Swee2ooth First Person

How Dave Yen changed his lifestyle and reversed his Type 2 diabetic condition.

Dave Yen was one of those guys who thought he knew what he was doing. When he first met Swee2ooth founder Thom Zwawa in 2005, Dave’s primary focus in exercise was cardio machines and running. By his understanding, such “cardio” activities were the best approach to weight management and being healthy.  Yet, he wasn’t healthy. Not only was he overweight, but by that point he’d been struggling with Type 2 diabetes for almost a decade. Zwawa re-introduced Yen to weight-training, worked with him one-one-one for only 10 sessions (in addition to many other incidental conversations bumping into each other) at a local YMCA in Charlotte, North Carolina, and from there, he turned a corner.  

Thirteen years after meeting Zwawa, Yen, a middle manager at Wells Fargo bank, has long since reversed the course of his Type 2 Diabetes with a complete change in lifestyle approach encompassing both diet and exercise. In the below excerpts from a recent interview with Swee2ooth, Yen shares some key insights into his journey – a journey that hasn’t been without its ups and downs.

 A long-term process

“Changing my lifestyle wasn’t some sort of epiphany where suddenly everything changed for the better. It was an evolutionary process. I trained with Thom back in ’05 for a quarter – maybe 10 training sessions. Before that I probably weighed much more than 230 pounds, and not long after I weighed 214. Now, I’m still within 2% of that bodyweight, and I’ve been able to maintain that since the Spring of 2005. I was never able to do that before with any consistency.”

Coming to a realization

“I had to let go of the habitual lies I was telling myself – the ‘knowledge’ I thought I had up to that point. I thought I knew it all. For example, I used to run a lot. And Thom asked me, ‘Why are you running?’ Well, up to that point in my life, the accepted logic was that the way to maintain a healthy weight was to do cardio. Thom was telling me I was a bonehead and that I needed to lift weights. Wow, you mean I have to stop doing what I’ve been doing? That was an important turning point for me – the acceptance of, what I thought I knew wasn’t working, so why keep doing the same thing over and over again?”

Lifting myths debunked

“My dad was always opposed to my weight-training, because his mentality was that when you lift weights you get big. And that was another thing that Thom had to demonstrate for me. After 10 weeks of weight training, everything on me shrunk! I dropped inches everywhere. I’ve since been able to put on some muscle mass, but I’m still smaller now than I was when I first started lifting weights.”

Thinking differently about food

“The term ‘diet’ in our culture has come to mean that you’re going to come off of it after you’ve reached your goal. But that’s not really what diet means; a diet is what you eat. What you do is you make changes and modifications to your diet to achieve your goal. But it’s not just to achieve a goal; it’s to change your lifestyle on a permanent basis.”

Having patience and perspective

“It takes time for changes to impact your body. It can’t be measured in a brief five-pound experience of weight loss, or ‘I lost a couple inches.’ I started getting fat in college. I had been abusing my body for 20 years, so why would I think that I would turn it all around completely in six weeks? That mindset and change of perspective is what allowed me to maintain more consistency. I’m still not perfect, but I’m much more consistent now – I’ve moderated my behavior in terms of exercise and what I eat.”

Type 2 back to the ‘90s

“My first diagnosis was in 1997. I was going in for a surgery, and I remember being told that I had to stop eating the night before by midnight. So I ate right up until midnight, and because I was having surgery I was feeling sorry for myself, so I said, ‘Oh, I can just eat whatever I want.’ And when I went in for the surgery the next day, they took my blood sugar and it was 300. So I found out at that point that I was Type 2.”

Going to extremes

“I freaked out and totally screwed down my diet to a point that nobody could possibly sustain, and I ultimately failed. I lost a bunch of weight, but then I gained most of it back.

Soon after I got diagnosed, I changed jobs and began travelling all the time. I was staying in hotels and feeling like I should ‘treat myself’ because I was out of town and entertaining clients. I also had the mentality of, ‘I worked out today, so that means I can have dessert…’ and that sort of thing.”

A reason to change

“When I moved to Charlotte in 2004, I went to go to see a doctor and he checked my blood sugar levels. Then he told me, ‘If you want to die, just keep doing what you’re doing.’ My daughter had just turned one year old. Before she was born I had quit smoking because I knew I had to be around for her. And so when the doctor said that to me, I thought the same thing – that I need to change something so I can be around for my daughter.”

Encountering peer pressure

“Just like I would justify to myself that because I worked out I could have dessert, or because I ate healthy two meals earlier in the day I could splurge at dinner, other people would unintentionally sabotage me, too. Like, ‘Oh, it’s just a piece of cake for someone’s birthday.’ Or, ‘Why can’t you just be a little bit less restrictive?’ But I don’t feel like my diet is that restrictive. I’d just made a decision that a certain food doesn’t fit in my diet. I don’t include cake and icing in my diet. Why? Because I know from a dietary perspective that the net outcome of eating that food is negative for my health, so I don’t eat it. But other people don’t get that.” 

 Lifting for life

“Before I started working with Thom, I thought I would never lift weights again. Now, my premonition is that I’m going to die with weights in my hands. Even when I’m 80 years old, I’ll still lift weights; I’ll just have to lift lighter weights – maybe.”