Dr. Pepper Prescribes Death to Daniel Long

By Hilary Achauer – April 11th, 2018

In the early 2000s, 23-year-old Daniel Long was working as a licensed plumber in Waco, Texas. He spent his days in the field, often digging ditches.

Out all day, sweating in the hot Texas sun, Long—who weighed 270 lb. at 5 foot 9—got thirsty. His beverage of choice was Dr. Pepper. Every day he’d drink 10-12 bottles of it.

“I knew it was bad, but I didn’t know it was that bad. I figured, ‘I’m out digging ditches, sweating, stuff like that. How bad can it be?’ I never had a clue,” Long said.

A 20-ounce Dr. Pepper has 64 g of sugar, meaning that Long was consuming at least 640 g—or 160 teaspoons—of sugar a day via beverages alone. The American Heart Association recommends adult men consume no more than nine teaspoons of added sugar a day. Long was ingesting almost 18 times that amount.

ALT TEXTEven though Daniel Long was consuming an incredible 640 g of added sugar a day through soda, his doctor prescribed medication and didn’t mention lifestyle changes. (Courtesy of Daniel Long)

His body couldn’t keep up.

Unbeknownst to Long, he’d already moved through the prediabetes phase. In 2005, Long’s girlfriend at the time—now his wife—persuaded him to get a checkup.

Long went to the doctor and discovered his fasting blood sugar was more than 260 mg/dL, well over the normal range of 70 to 99 mg/dL. He had Type 2 diabetes. The doctor sent him home with a diabetes medication—metformin—and Long went back to eating fast food and drinking Dr. Pepper.

Trying to Change

Long said his first doctor did not explain the cause of his diabetes or what he could do to improve his health.

“I don’t know if he was too busy or what, but most of the time when I’d try to make an appointment he just tried to push medicine,” Long said.

Only 23 at the time, Long admits he didn’t take time to do research himself.

“I didn’t have a clue what diabetes was, (and) for some reason I didn’t even look into it,” Long said.

“The doctor says, ‘It’s this. Take this medicine and it should be OK,’” he said.

ALT TEXTWhen a doctor finally told a diabetic Long to lose weight, Long didn’t know how to do it. (Mandie Meier)

Four years later, in 2009, Long changed doctors. His new physician told him he needed to exercise and lose weight. With no athletic background or knowledge of nutrition, Long was at a loss as to how he would accomplish this.

“I tried everything,” he said.

“I’d get on the internet, and if they say it worked, I’d give it a shot,” he said.

He tried Jenny Craig. He tried diets based on his metabolism. He joined gyms but had no idea what to do once he got there. With no direction or personal connection, Long went back to his old habits.

Difficult News

The years went by and Long got married. He and his wife had a son in 2014.

By 2016, Long weighed 315 lb. He’d long ago switched from metformin to insulin because the metformin was no longer working to stabilize his blood sugar.

In March of that year Long went to the doctor for a routine visit.

Eleven years of living with Type 2 diabetes without making any lasting lifestyle changes had taken a toll. The doctor looked at Long and told him some difficult news.

“He said if I keep on this track I could suffer organ damage, (and it) could lead to having to amputate toes or whatever. Or a heart attack—basically all the bad stuff,” Long said.

The doctor didn’t mince words—he told Long he could die if he didn’t make a change.

“It pretty much just scared the crud out of me,” Long said.

Long knew about CrossFit because his cousin’s husband owns a CrossFit affiliate in Austin. CrossFit was one thing he hadn’t tried, so he thought he’d look into it.

ALT TEXTDesperate, Long went to Twin Bridges CrossFit in spring 2016. (Courtesy of Daniel Long)

Long gathered up his courage, and in March 2016 he walked into Twin Bridges CrossFit in his hometown, Waco. A coach there talked to him for about 40 minutes about his health issues and goals.

A week later, Long attended his first CrossFit class. It was Friday, and the workout was CrossFit Games Open Workout 16.5: 21-18-15-12-9-6-3 reps for time of thrusters and burpees. The coaches had Long perform a scaled version to fit his abilities and level of fitness, but the workout pushed him.

“It was extremely intimidating,” Long said.

“I thought all weekend long, ‘What am I doing? This ain’t for me.’ I hurt, I could barely move,” he said.

Long was sore and a little scared, but he was intrigued. He went back to Twin Bridges CrossFit on Monday.

“The doctors scared the crud out of me. I had to stick to something,” Long said, explaining why he went back to CrossFit after that difficult first workout.

The workouts were great, but Long knew exercise was only part of the solution. He needed to fix his nutrition and get rid of the Dr. Pepper.

Nutrition

After Long had been attending CrossFit three times a week for about six months, a member who is also a nutritionist overheard him talking to one of the owners of Twin Bridges CrossFit about his diet.

“(That member) is the one that really helped me pinpoint and figure out how to eat and what kind of stuff to eat,” Long said.

He had always thought the only way to lose weight was to essentially stop eating.

“I learned so much in the last two years, just eating and nutrition-wise,” Long said.

The first thing he did was to get rid of his soda habit. Soon after giving up soda completely, Long started to feel terrible. It got so bad he thought he had the flu.

Long went to the doctor, and after examining him the doctor said, “You don’t have the flu. Everything is fine.”

ALT TEXTBy kicking his soda habit and training regularly, Long lost 70 lb. in less than a year. (Courtesy of Daniel Long)

The doctor told Long his body was just getting used to surviving without a constant influx of sugar.

The flu-like symptoms lasted for about week, and after three weeks Long started to feel better during workouts. He was drinking mostly water, although he sometimes mixed about half a package of Powerade into it. Just 1.5 tablespoons of Powerade powder contain 19 g of sugar, but it was a vast improvement over 10 sodas and 640 g of sugar. Now Long said he sticks to plain water or unsweetened tea.

Along with giving up soda, Long stopped eating food contained in a box or wrapper, eating lean meats, minimal fruit and lots of green vegetables instead.

The weight came off quickly. In less than a year, Long lost more than 70 lb.

When Long hit 240 lb. his weight loss slowed down, so he adjusted his nutrition, tracking his calories and macronutrients in an app called MyFitnessPal. He increased his workouts from three times per week to five and started training for obstacle-course races in addition to his CrossFit workouts.

Now, two years after walking into Twin Bridges CrossFit, Long weighs 185 lb. with 22 percent body fat, down from 39 percent.

The best news, however, is Long, now 36, is no longer diabetic.

“I’m off all medications,” he said. “I don’t use asthma medication and don’t have inflammation issues.”

Direction and Community

Long said the community and the personal attention he received at Twin Bridges CrossFit helped him finally stick with the lifestyle changes.

ALT TEXTLong and a few parts of his support system. (Courtesy of Daniel Long)

“I liked the fact that it’s basically a personal coach,” Long said about CrossFit classes. He didn’t have to wander around a gym feeling lost. The coach told him what to do each day.

“The coaches really made a difference. They were real personable. They spend lots of time with all the athletes, but especially the new ones,” Long said.

Long said he felt like people cared about his progress.

“I think the community is a big part of it,” he said.

“You’ve got that support system. Then once I started seeing small changes, I kind of got obsessed with it. That’s the word my wife uses,” he continued, laughing.

ALT TEXTLong, now 185 lb., is no longer diabetic. (Courtesy of Daniel Long)

Long also found balance in his life—it’s not all spinach and chicken; every once in a while he’ll eat a hamburger or have some pizza. Long now has two sons, boys who will only remember their dad as someone who is fit and healthy.

The solution to Long’s health problems was within his grasp all along—he just needed help getting started.

“Type 2 diabetes is curable,” Long said. “Anybody can make a change. You’ve just got to get that mindset and get out there and do it.”

This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and does not constitute medical or other professional advice.

About the Author: Hilary Achauer is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health and wellness content. In addition to writing articles, online content, blogs and newsletters, Hilary writes for the CrossFit Journal. To contact her, visit hilaryachauer.com.

Cover image: Mandie Meier

This article was originally published on the CrossFit Journal. You can find it here.

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About The Author

Neil Scholtz

Neil Scholtz is a certified Personal Trainer turned CrossFit coach. He has competed at the CrossFit Games and coached athletes that have competed at the CrossFit Games, but that's not his main focus. Most of his time is spent consulting or coaching individuals to improve their lives through fitness. He has worked with over 1000 individuals from various walks of life. Tailoring solutions to their lifestyle needs.