adding that although it was painful, there was nothing significantly wrong. “… I think it was somebody up there going, ‘Hey, wake up, Monte.’ I packed up my boat and left early.”
By: Beth Rickers, Worthington Daily Globe
MANKATO — In the movies, a character’s moment of truth is accompanied by a dramatic swelling of the background music. Monte Meyer’s moment of truth also came with a soundtrack — a couple of pops from his foot, an audible protest that his bones could no longer bear his weight.
“I was on vacation at a resort, and I heard my foot as I was walking down the dock — it literally popped twice,” Meyer recalled, adding that although it was painful, there was nothing significantly wrong. “… I think it was somebody up there going, ‘Hey, wake up, Monte.’ I packed up my boat and left early.”
That incident in June 2009 was indeed a wake-up call for Meyer, a Reading native and 1979 graduate of Worthington High School who is the campus pastor at the Campus Lutheran Chapel at Minnesota State University. At that moment, Meyer fully realized that his weight was out of control and a serious endangerment to his health.
“I called up a nurse I knew at a church where I had been a fill-in pastor,” Meyer related. “I trusted her and said, ‘Could you find a doctor who can help me with obesity-related issues?’”
Meyer followed through with the appointment at Mankato Clinic, and not having weighed himself in years, he had a “hopeful” figure in mind. But the 588 pounds that registered on the scale far exceeded his expectations, and the tears began to roll down his cheeks.
“It’s one thing to have a beer gut,” he said, “but a whole other thing to get to the point where you’re endangering your life.”
In retrospect, Meyer realizes the weight not only affected his physical health, but also his mental and social well-being and relationships. He was mortified not only for himself, but also for his two children, Emily, 23, and Peter, 17.
“When you’re that big, you get people pointing at you. … One of the reasons I’m divorced is because of this,” he reflected. “I wouldn’t go to reunions. I wanted to go so bad, but I’m not going to be the fattest person there, so I’d make any kind of excuse. My dad had an auction, and so I came to help with that and saw some of the old neighbor guys. I could just tell the way they looked at me, but they were too polite to say anything, but I’m sure they could hardly recognize me. Here’s this guy who looks like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man.”
The doctor referred Meyer to registered dietitian Erin Gonzalez — “a gal in her mid-20s with the wisdom of Solomon” — and he eventually enlisted the services of a personal trainer, Dawn Naples. He opted against the surgical route, choosing to broach the problem through diet and exercise.
“I think surgery would have treated the symptom but not the problem,” Meyer explained. “I’m not criticizing anyone else who chooses to do that, but for me I don’t think it would deal with the core issue: ‘Why did I do this?’”
Journaling about the process on the website livestrong.com helped Meyer confront the underlying issues of his obesity.
“I’ve got a journal there, and the nutritionist and (girlfriend) Nadine are the only people who can read it,” he said. “It really helps me figure out what’s going on. And the exercise purges everything out. … It’s something that really makes you deal with the core issues of how you got this way. You’re forced to do it for yourself. I don’t ever want to go back to that place again. There’s a lot of healing that goes on like that, I think.”
As a pastor, Meyer was also forced to confront the effect the weight had on his faith.
“When people have problems, it’s my job, as a Christian, to turn them to the cross,” he said. “That’s what I do. It’s my vocation, and yet I was doing something that was just the opposite, turning to food, to Kentucky Fried. It’s not that I didn’t believe, but it was a dichotomy.”
At Meyer’s last weigh-in, he’d trimmed 242 pounds in the 19 months since he began dieting and exercising.
“For me, there were three essential things,” he advised. “First is nutrition — if you bite it, you write it, calories in and calories out. You write down what you eat, weigh it. There’s no magic combination of foods, you’ve just got to have a calorie deficit. I’d say that’s 70 percent of it. The other 30 percent is exercise. You’ve got to move. A lot of people say they don’t have time for it, but have you got 10 minutes? It all adds up.
“The other leg of the stool is accountability. … You can’t lie to people, and fat people definitely lie. We’re great liars: ‘I’m doing great!’ Yeah, right — you washed it down with a chocolate milkshake.
“The other thing is do it for yourself,” he added. “A lot of people say, ‘I’m too busy taking care of my family. I’m too busy with work’ Baloney. People say that because they’re not interested in dealing with themselves and the issue they have with overeating. Those are the excuses I had, so I know.”
While his own personal weight-loss journey isn’t over and he realizes keeping the weight off will be an ongoing battle, Meyer shares his story in hopes that he can inspire other people to confront their hefty demons. And he is personally motivated to keep the weight off because he feels so much better, physically and spiritually.
“It’s unbelievable,” he said about the physical effects of shedding so many pounds. “I can do the things I want to do. I ran a 5k this fall. I was still 380 pounds, but I did it. It was for ovarian cancer, so I ran it for my mom (Beverly), who died six years ago. As I was running, I looked up and said, ‘Mother, I don’t know if you’re listening, but this is really hard.’”
Each day continues to be a struggle, but setting goals and accountability keep Meyer on the path to his goal of achieving a healthy weight.
“My initial goal is 250 pounds. I’m 6 foot 3, so I based it on that,” he said. “When I get to that point, I’ll talk to my doctor, the nutritionist, the personal trainer. I’ll have to ask myself, medically, am I healthy? I’m supposed to speak at the Mankato men’s health fair in April, and I’ve asked them to have a scale there so I can weigh myself in front of everybody. That gives me 14 more weeks of accountability, and I’m just vain enough to keep it up.”
Meyer is grateful for the support of his friends and family, which includes his dad, Leroy Meyer of rural Reading, and sister and brother-in-law Colleen and Tom Braun of Worthington, as well as his girlfriend and children.
“I think my kids are relieved, but they’re also worried that this attention will go to my head,” he noted. “But I’m doing it so I can be held accountable. I know my personality, so I use that to push myself.”
Meyer’s general goal is to go from being “an overweight middle-aged guy to just a normal middle-aged guy,” and every day he sees encouraging signs that he will achieve that status.
“I’m looking in the refrigerator the other night about 10 o’clock, because I’ve got about 250 calories left, and I’m thinking, ‘What can I have?’ And as I’m standing there, I stick my foot out at a 90-degree angle — I’m getting pretty limber. Here I am, jonesing for something to eat, but I’m still kicking my leg out.”