Chuck Turocy remembers September 19, 2016, very clearly. As the Pittsburgh resident waited in the emergency room to see a doctor, he was barely able to stand upright because of shooting pains in his abdomen. Once he was taken back for his examination, the nurse had him step on the scale. Suddenly, even despite his agony, he felt like jumping off.
Then 49 years old, he thought he weighed somewhere around 300 pounds, but was shocked to see the number 360 appear below him.
“Of course I knew I had terrible habits, like being sedentary and eating mostly junk food, and I’d been steadily gaining weight since high school,” he says. “But to see that number was beyond disheartening. It felt like an eye-opening moment.”
He’d gone to the ER after a night hanging out with friends, having a typical dinner of fried wings and soda. Later that night, sudden and very severe pain spurred his hospital visit; he was diagnosed with pancreatitis, a condition caused by inflammation that causes digestive enzymes to start attacking the pancreas. For Turocy, it was kicked off by the formation of gallstones — likely developed because of his high intake of fried foods and unhealthy fats.
For three days, he waited in a hospital bed for his pancreas enzyme numbers to come down and spent the time building his resolve to make significant changes in his life.
Post-hospital, treatment for the issue consisted mainly of sticking to a bland diet. Bananas, unsweetened applesauce and broth were staples, and he had to give up soda completely. Turocy was diligent, mostly because he didn’t want the intense pain to return, but also because seeing his weight made him connect some dots when it came to his physical and emotional health.
“For years, I just hadn’t been feeling well in general,” he says. “It made me think about my dad, who’d had bypass surgery 20 years ago. Back then, he told me he didn’t realize how bad he’d really been feeling until he started feeling better. It was only when I got on this track that I began to understand what he meant.”
Before that ER visit, Turocy admits that healthy people annoyed him, and he’d roll his eyes at photos of salads or 5Ks posted to social media. One of his co-workers ran marathons, and he remembers being irritated by the colleague’s enthusiasm and energy about exercise and healthy living. But he gets it now.
“When you feel good, it’s hard not to share it,” he says. “You don’t want to keep it to yourself, because you want other people to feel good, too. You break an unhealthy cycle, and the more you do that, the more you want to celebrate.”
Eventually, Turocy transitioned from the bland diet to one involving salads, vegetables, lean proteins and healthy fats. He also ramped up his activity, starting with walking, and then purchasing a free-weight set, bench, dumbbells and a heavy boxing bag for his home.
By the two-year anniversary of his hospital stay, he was down to 255, but had hit a plateau. After a friend suggested MyFitnessPal — numerous times — Turocy finally gave in and downloaded the app.
Although he wasn’t diligent about logging food every day, he appreciated the ability to track his activity and see his daily macro results. That helped him stay away from junky carbs like cookies, cakes and white bread. Checking the app was a reminder to stay on track with protein and fiber, and it helped him do even more with exercise than he’d been doing.
Today, the 6-foot-tall Turocy hasn’t reached his goal weight of 200 pounds yet, but he’s lost 120 and is confident he’ll get to the number he wants, thanks to the consistency and focus that have brought him this far. Most of all, he’s sure he’ll never give up the feeling of being healthy.
“When I was a teenager, I remember feeling great and just having that physical and emotional health in place,” he says. “Now, I feel like I’m finally getting that back again.”