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June 23, 2014

‘Half the Man I Used to Be’

RUSSELL — What began as a small, but painful knot under the right nipple of Brian Gross in the spring of 2012 grew into a life-changing experience that turned Gross, a teacher at the Boyd County Juvenile Detention Center, into half the man he used to be.

In fact,”Half the Man I Used to Be” is the title of a highly personal book the 6-foot Gross wrote about shrinking from 377 pounds to 214 pounds today and hoping to soon drop below 200 pounds. The short 172-page book that includes a number of pages of photos was recently released by iUniverse LLC of Bloomington. Ind., and is available on the Internet, at McMeans Pharmacy in Ashland, and from Gross.

Although the book is about his weight loss, it does not provide extensive details about how he did it. Instead, Gross said he did it mainly through portion control, eating food that is much healthier for him, and by exercise.

Instead of giving readers a diet plan, Gross says he hopes the book  will give encouragement to others who, like him, have spent much of their lives fighting the battle of the bulge.

“I know how hard it is to lose weight,” Gross writes. “I know how easy it is to turn to food for comfort. I’ve been there. I’ve lived most of my life there and now that my life has changed, I never want to go back there. As long as I let God stay in the driver’s seat, I won’t.”

As much as it is a book about dieting, “Half the Man I Used to Be” is a book about faith and how Gross is convinced he would not have been able to change his life and lose so much weight if it had not been his faith in Jesus Christ.   

Gross says he first felt the pain under his right nipple in early 2012, but he ignored it thinking it would just go away,. After telling his wife, Christy, about the pain months later, she strongly encouraged him to see a doctor about it as soon as possible. When he was unable to get a doctor’s appointment for another six months, Christy arranged for her husband to see a friend who is a gynecologist. Gross writes a humorous chapter about going to the Women’s Center for a mammogram, which he quickly renamed a man-mogram.

While Gross admits he was embarrassed to go into a room full of women for his man-mogram, the results were mostly positive.

“I was greatly relieved to find out that I didn’t have cancer or any other serious illness,” Gross writes. “I had a condition that was sometimes painful but could be reversed if I lost weight. I had gotten a free pass once again, or so I thought at the time.”

Gross went to see Dr. Carrie Connett, D.O., a general practioner associated with Our Lady of Bellefonte Hospital, on Oct. 10, 2012, for what he thought as going to be a general checkup on his overall health. At the time, he was not even trying to lose weight as advised by the results of his man-mogram.

“I had no qualms about saying I was overweight,” wrote Gross. “I expected my cholesterol to be high, thought maybe my blood pressure would not be too good, and knew I would get a stern lecture about diet and exercise. Been there and done that before.”

Only he learned that day that his health was much worse than he had imagined. It began when he stepped on the scale and it registered 377 pounds, but that was just the beginning. He then was given an EKG.

“You failed your EKG,” Connett told a shocked Gross, who was then just 34. “The readings suggest that you have even had a previous heart attack.”

Gross was scheduled for a stress test the next day. Tests also revealed that he was a new Type II diabetic.

“I was a broken man in need of some help, and I knew where to look for it,” Gross said after learning that if he continued on the path he was on, there was a good chance he would not live to see his three children grow to adulthoood and to have a long life with his beloved wife.

“Praying was nothing new for me; I had done it most of my life,” Gross wrote.  “I prayed that evening like I hadn’t prayed in years and by the time I was finished, I was at peace. Something changed in me that night; something that was going to have a positive influence in my life going forward. ... From that point, I was going to start taking care of myself by living a healthy life, not just physically but spiritually as well, for my benefit and for the benefit of my family.”

In an excerpt in the book, Connett recalled how Gross weighed 377 when she first met him, but when he weighed 328 just three months later, “I knew I had a fighter. He was determined to change, He continued to lose and a year later, Oct. 25, 2013, he weighed 243 pounds. Brian had lost more than 130 pounds in a year.

“This is not a story of surgical weight-loss nor gimmicky diets,” Connett said. “Brian changed his life with portion control and exercise.”

Connett said Gross’s motivation and determination have inspired her personally and professionally. “He is proof that it can be done,” Connett said.

Gross has become the main cook in his family and he says he hopes to begin speaking at hospitals and at churches.  He can be reached at halfthemanmogram@gmail.com.

JOHN CANNON can be reached at jcannon@dailyindependent.com or at (606) 326-02649.

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