By: Maria Fleet
Leslie Doyle puts on eyeliner as she faces the computer screen and gets ready for an online game of Coral Island, chatting with some of her fellow gamers on Twitch. Her long blue hair forms a perfectly styled curl at the top of her forehead as she talks about what she’s been up to. “I’ve been teaching myself how to solve Rubik’s cube!” she says, displaying the infuriatingly difficult Seventies-era 3D puzzle.
With such an easy-going and engaging online presence, it’s no wonder that Leslie was tapped, along with her husband Brian, to be ambassadors for a medical weight management treatment program. The offer to participate in this six-month program in exchange for a weekly vlog about their experience dove-tailed perfectly with Leslie and Brian’s idea to try and lose 42 pounds by the time they both turn 42 next year. “For me it’s about health,” says Leslie. “Going into the next ten years – heading into 50 – and how I want things to progress healthwise.”
The couple has learned a lot during their weekly consultations and check-ins – including that losing 42 pounds that quickly may not be practical. “But it makes a great hashtag!” says Leslie, laughing. Under that hashtag – #42by42 – they’ve kept a weekly vlog documenting their ups and downs – their “double-u’s (wins!) and struggle u’s” as Leslie calls them, while they go through the program.
The course of treatment has been eye-opening for Brian and Leslie. Why? “Because the program approaches it from a whole health perspective – as in ‘What’s going on with your mental health? What’s going on with your physical health?’ – as opposed to just focusing in on diet and exercise,” explains Leslie. She was fascinated to learn more about how our bodies and brains communicate about food. One of her other big takeaways was learning that it’s believed 70-80% of our adult weight is determined by genetics. “So, it really puts things into perspective as far as ideal weight because you wouldn’t feel shame or guilt about what color your eyes are, or your hair,” says Leslie.
The program is helping the couple to focus not on goals per se, but on core values, Leslie explains, that can help guide them in reshaping their behaviors around food. It’s different from weight loss programs she’s tried before that heavily relied on restricting calories. “I think there is a real all-or-nothing approach to a lot of dieting and a lot of wellness programs,” she says.
Instead, this program helps patients celebrate the small positive changes they’re making in harmony with their values. “So having this be incremental and just, you know, a little bit at a time… You don’t feel like you’re overhauling your life,” says Leslie. She sees it as being much more sustainable than throwing everything out of her cupboard and starting from scratch on a prescribed menu.
Brian and Leslie have lost weight – just not in the eye-popping amounts that are touted by conventional weight loss plans. Their concentration on cumulative small changes takes the emphasis away from the scale, and the couple seems to have embraced that. Every so often their vlog has a weigh-in, and they don’t hold back – each taking a slow 360° spin in front of the camera. Then they come together for a sweet on-camera kiss.
Even though all of their consultations and sessions are separate from each other, they share what they’ve learned. “I don’t know if I would be having as much success if Brian was not doing this with me, genuinely. Because we’re so a part of each other’s lives in that way,” Leslie says. “It’s great to have both of us learning as we go and understanding more about ourselves.”
Leslie has taken the lead in the weekly posts, but Brian, with a soft Irish lilt to his voice and a more reserved demeanor, has warmed to the role of vlog host over the episodes. He talks with a twinkle in his eye about how the program has made him more conscious of some of their permissive habits, like snacking together after dinner. “We kind of egg each other on…In the past where we may get treats in the evening time – [now] I’m like, ‘You know, that’s not the best plan,’” he says.
The two of them have been married for nearly 16 years, with two teenage kids at home – and things can get hectic around their varied schedules. They admit to ordering pizza for dinner a bit more than they’d like to, but even that can be framed as a win, says Brian. In the past, he might have eaten a whole one, whereas now he stops and saves some for the next day.
That kind of positive assessment is key, says Leslie. “It really is about reframing it and understanding that a failure isn’t necessarily a failure. It’s just a learning opportunity or a chance to see how you did do it differently this time,” she explains.
Leslie’s artwork often takes her to fan conventions, where she sells her photorealistic portraits of fantasy characters. She’s proud of her new strategies for going out to dinner with friends when she travels. “I’m outside of my schedule, I’m eating out, I’m working really long days, you know, and my inclination is to indulge. And/or overindulge!” she says.
But last time in Montreal, she checked the menu of one of her favorite restaurants beforehand and decided what her best options were. “As opposed to, you know, opening up to the big glossy pictures of fried chicken and poutine and then being like, ‘I want all of this!’” Instead, she stuck to a plan. “I normally would have, like, ordered an appetizer, a meal and a dessert and a drink, all for me. And instead, I ordered it for the table… so that I was able to still satisfy that sort of social aspect and the wanting of the taste of the appetizer or the dessert or whatever it is, without feeling like I had to eat it all,” Leslie remembers. And without even really thinking about it, she chose a healthier option for her main course. When that happened, she said, she couldn’t wait to share it with her dietitian. It was a mile-marker double-u!
Brian has incorporated some changes into his routine, too. He normally cycles to his work at a warehouse and back, and when he gets home at the end of the day, he’s hungry and prone to giving in to cravings. His dietitian in the program suggested moving dinnertime up to try and short-circuit that vulnerable time period. “We’ve been having earlier dinners now,” Brian says, “and that really helped me.”
Their journey has not been without pitfalls. In a recent more somber-toned post, Leslie acknowledged one of them: cost. Brian and Leslie had the overall fee for the program waived in return for providing the ongoing vlog about their experience. But Leslie ran into another financial hurdle when she maxed out on her health insurance company’s allotted prescription coverage after a couple of months on an anti-obesity drug. The drug seemed to be helping her with mental focus. She’s convinced that that ability to focus has also helped her make better choices around eating. She is planning to petition her insurance company, but she devoted one episode of #42by42 to bemoaning the fact that obesity still resides in the gray area of health care coverage – not yet fully recognized in most provinces as a treatable disease.
Ongoing treatment can be out of reach financially for many people, especially considering that the goal is to treat people earlier in their lives so that the worst effects of obesity like heart disease and diabetes can be prevented. Obesity doctors believe that medical weight management will save patients and the health care system money in the long run by preventing many chronic conditions.
For now, Brian and Leslie have each lost a few pounds, noticed a jump in energy levels, and developed new positive habits they can reinforce with each other. Leslie has suffered from fatigue and insomnia, so she’s going for a sleep test to investigate the possible causes. “I’m pursuing it, which I wouldn’t [have] previously because I was not prioritizing my health in the way that I am now,” she says, pointing out the new mindset she’s developed.
At the end of every consultation in the program, Brian and Leslie are each asked about their confidence in their ability to manage their weight, on a scale of one to ten. They’ve both been surprised to report that number going up. Leslie remembers, “I think I started out at like a three out of ten. I was like, ‘I don’t know, I’m not good at this stuff!’ And now I’m an eight.”
And do they think they’ll lose 42 pounds by their 42nd birthdays?
Maybe, but maybe not. Says Leslie, “We’ll see where we get to at 42, and celebrate that!”
Diet and exercise alone aren’t enough to help many people reach a healthier weight. Medical treatments are needed to address the biological changes happening in our bodies that can drive weight regain. To find a physician near you who specializes in weight management like Leslie and Brian did, click here.
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Check out Leslie and Brian’s YouTube channel.
This article was sponsored by Novo Nordisk Canada. All content is created independently by My Weight – What To Know with no influence from Novo Nordisk.
Photo credits: Ishkhan Ghazarian