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Former Medical Director, Escondido Community Health Center
Toured 30 major stadiums on “Baseball diet”
May 2003, nominated to Presidential Task Force/Commission on Nutrition, Fitness & Public Health
Graduate, University of California at San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine
Master’s degree, Loma Linda University
April 1, 2000, marked an auspicious beginning for Dr. Nick Yphantides. He notified the Escondido Community Health Center that the next year he was going to step down as medical director and leave his clinical practice. This was no April fool’s joke. The time had come for him to deal with his burgeoning weight.
Over the years, Nick had seen his weight balloon as he dealt with the indignities heaped upon the morbidly obese – for instance, being asked by a flight attendant to buy two seats next time, not accepting rides with friends unless he was sure they drove a big SUV that could handle his girth, and so on. He was tired of dressing in XXXXL T-shirts and gigantic gym pants. And being a physician, he got tired of telling his patients, “Do as I say, not as I do.”
For Dr. Yphantides, March 31, 2001, has come to be known as the day of “the last supper” because, he says, “It would be the last time I would eat solid food for the next eight months.” He, his dad, and his brothers feasted at Ruth Chris’s Steak House prior to an official weigh-in the next morning. Coming from a Greek family, Dr. Nick says food was the center of many family events.
Starting the next day on April Fool’s Day, 2001, Dr. Nick would begin an unusual, aggressive weight-loss program in which he planned to lose 150 pounds in eight months drinking protein supplemental drinks totaling 800 calories a day. Also unusual was how he would do it – a lover of baseball, he would visit every major ballpark in the nation. He figured that since he had so much weight to lose, it would be much easier to have his mind occupied with something he loved to do. His brother Phil, also a family physician, would supervise his program.
Unfortunately, his big adventure started on a jarring note. His weigh-in proved that instead of 150 pounds, he would have to lose 220 pounds! Since most scales topped out at 350 pounds, and Nick hit that, he assumed he was just a few pounds over 350 pounds. Using two scales, he staggered at learning that his guesstimate was off by 120 pounds! He almost couldn’t believe that he weighed 467 pounds.
All those years of overeating came back to haunt him. He felt ashamed at letting himself get to that point. His quest for good health and longevity was actually triggered earlier when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer and he beat that. He knew even more that losing the weight was critical to his health.
THE GREAT ADVENTURE
The local media followed Dr. Nick’s great adventure. Family members, especially his dad, would spend time with him on the road. He’d made arrangements for his tickets at each stadium. He bought a Chevy van, packed it with essentials, named it the “USS Spirit of Reduction,” and he and his dad headed out to his first game – the LA Dodgers.
Dr. Nick says his eight-month odyssey was sublime, and he had experiences that he will always treasure. Everyone was so supportive and he met many wonderful people. Throughout his trip he didn’t cut his hair, and he made a photo diary of his weight loss at each stadium.
When it was time to return home, a big makeover was in order. He wanted his mom and family to see him in a whole new light. Prior to returning home for Thanksgiving Day 2001, Dr. Nick had the works, including having his hair cut and lightened and his beard shaved.
The local media wanted to get his return on tape, which Nick agreed to. Dr. Nick says that in no way would his family alter their Thanksgiving ritual because the media were there, so they continued in saying their prayers as usual.It was a moment just like winning the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes when his Mom and family saw him for the first time – and it’s on tape!
Then the media stuck around to see him get his first taste of solid food in eight months. After careful medical consultation, Nick went with soft, mushy vegetables, which his digestive system could tolerate after such a long sabbatical. After not eating for so long, Nick was tentative on diving in, but one taste of portabella mushroom from his brother Phil’s barbecue, and it was like heaven. He hammed it up a little for the cameras, of course, falling over backwards with delight.
Over the next four weeks, Nick continued to reintroduce food groups into his diet while he continued to drink one or two protein shakes a day. He took his first bite of meat on Christmas Day, a slice of turkey breast. “Those bites of turkey tasted so good that I felt I had been born again on the day our family celebrated Christ’s birth,” he says.
THE SEVEN PILLARS
Today 65 percent of U.S. adults are classified as overweight by the Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Nick was one of them. In 2002 the IRS classified obesity as a disease allowing taxpayers to take medical deductions for expenses related to treatment. “The fact that our government classifies two-thirds of American adults as overweight carries all sorts of health-care implications,” Dr. Nick says. Overweight people see the doctor more often and are hospitalized in greater numbers due to higher rates of life-threatening conditions such as diabetes, coronary heart disease, and other serious chronic ailments. Almost 80 percent of obese adults have at least one serious complication.
Dr. Nick has come up with Seven Pillars that are effective in helping people to take control of their lives and lose weight.
Dr. Nick did not choose gastric bypass surgery for himself. He believes it should be considered only as a method of last resort. He has successfully maintained a body weight of 210 pounds and says his totally new life includes his new wife, Despina, who he married on May 1, 2004. Dr. Nick was raised in a strong Christian home.
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