Health Driven By Fear is a Major Motivator

overweight weightloss

If you’re a friend of mine on Facebook, you’ve probably noticed the Nike updates my iPhone makes when I work out in the morning. There’s a reason for this and it’s probably not what you think.

My reasons are, or better said my journey is, very similar to Mark Joyner’s current “A Year Without Sugar.” (However, I’m not cutting out sugar for the same reasons.)

It’s also similar to my friend Robby Leblanc, who appeared on Oprah’s “Addicted to Food.” He was morbidly obese, and has successfully lost 85 pounds. He’s promoting a charity where he will climb up the Stratosphere in Vegas — and next, believe it or not… Mount Kilimanjaro!

But my journey, albeit similar, started a bit differently. It started with a wakeup call I never expected — one that still haunts me to this day.

It all started when, after my mom passed, I was having strong middle and right-side chest pains. I didn’t think it was a heart attack, because the pain was slightly below my breast line where the heart is located.

Plus, I had my heart checked out last year, stress-tested and all, at the Ottawa Heart Institute — and I’m fine according to the doctors.

The Pain

This was different.

It felt like acid reflux, or excess bloating caused by gas. Now, I do suffer from GERD, which is caused by my arthritis meds I take for my back, and Zantac normally did the job. But these attacks were becoming stronger and more frequent. Nothing helped.

I have two herniated discs (if you’ve seen me at seminars in the last 2-3 years, you’ve probably seen me walking with a cane). The NSAID (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) kept the inflammation under control.

But since anti-inflammatories have a history of causing stomach side-effects, at first I thought that maybe it was the meds.

The first flareup lasted five minutes.

It happened while on our way back home from a night out at the movies, where I inhaled a large bag of buttery popcorn.

The second one, a few weeks later, 15 minutes.

It was painful. It felt as if someone stabbed me in the chest.

A week later, the third one was 30 minutes long.

It literally felt like my stomach was about to tear out of my chest. Very painful.

The fourth one happened during the holidays while visiting friends in North Carolina.

It lasted almost two hours.

Once the attack was over, I had this undeniable need to go to sleep. Maybe it’s my body’s way of telling me it needs a rest after such a workout. My wife who took care of me during the attack fell asleep by my side. She was getting as worried as yours truly.

At this point, I felt that enough was enough. I booked an appointment with my doctor, and he did two things. One is prescribe Prilosec (it’s still sold by prescription here in Canada unlike the US where it’s sold over the counter).

And he booked an ultrasound.

Between this appointment and the next one to review the results (about two weeks later, which also happened to be my annual physical checkup with blood tests and all), I had another attack.

This one was the biggie.

Excruciating. It was so strong it knocked my breath out several times, and no position I could find would help.

It lasted 12 long, painful hours.

I slept for about eight hours afterwards, but when I woke up I was exhausted, in pain from the muscle spasms, and scared out of my bloody mind. I barely ate anything for days out of fear of having another attack.

The Diagnosis

When came time for my meeting with Dr. Townsend, I already lost about eight pounds. I weighed about 244 before my last attack (I was hovering around 260 on average), and during the physical I weighed 236. “That’s because I didn’t eat much since my last attack,” I said to my doctor.

The results came in.

First, the one I kind of expected.

I have diabetes.

It’s still early and controllable with weightloss, nutrition, and before any medication or insulin is needed. But definitely my blood sugar was high, and this was my third blood test in a row where my blood sugar was above normal.

This scared me. My sister is a diabetic, and I see how it’s affecting her. My friend’s mother died, just weeks before mine, due to complications from diabetes.

Plus, I already take enough medications — for hypothyroidism, arthritis, spasms, asthma, and now for acid reflux (Prilosec). I didn’t want to take insulin! I started to feel like a walking pharmacy.

But that wasn’t the killer (pun sorely intended)…

Second, my doctor said I have a “fatty liver.” Not good, of course, and likely tied to both the diabetes and the third ailment… this one was the doozy…


Gallstones are the culprits behind my attacks. They are the cause behind the incessantly growing, incredibly painful, and terribly exhausting flareups.

This is where my jaw dropped to the floor. Here’s why…

My mom was diagnosed with gallstones last February (a year ago), where they didn’t do anything. (My mom wasn’t one to complain as she kept a lot to herself.) But it was six months later when gallstones became gallbladder cancer.

“Luckily, it’s very rare form of cancer,” the doctor said. “But we won’t take any chances. We’ll get a gastroenterologist to book you for surgery, and we’ll remove the gallbladder and send it off for a biopsy just to be safe.”

Naturally, this inspired and incited me to carry out a ton of research in the last couple of months. And one of the many things I’ve learned is that the gallbladder is a non-essential organ. Cholecystectomy only has a few manageable side-effects.

My Newfound Determination

That doctor’s appointment was a major wakeup call. I was scared. I still am. And the diagnosis felt like my life was about to be cut short for no reason. It was as if the world grabbed me by the collar and shook me. Hard.

I needed to make changes. Drastic changes.

So I rolled up my sleeves. I put my foot down and did the following…

Since the end of January:

  • I stopped all my medications, except for my thyroid (that’s too dangerous to stop).
  • I stopped all refined sugars. (This was hard! I love sugar in my coffee.)
  • I drink 6-8 large bottles of water a day. About a gallon and a half.
  • I eat smaller portions, more slowly, putting my fork down between each bite.
  • I reduced carbs considerably and eliminated processed foods completely.
  • I do my “Mackenzie stretches” three times a day to strengthen my back.
  • And I bought an upright exercise bike and workout 30 minutes each day.

The last one is why you see all my Nike updates. We also have a treadmill at home, but because of my herniated discs, arthritis, and bunions (all of which are caused or aggravated by obesity), the bicycle is a lot less strenuous.

Strangely, Nike’s app only records runs, jogs, or walks. I leave it in my pocket so it tracks my “steps,” if you will, as I pedal the bike. But it only records about three kilometers (1.8 miles). It’s not entirely accurate, because based on the bike’s own tracker, which measures wheel revolutions, I do 10km (6.2 miles).

Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that I do 30 minutes a day, lose weight to keep this diabetes in check, and stop my gallstone attacks.

One more thing I have to add.

My wife, my Soul Mate, Sylvie who is one of if not the best cook I’ve ever known (her food is absolutely delicious!), has pledged to help me, support me, and encourage me — so much so, that she’s changing her cooking habits by switching a lot of her ingredients with less-fatty and more wholeseome alternatives.

(There’s a lot of research behind whole and ancient grains, by the way. It’s very much in line with the Paleo Diet, which I strongly recommend. Also, I rediscovered a fondness for Sushi! Especially wrapped in multigrain rice.)

The Result

A month and a half later after starting my new regimen and new lifestyle, I now weigh 211 lbs. Yes, that’s 33 pounds lost.

I’m happy, but I still have some ways to go. My goal weight is 190. My BMI tells me it’s 180, but I want to be realistic as well as healthy — not gaunt or sickly looking. (I was on a crash diet once, and fell below 180. I looked terrible.)

All this to say, I want to live a long, healthy life. My wife and my family are my blessings. I want to be with them for a long, long time.

Seeing how diabetes and bad health are affecting others around me, especially while caregiving for my mom before she passed, I know I had to make some choices.

(I also remember my mother, while on her deathbed, often complaining about how fat I was. Talk about a painful memory to have of your dying mother!)

I also know that the less obese I am, the less strain it puts on my back.

I have more energy. I feel stronger. And even my thyroid has improved.

You might ask, “Why are you making this public, Michel?” The answer is simple. Like when I quit smoking two (almost three) years ago, making it public makes me more accountable. I hate letting people down. Not just my wife and my family, but also my friends and fans. I’ll keep you posted.

Thanks for listening.


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43 thoughts on “Health Driven By Fear is a Major Motivator

  1. As someone who sees you daily… you look MARVELOUS!!  Kudo’s for making your own health a priority.

  2. Wow – congratulations on your amazing progress. It is so inspiring. I have no doubt you will reach 190! Clean eating is a big change but once you’ve got it down, you feel so much better. Glad you are feeling strong and energized. I’m going to send you an email with info on some healthy recipes.

  3. Wow. Michel if it ever gets really really bad, you should try Falun Dafa ( It’s free and you can learn online… It really helped me about 10 years ago, and to this day I do the exercises a couple of times a week.

  4. Michael!
    That’s pretty intense man…best of luck to you with everything.
    I know you’ve probably been taking in dietary information 
    in ridiculous amounts already – have you checked out
    the 4-Hour Body?

    Best of Luck Dude!

  5. Michel,
    I’m totally with you on this one, last year I was having health issues too, probably caused by sugar, weight, and other causes.
    So I made an ABRUPT change to my diet and exercise pattern.  Now, I walk 2.5 miles every day… eat on a small plate, gave up soda completely (like, as in 100%), and have increased my fruit and vegetable intake along with other changes.
    In 12 months I lost 70lbs.
    I’m also on a mission to find out exactly why this is happening to WAY too many people, and to help others do the same (if they want to).
    Great post Michel, and timely.

  6. quit smoking, my idol

  7. Good going Michel!  You’re headed in a much better direction with less meds.
    Two sources I’m not following on the paleo diet are and The Perfect Health Diet.  Everyone is different of course in terms of diets but these have worked well for me.  Limit grains, sugars, processed foods, and eat good meats (natural, grass fed, wild caught) good carbs, veggies, and good fats and oils. 
    Best of luck to you!

  8. Nicely done, Michel – both the changes you’ve made and going public. Besides keeping you accountable, it may also inspire others to take a more active role in their own health.

  9. Michael, what a service to share your story. A powerful wakeup call.
    And congratulations on all the good changes.
    I wonder if you’ve noted a change in your work – your productivity and energy – since you’ve been on the recovery war path? I ask because I’ve just launched a course for home business owners like you in how to keep healthy WHILE building their business. I’ve seen too many people in situations like yours struggle to recover both their health AND their business. In fact 1 out of 6 small business bankruptcies are attributed to personal reasons – illness being one of the prime factors.
    As I see it, as solopreneurs our health is our most valuable business asset. If we’re not functioning in our prime, our business falters. In contrast, when we’re healthy we can rocket through our work and build our business even faster.
    However, we easily get dismayed by trying to manage it while we meet the demands of running a business. This system I’ve developed breaks it down into manageable, doable, effective steps.
    You can read about it here:
    I’ve got a simple free report on the easiest thing you can do for your health while working right here:

    Glad to hear you’re recovering. And again, thank you for sharing your story. I’m sure it will help others make some long overdue changes.

  10. ResilientMichae

    Michel Wishing you much success on your health journey.

  11. Hey Dude,
    Good for you!  I’m proud  of you.
    I’m doing something similar… but maybe even crazier.  Check out  I restarted and recommitted on 2.4.12.  Check it out…. I’ll have a fitness contest with you!

  12. Hi Michel – hope you’re well.  You might also like to look at adding more raw foods to your diet – many people have drastically reduced their symptoms and reversed disease processes with it.  I’m so glad to hear that you decided to come off your meds.  It sounded like you were putting med on top of med, each with side effects necessitating the next med and round and round in circles.  Apparently the body is pretty good at healing itself if we’ll just feed it properly.  Not sure if yoga would help as well for your back? xx  Jane

  13. Wow!  That’s a real about-face, Michel.  Congratulations.  You and those around you will be beneficiaries of your lifestyle changes.  Keep up the good work!!
    Rob Lehrer

  14. I’m also a copywriter and spend long hours in front of my computer – as I work from home and have osteo-arthritis in my lower back, I don’t do much exercise other than a bit of toning.  I’ve gained weight and am around 6 stone (84lbs) heavier than I’d like to be. 
    Your story is a great kick in the – er, gall bladder – and I will start walking a bit at a time and see if I can emulate your achievements.  Thank you.

  15. Hi Michel,
    I’m a student of Paul Hancox. I subscribed to your list some time back and usually read most of your updates which are always very insightful.
    Sorry to hear about your recent health discovery. Good to hear that you’ve taken a good number of steps improve your condition. Thanks also for sharing your discovery and journey with us.
    I used to have quite a sweet tooth before until I heard of the effects of diabetes. Since then I’ve reduced my sugar intake considerably.
    I wish you the best of success in finding ways to overcome your health challenges.

  16. Michael, congratulations on all the good changes. So glad to hear about them and how they’ve made such a difference. Your story is a wake up call for all of us on how important – and fleeting – our health is if we don’t pay attention. Our bodies are amazing machines, able to self-repair under enormous odds. But eventually they start to show the wear and tear.
    I’m glad you raised this in the context of your professional copywriting blog. I coach home business owners on how to integrate healthy moves into their workday because I’ve seen so many folks struggling to run a business AND stick with fitness and nutrition. It’s a real challenge and when work calls with all its stress and demands, exercise and nutrition often get shunted to the back burner. Even thought in the long run, as you’re discovering, paying attention to them can give you more energy to get more done!
    While it’s great that you’re upping the exercise – see how you can build movement into your workday. Recent research from the American Cancer Society demonstrates that even an hour of exercise a day won’t make up for a day spent mostly sitting (4 hours or more) when it comes to longevity.
    One of my favorite ways to do this is to stand up more while working. It has been shown to lower insulin resistance and cholesterol. It also burns 2X the calories of sitting. It’s an easy way to boost your overall daily exercise. You can stand up on while on the phone, reading – or invest in a standup desk.
    Keep up the inspirational work!

  17. I’m a sugar addict myself, so I’ve looked around for alternatives.  There are two I like, in case you haven’t discovered them yet.  (…Though I have found that the very habit of eating sweets makes me more prone to eating the regular kind when the good stuff runs out…)
    Have you ever tried xylitol?  I buy it at our local health food store.  It’s made from the bark of some kind of tree, but it tastes just like sugar (to me, anyway), actually HELPS your teeth, is doctor-approved for diabetics, and can be used in cooking in the same proportions you use refined sugar… A number of toothpastes have xylitol as an ingredient, I’ve noticed… It’s a lot more expensive (nearly $7 per pound, here), but there’s no transition to it from coming off refined sugar, at all.  
    Drawback to xylitol–if you happen to eat too much compared to your body’s capacity to handle it, the effect can be something like diarrhea.  (Hasn’t happened to me yet, but it has to someone I know.  Maybe it’s just them.)
    Stevia is something I use off an on, mainly for tea, but the amount of sweetness from batch to batch varies somewhat.  I don’t like it as much for cooking, personally, and to me, there’s a smidgeon of a bitter aftertaste–just my opinion.  But it’s an herb, it is good for you, and it’s good for diabetics, as is xylitol.
    …I thought you might be a little bit like me and crave it intensely on occasion, even when you know you HAVE to be good.  (…I’m sharing this in case you get an intolerable case of sweet tooth mania and just have to have something sweet, sometime.)

    •  @katadsic9 I’ve been using Xylitol for a while, but it does upset my digestion. Remember, I have gallstone attacks and acid reflux, so Xylitol is something I take very lightly. I’ve been using it for years because my wife’s early onset osteoporosis caused by her breast cancer treatments years ago made her switch to Xylitol to build bone mass. I hate Stevia. I don’t like the aftertaste. Bottom line, I take my coffee with non-fat milk and that’s it. If I need a sugar hit, a bit of honey goes a long way. But that’s all.
      Thanks for stopping by!

  18. very nice and interesting article!
    everyone like it…
    thanks for the information…

  19. I forgot to add… (about the xylitol)–you can’t use it for making yeast breads; it doesn’t cause yeast to do ANYTHING when it’s mixed with xylitol.  (Lest anybody reading this try to make bread using xylitol–I did, using fresh yeast.)  That’s also part of its true benefit.  
    In some reading I’ve done, among other things, refined sugar causes cancer to grow exponentially; it destroys the B-vitamins, which, in part, affects mental capabilities…  (Such as:  there was a study done on a group of criminals.  It was found a significant proportion of them had eaten candy within the 24 hours before committing their crime.)  …Schizophrenia was induced in some cases, through deficiency of vitamin B-6…
    Refined sugar is more dangerous to society than most of us know, I think.  Just having the right alternative to sugar and outlawing refined sugar could possibly reduce health care costs significantly, not to mention diseases that are caused through its use. 

  20. Wow, what a great motivator for me. I’m glad to have found your story this morning and appreciate your willingness to be so open! Keep up the great work!! – Todd

  21. Hi Michael, Sorry to hear about the diabetes. There is a cure! Check out the book by Dr. Gabriel Cousens, ‘There is a cure for diabetes’ on Amazon. Also, watch the new film ‘Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead’, Both the book and movie show that a big part of the cure is drinking fresh vegetable juice daily. The best juicer is the Omega 8006-

  22. Hi Michel – sorry to hear about your health problems. I know you’re an amazing researcher and a determined person – so I’m sure you can take on anything and beat it.  Happy to hear you’re doing well so far.  My tidbit – I switched from sugar to a couple dashes of cinnamon in my coffee.

  23. Hey Michel, 
    Sorry to hear about your health issues, especially in what’s been a tough year for you already… and wishing you the best in what looks like a determined and successful response to the challenges. 
    I’m 6’1″ and have the same weight goal, with an aim of getting from 215 down to 190. You’ve already passed me, so I’m inspired to pick up the pace! 
    Just wanted to let you know, though, that I also have the Nike+ app and sensor (I’m assuming that’s what you’re talking about) and while I usually run for exercise, it’s always bothered me that when I’m traveling or it’s raining and I use a bike or something, it doesn’t register on the sensor. 
    That’s why I’ve started looking into the “Nike Fuel” setup that just came out… I think that measures your activity no matter what you’re doing, and then tracks it in Nike’s own units of general activity. It’s a band that goes on your wrist and that syncs with your iPod, etc.  Might be a solution for you, rather than the + sensor in your shoe.
    Good luck!
    John F.

    •  @johnforde12 Un gros merci, John! By the way, is this what you’re talking about?

      •  @michel.fortin Yep, that’s it!

        •  @michel.fortin Hey there… an update on this, while we’re talking about techno-charging our health… if you’re gadget oriented (it’s kind of my sub-hobby) we just picked up a Withings wi-fi scale.
          The thing talks to your iPod every time you weigh yourself. Not just weight, but BMI and body fat percentage (useful if you’re at the stage that you’re about  to put back on muscle weight so you can see that it’s good news even if the scale heads up a bit). 
          Sounds nuts, I know. But it’s actually pretty cool. Everyone in the house can have a personal profile which goes on a password protected website (you can Tweet or Facebook results if you want to). Sends you iOS reminders to weigh in at whatever intervals you choose and you get emails from the site telling you how close you are to the goal you’ve set. 
          Definitely a nerd-like item… but thought I’d share. 

  24. DougChampigny

    Hi, Michel!
    So sorry to hear about all the issues you’re facing – but I’ve never heard of you backing away from a challenge. I think you, too, have realized the problem is endemic to the online industry – I stayed in top physical shape til I was 50, when our online biz led to longer & longer hours online, travelling to speak at the conventions, etc, and by 56 I was out of shape, diabetic and had hypertension & high cholesterol. I’m well on my way back to top shape, but Teri’s and my own experience led to us building the site to help others avoid or recover from this type of situation.
    I think either you or Syvie might have our phone number or e-mail; If you’d like to discuss some additional steps you can take or have me design a workout program for you please don’t hesitate to contact us. Oh, and make sure you’re taking Omega-3 & Vitamin D each day… ;-)
    Best wishes for a return to full health!
    Doug & Teri Champigny.

  25. Michel,
    I am so proud of you. Changing your lifestyle so drastically is never easy. Thank you for sharing such personal parts of your life with us. Congrats on the massive weight loss!  I tell all my clients that you must have reasons for wanting to lose weight. The bigger and the more reasons you have, the more likely you will succeed. You had huge reasons and a lot of them. I also tell my clients to have a support team around them. You are a likely man to have Sylvie!
    All the best to you. Keep moving! Soon will be running triathlons with me :)

  26. Congratulations on taking your health by the horns and getting on track! I agree FEAR is a great motivator. That was the tipping point for me, I was finally faced with the possiblilty that I could die at any moment from morbid obesity and diabetes. I was SCARED into action! I’ve lost close to 85 pounds and have reversed my diabetes.I just climbed the Stratosphere Hotel Casino in Las Vegas For Charity. It was 108 floors and 1455 steps! One year ago I could not walk 30 steps with sucking air!  I LOVE that you are being accountable and sharing your story. I mail in my food choices and exercise workouts to three people EVERY day. These are my accountability buddies. This one action has helped me tremendously.Stay in the fight and call anytime! You are AWESOME! My next goal is to climb Mt Kilimanjaro in June 2012 for charity. Check It out at Love Robby 

  27. The first motivation killer is a lack of confidence. When this happens to me, it’s usually because I’m focusing entirely on what I want and neglecting what I already have. When you only think about what you want, your mind creates explanations for why you aren’t getting it. This creates negative thoughts. Past failures, bad breaks, and personal weaknesses dominate your mind. You become jealous of your competitors and start making excuses for why you can’t succeed. In this state, you tend to make a bad impression, assume the worst about others, and lose self confidence.
    URL :

  28. Hi Michel,
    Having gone through breast cancer (and I know that Sylvie did some time back), I read your post with keen interest. Much of what you said resonated with me. I’m glad you’re making inroads… I’ll bet you feel a lot better these days. Bless you both with good health and a long life. it can be done! My Grandfather just passed away on my birthday, March 13. He was only days away from 96!

  29. good post!…keep up the good work..heres a few thoughts…I feel that much of the fears people have come from their social conditioning..society teaches you to be ambitious…to always become something…therefore people are always projecting their thoughts which are always old (since all thought is a response from memory) what the future should be like…this creates immense conflict in people…people never see something for what it actually is, free of their conditioning and prejudices…thats why much time is needed to change…but if they learned to see what “is” and “not what should be” what “is” would change instantly… unfortunately this requires an amazingly alert yet passive unattached mind…to be able to observe in your inner space that the thought and thinker are not separate…that whenever the observer separates himself from what is being observed is when conflict arises…this requires one to have an immensely quiet mind….yet most of the population never looks in, never learn what meditation really is..never learn about their ego and the hundreds of contradictions they live with…and look for solutions to their problems outside of themselves and that is a search that will never end…it is a long journey to understand that you need to experience the state of “no mind”(no thoughts, pure awareness) to know truth for yourself, a knowing that no one can ever give to you…everyone try’s to solve problems within the field of thought…but life is always new and dynamic…we simply need to be awake and conscious and respond to the moment…but most live mechanical (asleep) lives because they only react to life with old ideas…so the question than becomes how do you become more awake, more present, more conscious…that is a journey that everyone needs to take on their own…you need to watch, observe, and constantly self study, understand your mind the nature of your thoughts, and practice meditation to have a quite mind to create immense inner space to study yourself….kriya yoga can be a rapid way of raising your consciousness up through your spine then to your brain…this is the quickest way to self realization and cosmic consciousness….hope this helped some :)

  30. You make some really great points about how we are conditioned to be ambitious, to overachieve, to be the best we can be. Constantly searching for clues and answers about ourselves in the outside world. You are right, it is an endless journey and even myself get caught up in this journey quite so often.
    I need to discipline myself to become more consciously aware and practice meditation. I have gotten away from it but am looking to get back into it. Do you recommend any readings on meditation and/or kriya yoga?

  31. Congrats on your success with changing your lifestyle man. Sometimes the universe just throws a curving-sliding-change up ball at us and although I have never really had a health problem I can absolutely relate to ya bro having almost died from getting ran over by a car a few months back… that IMMEDIATELY woke me up & made me realize whats important in my life. You still have alot more peoples lives to impact(especially mine, your blog helps me everyday!!) so stick around for at LEAST 100 more years my man!

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