As Michael Obbink sat to put on his shoes one morning, he was struck by an intense pain.
He couldn’t sit. He couldn’t stand.
Doctors diagnosed the problem as a bulging disc in his back. Exercise was off-limits while the Bellevue man recovered. Obbink started packing on extra pounds during the sedentary time.
Obbink, who’s 6 feet tall, weighed 292 pounds at his heaviest. The lifestyle change — and extra weight — led to a diagnosis of Type II diabetes.
“You have to be persistent in exercising. It’s so easy to get out of that routine,” Obbink said.
Now Obbink, 48, has overhauled his habits. After one year of adopting regular exercise and small diet changes into his life, he dropped 70 pounds.
Obbink’s diabetes diagnosis prompted him to change.
“(Diabetes and high blood pressure) are high risk for heart attack. I really want to be around for my daughters,” he said. “That was kind of the start of it.”
Obbink joined a fitness club in fall 2017 and started using the treadmill. He started his morning sessions with 30 minutes.
By the time Obbink dropped nearly 10 pounds, he realized exercise was something he could stick with. He started doubling his time on the treadmill.
“It was like, ‘Wow, I can actually do this,’ ” he said.
Then Obbink turned to his diet. He cut back on his soda intake, from six cans a day down to three and eventually to one. Now he drinks water all day long.
Obbink, who had a sweet tooth, cut out candy and other treats. He skipped the Laffy Taffy, Snickers and chocolate cake. He snacks on almonds or nuts instead of sweets at night.
He stopped eating out for lunch daily. He might have eaten barbecue ribs or pork along with a side of mac and cheese and a soda. Obbink said he’ll still indulge once in awhile, but not every day.
“I can’t say that I’ve really changed everything I eat. I try to eat smarter,” Obbink said. “If I want something that’s bad for me, I’ll eat it just to clear it out of my system, rather than gorge on it.”
Slowly, Obbink noticed results. He wasn’t winded when he walked up stairs. He could keep up with the kids when he coached basketball.
His efforts “snowballed.” In January 2018, Obbink, who works in accounting at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, joined a university-hosted fitness program. His goal was to drop 20 pounds by the end of June. He became a regular at group fitness classes on campus.
He hit his goal and kept going. By December, he was down to 222 pounds. He noticed a change in the way his clothing fit, too. He used to squeeze into a double extra-large shirt. Now he fits comfortably in an extra-large. He dropped from a 46 to a 40 in pant sizes.
“I didn’t think I had that many sizes to lose,” Obbink said.
Boot camp instructor Jenni Rock, who works in the university’s budget office, didn’t notice Obbink’s weight loss at first. But she did notice his commitment and a change in his demeanor.
“We’re left-brain people. We have that numbers mentality, and we like our patterns,” Rock said. “He decided he wanted to make a change. He’s in class almost every day.”
Obbink blocks out the lunch hour on his calendar each day so no one can schedule meetings with him during that time.
Skyler Brooke, assistant director for strength and fitness programs at the university, has seen a role reversal in Obbink’s fitness classes. Classmates used to push Obbink and offer him encouragement to get him through the workout, Brooke said. Now Obbink offers the same encouragement to newcomers in the class.
“Now he’s the guy holding everybody else accountable,” Brooke said. “He’s pushing them to get another lap, do another pushup or do another squat. It’s really cool to see him doing what everyone was doing for him a year ago.”
The boot camp group and accountability factor keeps Obbink consistent. They’ve become a fitness family, he said. Fellow gym-goers support him, just like his family, boss and coworkers have.
He’s still a regular in class, and his current goal is to put on muscle and strengthen his core. He plans to return to his doctor for an update on his diabetes and blood pressure.
“I don’t know that I’m an influence ... but I try to encourage them. Kind of like people have done to me over the past year,” Obbink said. “We can all push each other. It makes it easier to do.”