Speaker 1: Thanks for tuning in to The Diabetes Dish podcast, brought to you by DiabeticLifestyle.com. Here's your host, Maureen Connolly.
Maureen C.: Six years ago, life was looking pretty grim for Eric O'Grey of Spokane, Washington. At age 51, his weight had hit an all-time high of 330 pounds. His waist measured 52 inches around. He had type 2 diabetes. He was depressed. Eric's cholesterol was between 300 and 400, and his blood pressure was sky high. Each time Eric went to a doctor's visit, he left with a new medication. At one point, in fact, he was taking 15 different medications a day, including Metformin and insulin. Eric was depressed and self-conscious about the way he looked and felt. In fact, he says he had no friends and rarely left the house.
Then life took an unexpected and beautiful turn all because of a middle-aged, overweight, depressed shelter dog named Peety, who was living at the Humane Society Silicon Valley located in Milpitas, California. Peety was waiting to be adopted so that he could get busy saving Eric's life and his own life in the process. I first learned about Eric and Peety's story when I encountered a video on Facebook created by an amazing organization called MutualRescue.org. The short film, which has been viewed 78 million times since it debuted in February 2016, details the story of Eric and Peety's relationship and the radical transformation that occurred over the course of 10 months for the both of them.
Eric has now shed 140 pounds, and he's off every single one of his 15 medications. He's also reversed his type 2 diabetes, and he's transformed his life in many other ways. I would be lying if I didn't say that I've cried tears of sadness and joy every single time I watch the short film, and I'm so thrilled that Eric O'Grey could join us today on the Diabetes Dish Podcast to share the journey that he's been on. Welcome, Eric.
Eric O'Grey: Thank you so much. I appreciate being here.
Maureen C.: Before we get into the story of how rescuing a shelter dog would alter your life in unimaginable ways, I was hoping you could talk about your life pre-Peety. At DiabeticLifestyle, we spend a lot of time covering the role that one's diet plays in their health and wellbeing, including its connection to disease. I just want listeners to learn about you, as I said, pre-Peety. Had you always been overweight as an adult, and what habits do you think were most responsible for getting your weight up to 340 pounds?
Eric O'Grey: I had been obese, classified as obese, for about the previous 25 years, and it's because I was on the standard American diet and really not exercising. I had just allowed myself to become overweight, and really it just creeps on slowly. You start out, and my weight started out, and suddenly I remember going to a Nordstrom about 20 years ago looking for clothes, and they didn't have my size anymore.
My waist then was up to 42 inches, so I went and I said, "I need a size larger than this." The man behind the counter looked at me and he said, "You'll need to go to a big and tall men's store. We don't carry above size 42." That was like 20 years ago, and that really hit me hard. I wasn't able to purchase clothes in standard department stores anymore because they didn't carry sizes larger than that.
My weight continued to creep up, and every year I got a little bit larger. Just putting on 10 pounds a year, suddenly I was 140, 150 pounds overweight just really over the course of the past 10 years of this. It was just I was just doing things that didn't seem to bother me as much when I was a child or when I was younger, but when I was older, my body didn't recover and react to things the same way that it did when I was younger. The foods that I ate and was used to eating, the basic standard American diet, with a sedentary lifestyle started to compound on me like a snowball rolling downhill. The farther I went downhill, the larger I got, and the more difficult it seemed to be able to escape from that.
I tried really everything, everything, every diet ever commercially marketed in the United States. I won't mention them all, but at least 36 different diet plans, and what I found on each of these was that I could get immediate results no matter what it was. For example, on Atkins, I could go on that and eat strictly meat with just a little bit of vegetables and put my body into their ketosis situation and lose in the first month 30 or 40 pounds even, or at least over the course of a couple of months, but what I found was I would then quickly plateau.
No matter how hard or how strict I followed that diet, I quickly after the first two months was unable to get any additional results, and then these diets were not sustainable. These were not a permanent lifestyle that I could follow. These were nothing that I could just be on forever and just be happy and have it feel effortless. At some point eventually, I would backslide on all of these diets. When I did, I would not only give up and just admit total and utter failure and defeat, I would regain all of the weight that I lost, and then there appeared to be at least a 10% penalty on that at the end. It was a really difficult situation that there seemed no way out of.
Maureen C.: Yeah. I know so many people listening can relate to that story. When you went back to your old ways, I think it's fair to say the standard diet, you weren't gorging yourself day in and day out, but the choices that you made were coming back to haunt you over and over again in the form of all this extra weight. What did your dinners look like? Did you get fast food, or were just kind of like, ah, I don't feel like cooking so I'm just going to pick on something? Give us a sense of what it looked like.
Eric O'Grey: Well, there was a couple things. First, I had never really prepared my own foods before. I'd never learned how to cook or made anything more complicated than a sandwich or Top Ramen or something like that. As I became larger, I became more reclusive. I stopped going outside. I stopped attempting to socialize with other people. I just got to the point that it became so difficult and uncomfortable just to move and travel and get outside and do everything else that I stopped making any efforts to socialize with other people, to maintain any sort of interactivity with friends, to do anything that went outside.
At that point, really for about 10 years before I had this epiphany and major life transformation and change, I just began ordering all of my food to my door or at worst would get in my car and drive. I call it the window diet. Really, if it wasn't served at my door or window, I wouldn't eat it.
Maureen C.: Oh gosh, yeah.
Eric O'Grey: I was just really eating everything that was pre-prepared by other people, fast food and that. It got down to the point that I became so large and so reclusive that I wanted to interact with other people as infrequently as possible, so I would do things like call Domino's and order two extra-large pizzas, for example, with the thought that okay, I would eat one of them that night. Because the larger that I got, the actual more that I began to eat.
I would eat one of them that night, and then I would open the second and just have a slice on it and then a second and a third. Suddenly, I'd figure, well, I might as well finish that one also. I was actually eating quantities of food near the end of my situation that were maybe a couple of Domino's extra-large pizzas at one meal. The food is so addictive-
Maureen C.: It is.
Eric O'Grey: When they design all this food, it's with consumer panels. The modern food science works like they pick the formulations, the recipes that people have the most difficult time putting down that are really the most addictive. That's how food is designed, and that's certainly how the effect worked on me.
Maureen C.: Okay. Then you had said that obviously carrying so much weight, you must've been in pain walking around, your knees or back.
Eric O'Grey: Yeah. When you're that large, think about it like carrying around two sacks of cement on your shoulders because that's the effect of 140 pounds, roughly 75-pound bags of cement on your shoulders. Your knees and your back, especially your lower back, are not designed to carry that kind of stress on a regular basis, so every joint in my body hurt just indescribably. The field of work that I was in was outside sales, which seems odd for somebody that didn't want to go outside, being in field sales.
I found that I was very efficient at being able to do my job mostly over a phone and only go out and interact with people when I had to, but there were a few sales conferences, for example, that I went to every year, like trade shows, where I had to stand on concrete for 8 or 10 hours at a time for two or three days in a row. It was so miserable and so excruciating, I actually needed pain medication and stacking Advil and Tylenol to get through those experiences. That's how much pain I was in.
Maureen C.: Wow. Then you also said, and I just, I don't know, really I never stopped to think about, you felt invisible when you were out and shameful. When you did get the courage to go out, it's as though people just didn't see you. They just saw this really large man coming and just wanted to just either look at you in disgust or look the other way.
Eric O'Grey: Yeah. It's hard to describe, but when you really are that morbidly obese, you become invisible to other people in the effect that they no longer see who you are. They only see you as a large mass and something or someone who at most is pitied, often is scorned, often is fat shamed and is in a situation where people just don't understand how somebody could let themselves go to that extent. I really didn't either. It just crept up on me. It was insidious. It crept up on me over a long time.
The problem with slow, gradual change like that is you don't see it coming. You don't really see it. When you only are making a tiny, incremental change on an ongoing basis, suddenly you're large and obese versus how you were in high school or whatever, and you don't know how you got there. You don't know how to get back, and that's the problem. I was invisible with respect to who I really was to everybody, but because I was so large, as a matter of fact, I could not make myself invisible.
Maureen C.: The tipping point, so share with the listeners that fateful day that set everything into motion.
Eric O'Grey: I had come home from a sales training, flying home, and I was at the Louisville Airport in Kentucky. I got on the plane, and I had to wedge myself into my seat. I was in a center seat, and it was just absolutely miserable. Both sides of my body were extending over the armrests on at least three or four inches on each side. When you're that large, a standard airline seatbelt doesn't fit you, but under FAA regulations they can't take off unless you're seat-belted in. The solution that they have are seatbelt extensions, and that's where they clip in an extension under the regular seatbelt just so you can get it around your body.
The airline, because I was not the only obese person on that airline that day, they ran out of seatbelt extensions. They don't stock these at the gate. They only keep them on other planes, so by the time that they were able to get seatbelt extensions from another plane, extra ones that somebody else had to bring onto ours, the flight had been delayed for about 45 minutes. There was a man next to me who was very upset about this. He told me that he was going to miss his connection because I was too fat.
Maureen C.: Oh my gosh.
Eric O'Grey: I know that that's mean and everything, but I've actually never really had a problem with blatant honesty. That, to me, was something I looked at like I have now become a burden on other people. The problem that I have created for myself or whoever this problem is, it's my problem. I need to take ownership of it because now it's affecting other people. That was a thing that really frightened me and freaked me out most was that I was becoming a burden on other people. Actually, at the time, I had bariatric surgery scheduled. I'd gone through the qualification process for it. Because as I mentioned, I tried so many different things, and nothing ever worked, so I had scheduled bariatric surgery.
I was about a month away from having that, and I just was so depressed about that because it's a very dramatic, drastic life change. Most people or a great majority of people or a lot of people end up failing on it anyway. Really, you're going to get some short-term results out of it, but it's going to have a very long lifetime impact. People, their weight eventually creeps up again. Chris Christie had bariatric surgery, and as we can tell from him, it's not been a permanent solution for him either. I just had been at a loss. I'd been so determined to try to find some sort of change that I could live with and that I could stay with, that I could just practice for the rest of my life that would resolve my problem, but I'd never encountered any. I just was at a loss for what to do.
I got home from that trip, and the very next day I saw Wolf Blitzer interviewing Bill Clinton on television. Bill Clinton looked better than I'd ever seen him in my entire life. His face was oval rather than round. He really looked good. He looked healthy. The bags under his eyes had gone, and this was very noticeable. Wolf Blitzer asked him what he had done, and he said that for his daughter's wedding he really wanted to look good, and he also wanted to be around to meet his grandchildren.
He'd really had some heart disease and some heart problems, so it'd been recommended to him that he saw some doctors who had written a book called The China Study. It was about going onto a plant-based diet based upon studies in rural populations in China that showed that people who ate virtually all plants were much healthier, had far fewer health problems, didn't really have heart disease or cancer issues. I became very excited about it, and he said also, it's the best weight loss program that he'd ever been on or seen, and it felt relatively effortless. He'd never felt better in his entire life, and he'd lost all this weight and achieved his optimal high school weight.
I then googled Clinton plant-based diet, and this was in August of 2010 approximately, and nothing came up on Google. Now, if you googled that now, you'd get hundreds of thousands of hits, so that's how far the knowledge has come on this in the meantime. Because I couldn't find anything, I did a lot more Google searches, and I found a local naturopathic doctor, Dr. Preeti Kulkarni, in Cupertino, California, who knew what this was and knew how to do this. She was a vegan plant-based naturopathic doctor, so I made an appointment with her and I consulted with her.
She sat down with me, and it was a very unusual experience. It was the first time that I'd ever met with a doctor for over an hour. See, most of the times I'd met with a doctor, I'd met with them, most doctors, as I came to learn, have a budget of about five minutes per patient. They're going to listen to the patient's complaint, and then they're going to try to prescribe a medication to alleviate the symptom associated with that complaint.
What Dr. Preeti told me was that she wasn't going to prescribe any medications. What she was going to do is try to identify the root cause of my problem and make recommendations and work with me to resolve my obesity and other chronic health problems based upon lifestyle changes rather than medication. I'd never talked to anybody who was talking like this, so I was actually fascinated.
As a long story short, her first recommendation was to me that I adopted a dog, and that really surprised me because a doctor telling me to adopt a dog, and I asked her if maybe I could just adopt a cat. She asked me if I'd ever walked a cat, and I said, "No, but I think I've seen it done on television." She looked at me very seriously and said, "No, you're going to want to adopt a dog, and it's going to do these things for you." She said, "First, the dog will require you to go outside, and you're going to walk the dog for half an hour twice a day at least, and you're going to do this outside. You're going to get good exercise, and this is going to allow you to feel more socially connected at the same time that you're going to get exercise."
I did. I then looked up, and I did some more Google searches. I found how to adopt a dog in my area. I lived in San Jose, California, at the time, so I encountered a Humane Society Silicon Valley. I called down there, and they had a really fascinating intake process. Instead of just going down and meeting a dog and having it look like match.com where you're looking at adoption pens and you just pick out a dog that you think you like based upon their looks, they actually had really a matchmaking service for people with dogs. They asked me to come down. I filled out a lot of questionnaires, and their intake person really spent a lot of time talking to me. She said, "I have the perfect dog for you."
When she said she had the perfect dog for me, I thought that that perfect dog in my mind would be something like eight pounds, really small, perfectly behaved, hypoallergenic, no personality issues and would just follow me around with a smile on his face and just be the perfect pet. I also said that I want a middle-age dog so we'd have something in common, and also, and I really felt sad about this after I said it, an older dog, because that would seem like less of a commitment.
Maureen C.: Be careful what you wish for, or not.
Eric O'Grey: Totally. The intake person told me she had the perfect dog, and then she brought in Peety. Peety was a mess, just like I was. He was about 75 pounds, and he had skin problems. He was shedding hair, and he just really did not look good and happy. His shoulders were just slumped down. He's looking at the ground, and he looked up at me. He looked at me with eyes of clear disappointment just the same way that I was looking at him.
Maureen C.: What kind of breed is he?
Eric O'Grey: Peety was a combination border collie and Australian shepherd, so he had a very quirky kind of personality. He was very distrustful. He had been through shelters twice. He really, I think, he felt that he was at the end of his life, and he just didn't know what life was going to hold for him next. But this lady had done so much work, and she'd been so kind, and she seemed so certain that Peety was the perfect match for me. She really said, "You both need to work on the same things based on what you've told me," and I had to agree with her. I had to laugh and say, "You know, maybe he is the perfect match for me."
I took him home, and for the next three days he stayed on one side of the room, and I stayed on the other on the couch. We just both kind of looked at each other. I started walking him, and the third night he just hopped up in bed with me. We became best friends and inseparable after that.
Maureen C.: Aw, that's so beautiful. Here you are, now you're like okay, I've got to walk you in the morning and in the evening, I assume, or maybe even more than that, but you head out. The first time or first few times you go out, tell me, are you making it around the block? How far did you go?
Eric O'Grey: The first few times I actually did follow Dr. Preeti's advice to the letter, and it was really important to me. Because she, to agree to work with me, she actually required me to prepay six months' worth of visits, which is really important.
Maureen C.: Good for her. No, I'm saying good for her, yeah.
Eric O'Grey: I know, because I'm very financially connected like that, and if I pay for something, I'm going to get my money's worth out of it. It was just the deductible, which was really for my insurance was $25 a week. For about $1,000, that's all it cost me to lose all this weight, everything all in. There were no medications associated with this. It was actually a really big savings because over a period of time I was spending, I don't remember how much I was spending on medication, but it was so much that I would usually satisfy my deductible for the year by roughly mid-February.
Maureen C.: Wow.
Eric O'Grey: Yeah. The amount that I paid her was less than what I was spending, and I felt that okay, well, let's see how this works. I prepaid my deductible for six months and then really started the sessions with her, and it really worked out wonderfully. I was also seeing my primary care physician, an M.D., at the same time, who was very in disbelief about the results.
The bottom line is I reversed my type 2 diabetes completely in under three months. I was off insulin, Metformin, and there was another drug I don't remember the name of that I was on, but I didn't need them within three months. It was all gone. I started losing up to five pounds a week, and it was like a miracle, like nothing that I had ever experienced before. Because as I said, I tried maybe 36 different plans before, and this was just amazing. What worked, in a nutshell, simply is whole plants.
Dr. Preeti gave me recipes and told me how to stock my pantry, told me what to throw away. Really, over this period of time I was not to eat anything that was in a can or pre-prepared. I would start out with whole food from the market, whole plants, and I would learn how to cook. I would learn how to prepare them into meals that were tasty and satisfying. She taught me what type of spices to use and herb combinations and these types of things and how to cook and how to prepare stuff. Over 10 months, I had lost 140 pounds, and I went all the way down to about 177 pounds.
Maureen C.: Wow.
Eric O'Grey: It completely transformed and changed my life, and it was just like a miracle. I thought, why isn't this what everybody on the market is prescribing, because this really, it truly will work for anybody.
Maureen C.: Yeah. Then too, the exercise part of it, if you could just, I know you mentioned you were walking, but tell me, so someone who's inspired and saying, wait, maybe I can do this. It starts out slowly, right? I mean, I imagine if you're-
Eric O'Grey: Right, it does, but the effect was immediate, and the weight loss was pretty constant. I started out losing consistently five pounds a week. Now, near the end as I approached my goal weight, it went down five, four, three, two, one, so it did taper. The last 20 pounds really were the hardest to lose, but all I did was change to a whole food plant-based diet, as I said, with no added oil. I learned how to cook without oil, and I just walked my dog for at least a half an hour twice a day.
In doing that, it was difficult at first, but after the first couple of weeks I got used to it. The pain started going away. The weight started coming off. My mental clarity and my energy suddenly were through the roof. I wasn't chronically tired all the time. I no longer had to sleep 10 or 12 hours a night. I was starting to get seven, eight hours a night's sleep. I was going, what's going on here, this is like a miracle.
I came to learn after this, I became so fascinated with this that I wanted to answer for myself how could it be possible that I was achieving this type of results? Why isn't this the primary method prescribed in the US for somebody who is in my physical condition to get back to optimal normal health? What I did was I went to my local community college, and I took the first year's undergraduate science and medical classes as if somebody was going into premed. I actually took the full course load for chemistry, organic chemistry, anatomy, physiology, food science, nutrition and other classes.
I really became very comfortable with reading food labels and understanding what was going on here. What's going on here is that most of the results you're going to get in a weight loss program are going to be from your nutrition. If you can find a way, as I did with a whole food plant-based diet, to turn it into a lifestyle so that I don't eat any animal products of any kind. I strictly eat plants, so there's over 20,000 edible plants on the earth, and they can be prepared in very satisfying, tasty and healthy combinations. By doing that and by learning all that and by learning how to cook and what nutrition was and how my body worked with nutrition, I also learned that you still need basic exercise.
Going back to Dr. Preeti, she said, "You need to find a long-term form of permanent exercise that you don't hate." I learned that about 85% of the results that I was getting were from the nutrition, but my metabolism wouldn't work correctly unless I did at least light exercise. That light exercise in the form of simply walking twice a day was doing a couple of things for me. First, it was making my metabolism work correctly because it was basic exercise. Secondly, by walking in the morning and then walking in the late afternoon before dinner, the act of just that much exercise will reduce the hormones in your body that really create hunger cravings and cause you to want to eat.
The amount that you want to eat is reduced. You have fewer hunger cravings, so when you do sit down at the table, you're eating normal portions, and you're eating types of food for which there are no hunger cravings. Unlike the processed, pre-prepared foods that are designed to be as addictive as possible so that you're going to eat as much as possible so that you'll spend more money with that manufacturer, if you're eating whole plants, you're not getting any addiction or hunger craving response. You're eating an amount that is going to make you feel satisfied, and then you're going to stop eating. Coupled with basic exercise and your appetite being under control, you don't have this raging hunger going on.
Those factors, eating healthy food that don't have added oil and are whole plants and eating reasonable quantities that are satisfying, I found this to be the most sustainable diet that I'd ever been on in my entire life. It felt effortless to lose the weight, and I'd never felt healthier or better or had more energy.
Maureen C.: That's amazing. You'd mentioned about once you got this plant-based diet down and how to prepare things for yourself in the morning, like you have a shake with a variety of different nutrients, but I also think it's pretty cool that you've also mastered eating out. Because let's face it, we can't live just ... We need to grab lunch, you're traveling. Can you tell me a little bit about how you've been able to go to restaurants?
Eric O'Grey: Sure. Just to start out, because the most frequently asked question that I get is twofold, where do you get your protein and what do you eat? I need to address that because people think that protein is a food group, and it's really not. Protein is made of building blocks called amino acids, and if you eat the full rainbow of foods, and again there's 20,000 different edible plants in the world, if you eat just beans and rice, that has the full spectrum of amino acids, are rich in protein and don't carry the baggage and side effects of animal products. By eating beans and rice, you have all essential amino acids, and you can actually support life on nothing more than beans and rice, but you want to eat more than that.
Maureen C.: Is it brown rice versus white rice, just to differentiate?
Eric O'Grey: Yes. There is protein in iceberg lettuce is what I want to tell people, so you don't need to carve out a place on your plate and try to fill that with meat. Just by eating plants, you're going to get all the protein that you need. What I'm going to do is in the morning with my Vitamix, which is a high-speed blender, is I'm going to put in a couple of fruits and maybe a handful of lettuce and maybe some sprouts, some broccoli sprouts or something else. I'm going to take some fruits that are sweet like some pineapple and some grapes and maybe some bananas, and I'm going to put in some taste-neutral vegetables like raw spinach and kale or something that in the raw form don't really have any flavor. Once you're mixing them in with fruit, it tastes like a fruit smoothy.
I'm going to add a couple of other super foods or nutrients to that. Maybe I'll add some cinnamon, which has some great weight loss effects, and maybe a just small amount of raw cacao powder, which is chocolate to make it chocolate flavored. Maybe I'll add some Brazil nuts for selenium and put in maybe just a small amount of almonds or walnuts. Then there's so many different things that you could put in. If you go to nutritionfacts.org and follow Dr. Greger's Daily Dozen or Daily 15, I forget what he calls it, but he'll give you a list of maybe what you can add to your morning smoothie. I'll drink that. I'll make a pretty large quantity of that, and I'll drink that. That'll be a pretty good breakfast.
Now, if I'm still hungry, maybe I'll have some oatmeal or some potatoes or something like that to go along with it. For lunch, usually because I'm in field sales, so I drive around a lot during the day and take people out to lunch, maybe I'll go to a Mexican restaurant.
Instead of just ordering a plate of tacos, I'm going to have a conversation with my server, and that conversation's going to include a couple of different things. I'm first going to confirm that the rice that I'm about to eat is not going to be made with chicken stock. Because food isn't food anymore, you have to ask.
Many of the foods that you think look like it is are going to have some sort of additive, so you have to ask and say, "I just need to make sure that this is going to be vegan and it's not going to have any animal products in it." Because rice at a lot of places, especially brown rice or anything with seasoning in it, is going to be made with chicken stock or some other things. After confirming that, I'm going to ask for a plate of tacos with twice as many beans, twice as much rice, a whole lot of pico de gallo, some salsa and some guacamole. That's going to be a beautiful plate of tacos, and I'm going to eat that and feel very satisfied. The difference is it's not going to have any meat, cheese or sour cream in it, and that's the difference.
You just cut your calories by over 50%. You're going to get just as satisfying a meal. You're not going to feel disgusted or sleepy afterwards, and you're going to have way more energy in the afternoon and feel a lot healthier.
Maureen C.: Yeah. The thinking behind ditching the meat and the cheese and the dairy, well, I guess cheese is dairy, you're not taxing your body nearly as much?
Eric O'Grey: No.
Maureen C.: Does it have to do-
Eric O'Grey: It's a very technical explanation that goes beyond the scope of this podcast, but this is based upon generally understood peer-reviewed medical studies that go back to the 80s by Dr. Pritikin, who established that through a lot of different studies that have been duplicated over and over and are fairly commonly understood knowledge. Some books that I'd recommend to your audience would be Dr. Neal Barnard's Program for Reversing Diabetes, The End of Diabetes by Joel Fuhrman, M.D.
These are all derived from studies done by Dr. Pritikin in the 80s, who established that animal products make it harder for your body to digest food and process insulin, and by eliminating animal products you can reverse type 2 diabetes within a matter of months. This will work for everybody.
Maureen C.: We've put those books on our website, so that's great advice. I love this idea that here you are, you could barely walk around the block at first, and then you start walking. The weight's coming off, and you're feeling better. Tell me about the day that you decided, you know what, I could actually probably run. Because that defines so much of what you do now, I think it's such a great-
Eric O'Grey: Yeah. After I lost all my weight, I was still meeting with Dr. Preeti, and she said, "Okay, well, now that technically you're cured of everything, mission accomplished," seriously, because I had no more health issues at all, and I haven't been sick not one time ever since then. It's just been amazing.
Maureen C.: It's mind blowing.
Eric O'Grey: She told me that really to sustain this, it's not like you're cured right now and you could just start doing what you were doing again. You have to do this for the rest of your life. She said, "What you really need to do is find a form of exercise that involves a social component so you get out and meet other people and you interact with people and that you don't hate." I knew that I would hate going to the gym and just lifting weights and doing that kind of thing, so I started doing a couple of different things.
I started taking group exercise classes, specifically Body Pump classes, and I really like doing that. It's a one-hour class where you're lifting weights with a bunch of other people. There's music, and it's kind of fun. You develop friends that way. Then also, I started running, and I joined some running groups. I found that that was an activity that I really enjoyed, so just like on Meetup, wherever you live you can find local running groups that probably run five to seven days a week that you can just go meet up with people. Even if you don't know where to run or you don't know your trails or you don't really know how to run, you can join up with other people and ask them questions and see what they're doing and run with them and just do your best.
I did that, and within a few months I actually started to do races and started running half marathons shortly after that. Now I'm an avid runner. I ran three full marathons last month, including the Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C. I'll run seven full marathons this year, and I run at least a half marathon every weekend with my dog, who is my running partner.
Maureen C.: Just backing up a little bit, and first of all, I'm blown away by the type of running that you do. I was just going to make a joke and say, just seven marathons, but that would not have been really funny. Peety, he's your loyal running partner, and then in 2015 he gets sick.
Eric O'Grey: Yeah. Peety, unfortunately, just over really a period of days he had developed a mass on his spleen, a cancer that I didn't even know about. He became very sick immediately, and it was really deemed like he's got no chance; there's no point in even trying to operate on this because he's going to die. He died within a few days, and it just was the hardest thing that I'd ever gone through in my entire life. I laid on the floor and held him for a couple days, and then he died.
After that, it was the hardest thing that I'd ever encountered, so after that I went without a dog for about six months. Then I found Jake at the Seattle Humane Society, because I'd moved up to Washington. I adopted Jake, and we have been running ever since. We started hitting the trails the day after I adopted him, and Jake runs with me right now 30 to 50 miles a week, depending on the week and what we do.
But I want to make really clear for all the listeners that running didn't have anything to do with my weight loss. I lost all the weight, and then I decided because I had so much energy and I felt so good that I wanted to engage in extreme exercise. I really did. This is what makes me happy and what I do now.
Maureen C.: Yeah. No, that's a good point, right, that the walking is just enough. It can be hugely impactful.
Eric O'Grey: Yeah.
Maureen C.: I think it's also wonderful that you're paying it forward and trying to help others now achieve the same success that you've had with transforming your health. On your website, ericandpeety.com, you host a regular podcast called Saving Shmulik, where you're mentioning-
Eric O'Grey: Right.
Maureen C.: Tell us about that.
Eric O'Grey: Yeah. I met Shmulik through an Israeli TV producer who was producing a show called The Decision. The gist of their show was that this person had this major life crisis and had to make a decision, so Shmulik's decision, as mine was, was whether or not to get bariatric surgery. They had me on at the end of the show, and I talked him out of getting bariatric surgery. I promised him that if he would not get bariatric surgery, I would help him achieve the results that I achieved.
He was 332 pounds roughly at the beginning of June of this year. Now, it's November, and he is down over 80 pounds. He's right now about 245, so all of his health problems have been reversed. He's extremely happy and doing really well. His life has changed also. My goal with him is to get him in shape, so I'm also training him on how to start running. I'm going to fly to Israel in March, and then we're going to run the Jerusalem Marathon together, 26.2 miles, in Jerusalem. That's going to be the capstone of this project.
Maureen C.: Wow. I imagine-
Eric O'Grey: The weekly podcast is about coaching, just like Dr. Preeti did for me, to help him. You have to have somebody to work with through this. There's too much to learn and know to do it on your own, and that's what helped me to succeed with Dr. Preeti and what I'm trying to do with Shmulik.
Maureen C.: Did want to ask you, I mean, life has changed for you in so many incredible ways, I heard you also had a few marriage proposals, but I'm sure people are reaching out and just inspired by you. I think it's wonderful on every level, and I just want to thank you so much for being here today. If you would like to read more about Eric and Peety, you can go to DiabeticLifestyle.com to check out the story and see the great pictures too of Eric and Peety and your new dog. Thank you so much, Eric, for being here.
Eric O'Grey: All right. Thank you, Maureen. I really appreciate it, and your show's great. Please email me when you're going to put this out, and I'll help publicize it.
Maureen C.: Okay. Sounds wonderful. Good luck.
Eric O'Grey: All right. Thank you.
Maureen C.: Okay, bye-bye.
Eric O'Grey: Bye.