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Name: David Paca
Before Weight: 310 pounds
How I Gained It: I had been in retail management for most of my life with various companies. In 2002, my wife at the time was offered a new position within her company. We had just had a baby girl in 2000. Both of us working would leave our daughter in daycare all day, so we decided I would be a stay-at-home father. At that point, I was 200 pounds.
In November of 2005, I picked up our second daughter, born in August of that year, and collapsed to my knees, unable to move. I was diagnosed with a pinched nerve and given painkillers and anti-inflammatories, which helped until it happened again in January of 2006. My diagnosis then was degenerative disk disease; the three lowest disks in my back were paper-thin, and the lowest was partially collapsed and herniated. By then, I was 225 pounds.
A lower discectomy was performed to help relieve the pain in May of 2006, which led to the untimely collapse of my L5 vertebra onto my pelvis. A spinal simulator was implanted in October of 2007 to help with the pain. At that point, I was 245 pounds. For three years, I walked with a cane and took antidepressants and high levels of almost every painkiller available. I was fully bedridden, except for when taking care of my daughters, and my weight reached over 280 pounds.
In September 2009, I had spinal reconstructive surgery to build my spine up with a wire cage, pins and front and back fusions. I weighed over 300 pounds. Our family moved again, and I met with a new pain management specialist. He asked me if I was trying to kill myself with the amount of medication I was currently taking. What had become normal was indeed killing me.
Breaking Point: Coming out of my last surgery I had been throwing up and feverish, as well as experiencing extreme chest pains. I was living my life from my bed, watching my daughters grow as if in a movie. My medications kept me in a bubble of numbness. In June, shortly after my 36th birthday, due to certain life changes, I found myself alone and responsible for both of my daughters, in the worst shape of my life. It was fight or die.
How I Lost It: After seven months of withdrawal symptoms, I was able to stop taking my painkillers and antidepressants (thanks to my spinal simulator). I joined a gym, using the treadmills first and then the stationary bike, gradually increasing incline and time. I used weight machines to build upper-body strength. My diet was reduced to white rice, grilled or baked chicken, spinach, fresh fruit, almonds, peanuts and pea-protein shakes (I was diagnosed with celiac disease). I used vitamin supplements and digestive enzymes, and I take conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). During the summer of 2011, I fell in love with swimming again. I go almost every day, which really helped me build overall strength. I've also started incorporating pushups in between my lifting sets.
I have learned to listen to my body and react to it, allowing myself greater mobility and opportunities that never seemed possible. I have lost 11 inches off my waist, six inches off of my chest and almost 130 pounds overall. I am still currently disabled but have found hope and joy at my daughters' elementary school, helping out in their classes and volunteering with the Parent Teacher Club, Community Reading Project and local homeless shelter whenever possible. My quality of life has never been better.
After Weight: 182 pounds
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