No resolution needed
Paul Decock likes to compare his old self to the oafish Sergeant Schultz from the popular '60s television show "Hogan's Heroes."
Decock, who weighed 308 pounds two years ago — about 8 pounds more than Schultz — now fluctuates between 175 and 180. That's a loss of about 130 pounds, or the weight of an average 16-year-old boy.
So while many people start coming up with resolutions and plans to lose weight with the start of the new year, Decock, 45, said he's living proof that anyone can do it.
"People say, 'What's your secret?' — well there is no secret," he said Thursday. "I just eat quality food."
Owner of The Computer Repair Shop in downtown Sanford, Decock said his physical similarity to Schultz was largely due to having a similar attitude to the character whose signature line was "I know nothing."
He used to eat fast food nearly every day, but once he started learning about the ingredients in most fast food, he never had a craving for a dollar-menu burger again.
"When you look at what's in food these days, it's scary," he said, adding that this knowledge inspired his family to go organic. "... We said, 'to heck with that, let's just make it ourselves.'"
Fond of the phrase "Garbage in, garbage out," Decock said he used to suffer from sleep apnea, high blood pressure, chronic fatigue and severe heartburn. Now, he said, those ailments are all gone, and he has more energy and a better attitude than he has had in two decades.
And while New Year's resolutions are the stereotypical path toward losing weight, Decock said it wasn't a resolution, but rather a revelation, that led him to losing nearly 50 percent of his body weight over a two-year span.
"It was one day after work, I was sitting back on my couch watching TV with the remote resting on my belly, and I felt a pain in my chest," he said. "It wasn't a heart attack, but I thought at the time it could have been. I looked at my kids and thought, 'What would they do without a dad?'"
He, his wife and four children now eat as much local, organic food as possible, completely avoiding fast food, and he said they're all in great health. In addition to help from local farmers' markets and organic stores like Vitamins and Things on Carbonton Road, he said the N.C. Cooperative Extension's Lee County Center on Tramway Road was a huge help.
Extension Director Susan Condlin said plenty of opportunities are available for people to get on track toward a healthier lifestyle.
A weight loss program with a twist will start at the Extension in January, with people paying $30 for class that meets once a week for 16 weeks. At the end, everyone who has lost weight splits the pot — so if not everyone succeeds, those who do lose weight also make a little money. People can inquire about the program by calling the Extension at (919) 775-5624.
In another program offered through the extension called the Sandhills Farm to Table Cooperative, farms from the region ship boxes of produce to be distributed to participants on a regular basis, which Condlin said is an easy way to get access to more fresh produce. Details can be found at https://coop.sandhillsfarm2table.com.
"Start these healthy habits now, and you'll do much better as you get older," she said, also recommending regular exercise alongside a healthy diet.
Lemma McLean, a registered dietitian at Central Carolina Hospital, said the hospital will hold a presentation on healthy eating and exercise habits on Jan. 8 at 6 p.m. that's free and open to the public. In the meantime, she said, the hospital generally advises people to stay away from extreme dieting, because it's impossible to sustain, and instead focus on moderate but steady losses through exercise and eating less.
"Really the biggest thing when it comes to starting a weight loss plan is to take in less and put out more," she said, suggesting smaller portion sizes and joining a gym or taking up a hobby like biking or aerobics classes.
Decock said he made himself be more active at first by only sitting on the ground to watch TV — which forced him to get up or at least move around more because it was less comfortable than his couch — and later by getting rid of cable altogether and spending his newfound time doing yard work or other chores.
Finally, he returned to the importance of knowing the ingredients in various foods and knowing what to stay away from, saying that just acting on that information will keep the pounds off.
"When you get a computer, you look at all the components that go into it," he said. "... You'd never walk into my shop and say, 'Just give me a laptop, I trust you to make the decision for me,' but you do that at McDonald's. Why would you care less about what goes into your food than what goes into your computer?"