Paul Thompson is in his ninth year as principal at Concordia Lutheran School in Peoria. But last fall, when students and parents returned for a new school year, some introduced themselves to him and asked, “Who are you?”
That can happen when you lose 168 pounds—which is what Paul did through the Health Management Resources (HMR) program at the OSF Weight Loss Center. “You know those 40-pound bags of water-softener salt?” he asks. “Basically, I had been carrying around four of those everywhere I went.”
Thirty years ago, Paul was a six-foot-three, 245-pound offensive lineman for Concordia College in Nebraska. After graduation, he spent two decades teaching and coaching. Then, as a principal, he began eating a “drive-thru diet” at his desk and ballooned to 353 pounds.
Paul knew the excess weight contributed to chronic back pain and compounded his arthritis. His doctor described him as “morbidly obese” and suggested surgery as an option to lose weight. “That was the wakeup call,” he says.
In January 2019, Paul attended a free meeting at the OSF Weight Loss Center at the RiverPlex Recreation & Wellness Center. There, Dr. Cherie Hawkins suggested a solution available through an OSF HealthCare partnership with HMR, a national program that combines a variety of diet options, exercise, weekly classes and ongoing maintenance support.
Paul chose HMR’s most popular option, known as “Healthy Solutions.” It includes specifically prepared HMR meals and a daily regimen of at least five full cups of fruits and vegetables, 64 ounces of water and physical activity. The average weight loss in the Healthy Solutions program is 35 to 40 pounds. Paul more than quadrupled that.
Now 51 years old, he took no shortcuts. He ate the HMR-prepared meals and supplemented them with ample fruits, vegetables and water. Seven days a week at 4:30am, he went to a gym and worked out for 90 minutes. “They call it ‘being inside the box,’” he explains. “I was always ‘inside the box.’” In September, when his weight reached 185, Paul moved to the maintenance phase of the program.
The OSF Weight Loss Center emphasizes the importance of changing and controlling your environment, so Paul installed a water cooler behind his office desk. He cleared out a cabinet in his bookcase and stocked it with healthy foods, measuring cups and the like.
“This is now my drive-thru window,” he explains. Then he lifts a backpack from the floor and opens it, revealing several servings of fruits, vegetables, apples, grapes, salad and proteins. “And people tease me, but this is my lunchbox.” PM