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Former Athlete Puts In The Work To Get Weight And Diabetes Under Control

Dan Boozer was a Division 1 college baseball player. He was a lean, healthy athlete, but after graduating from college, he slowly started gaining weight until he peaked at 320 pounds.

“The average person doesn’t play a Division 1 sport,” says Kevin Pantalone, DO, an endocrinologist and director of diabetes initiatives, Cleveland Clinic Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, who treats patients at Twinsburg Family Health & Surgery Center. “It just goes to show you that even a person who is the most fit and athletic can develop the same health problems as you or I. People don’t gain 100 pounds in six months or a year. They gain 10 pounds per year over 10 years. And if it can happen to Danny, it can happen to anyone.”

In Dan’s case, along with gaining weight, he developed type 2 diabetes.

Diabetes is a disease that prevents the body from properly using energy from the food we eat. People with diabetes either don’t have enough insulin, or the insulin they have doesn’t work as it should to get sugar into the body’s cells for energy. People with type 2 diabetes produce insulin, but it’s either too little or doesn’t work properly. Type 2 diabetes is most common in those over 40 who are overweight.

“At a routine appointment with my primary care physician, a urinalysis showed my blood sugar was high,” says Dan. “Initially, I really didn’t do much about it, but eventually, once I realized my weight had gotten to 320 pounds, I knew I needed to do something. That kind of started the ball rolling with me trying to get healthier because I have kids to raise and a family to support.”

Dan started exercising regularly and tried to eliminate sugar, carbohydrates and fast food from his diet. He lost about 40 pounds over six months. “Once I got down to 280 pounds though, no matter how much I worked out, I wasn’t losing any more weight,” he says.

Dan is the basketball coach for the team Dr. Pantalone’s son plays on. After a game, once Dan knew Dr. Pantalone was a physician that specialized in diabetes, and opened up about his diagnosis, Dr. Pantalone asked Dan how his diabetes has been. “I told him I was having pain in my feet, and headaches, and that I really didn’t know what my blood sugar levels were. He suggested I make an appointment to come see him,” says Dan.

The appointment and blood work showed that Dan’s blood sugar level was very high – his body wasn’t producing enough insulin, and the insulin he was making was not working properly to control his blood sugar level.

“I was pleased to hear that Dan had already been losing weight by starting to exercise and cutting down on portion sizes. But like many patients, he hit a roadblock,” says Dr. Pantalone. “Treatment for diabetes is challenging because it requires a multidisciplinary approach. It takes a combination of diet, cutting serving size, exercise, and medication to help them with their diabetes and weight loss journey.” 

Historically, diabetes medications often led to further weight gain, but new medications are different. Some may help to suppress the appetite so patients feel less hungry. Others increase the amount of sugar discharged through urine thereby helping with further weight loss.

“When Dan started to see the change, he was like ‘wow, I really can do this’,” says Dr. Pantalone. “He saw that it was possible to get over that hump through lifestyle change and medication adjustments, and he was totally transformed as a person.”

According to Dan, it was about six weeks after his initial appointment with Dr. Pantalone that things started to kick in. “I could tell the diet and exercise combined with the medication that helped deplete the extra sugar was all doing what it was supposed to do,” he says. “We texted back and forth because we’re pretty close, and I’d send him pictures. He’d encourage me to keep going.”

Over about one and a half years, Dan lost a total of 80 pounds, 40 of them in just six months with the help of Dr. Pantalone. 

“People don’t even recognize me. I walked into the gym one morning and a guy I haven’t seen for about four months didn’t even recognize me,” says Dan. “Dr. Pantalone and Cleveland Clinic helped me get my diabetes and weight under control. I’m blessed to live here and have access to the top doctors in the world at Cleveland Clinic. I don’t think there’s anything they can’t do to help any individual. You have to put the work in, but with their help, it’s great.”

Related Institutes: Endocrinology & Metabolism Institute
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