My Loss is My Gain

Many people have approached me lately asking me how I lost so much weight. They want to know my plan, my daily routine, and my motivation. I have agreed to discuss it here. I hope in some small way I can be an inspiration to a few of you who are looking to reboot your lifestyle and your personal appearance and self-esteem.

Donnie in his officeOctober 2010 by Equanimity Magazine

It all started 16 years ago. I was working with a trainer and nutritionist that taught me a lot about food and what to eat, what not to eat and most importantly when and how to consume it. I lost around 35 pounds with him over the course of a few months. I felt great about myself. But at the time, I was younger and don’t think I was doing it for the right reasons. When the TV show started I was working so much and filming so much that I just didn’t have the time to focus on it. So I let everything slide over the course of a couple of years. Later on after I had gained it all back I went to the doctor who informed me I had a cholesterol count of 240 and more importantly a triglyceride count of 1600. Yes. That is not a typo. 1600. He told me if I didn’t radically change my lifestyle, I would be dead in a few months. He then proceeded to put me on cholesterol, triglyceride and blood pressure medications. So I started taking all those chemicals and, on my own, I got back on the plan I had been on previously for a few weeks and completely turned it all around. I was doing better, but the doctors felt I still needed the medications to be safe. Still lots of chemicals every day of my life. My plan was on and off and off and off. I started relying on the chemicals rather than caring for my diet. I got complacent. And so it went for many years. The stress of the job… the show ended… the economy crashed and so did many of my competitors. Somehow we managed to make it through. But the stress and all the chemicals really did a number on me.

I did a four-part series on the Steve Harvey show in late 2013. It was the first time I had seen myself on TV for a couple of years. I was horrified. I not only looked heavy, I was FAT. I looked completely unhealthy. I was terribly embarrassed by my appearance. When the photos came back from the wedding I produced for that show I couldn’t believe my eyes. I had no neck. I went from chin to chest. It didn’t even look like me anymore. I was physically and emotionally drained. I was convinced that I was in trouble, but I had no motivation to correct it. I was lost. I was giving up. For the next year I went into a pretty deep depression. And I really didn’t even know it. We lost my father, I was sliding downhill faster than a racecar without brakes. And all the new clothes, skin care products and hair dye in the world wasn’t going to fix this. I had to do some self-examination to recover. And as much as I tried, I just couldn’t do it. I give so much of myself to my clients, my work, my staff, my family and friends that I just had nothing left for me. So another year went by.

donnie speaking at a conferenceNovember 2013 by David Edmonson

Cut to January 2015. I had just gone through the holidays and I honestly thought it was going to be my last. There was no way with my health that I would make it to another Christmas. Everything was spiraling out of control and I couldn’t stop it. Then one evening, I had a conversation with an old friend who I will keep anonymous. We were talking and for the first time in years, someone told me the truth. Everybody around me is either biased or not willing to hurt my feelings. That or they see me too much to notice the changes. I explained my depression to my friend. I was no longer the person I had always been. I really opened up and dumped it all on the table. They listened intently to me and after thinking for a bit responded with exasperation. “Donnie, have you completely lost your mind? That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard you say” they told me. They went on to tell me that for all the many years we had known each other that I had never seemed so broken. They reminded me that in their opinion, I had always been a very strong person that never met failure without finding success.  That I was incapable of allowing this to take hold of me and ultimately kill me. They literally shook some sense into me and told me to wake up and deal with it. That I am responsible for my body and my life and that I needed to make some changes. And that the next time they talked to me, they expected to hear something else come out of my mouth. WOW! It really threw me for a loop. I had to think this through and figure out what could possibly be done.

And so I decided to get back to the old Donnie. I was going to try with all my might to make it happen.

First. I had to analyze my diet. I eat relatively healthy. I haven’t eaten processed food in years. No fast food. I don’t remember the last McDonalds drive through I have seen. It was more about the amounts of food I was consuming and when. I would get up in the morning, have coffee, run and have lunch (maybe if I had time) and then eat a huge meal and dessert at night after 8 PM. Often it was near 10 PM before I consumed the majority of my food for the day. Your body cannot survive like that. It holds on to the fat because it doesn’t know when you will feed it again. You want to become a sumo wrestler? This is the diet for you. Have at it. I am done!!

Here is what I do now.

Wake up and have coffee

Fresh fruit smoothie with no sugar of any kind added to it. If I work out or do cardio that day I will add 25 grams of protein to it.

I have a sensible lunch. Usually based on vegetables more than meats. A salad with grilled chicken works well.

My afternoon snack consists of nuts and seeds. I did a lot of research about the proteins in foods and how to get as much natural protein from non-meat food types as possible. Also heart-healthy foods that assist in blood flow. During this research I started reading about amino acids. I found that L-Arginine is in my opinion the miracle of everlasting youth. It takes care of many things in the human body. It helps you with blood flow, your immune system, it reduces the risk of heart disease, pituitary disorders, erectile dysfunction….. The list goes on and on. So I take 5000 mg of L-Arginine every afternoon before my nuts and seeds. I think it is one of the keys to my weight loss and health improvement. On Fridays I add 2000 mg of L-Carnitine. It is also a great amino acid to improve your blood flow. From the research I did, it should only be consumed once per week. After my amino acids I consume 2 cups of nuts. A mixture of unsalted nuts including almonds, cashews, pistachios, peanuts and seeds including pumpkin, squash and sunflower. To this I add 2 ounces of dark chocolate.  It is all helping blood flow which in turn assists with metabolism increases.

For dinner I eat a sensible healthy diet of 6 to 8 ounces of lean protein with vegetables. If I consume carbs at night, they are healthy carbs. No white carbs at all.

I eat no white carbs and no sugar at all. That was the hardest part for me. Eliminating those things. After all, we were taught as children that sugar was ok but in excess it would rot your teeth. It does a lot more than rot your teeth. It is killing you from the inside out. And don’t get me wrong. I love sweets. I have been addicted to pastries, and cakes and ice cream and cookies and candy most of my life. If it had sugar I would eat it. And eat it and eat it…… I am the baker in the family. I make all the sugar-poisoning treats for holidays. Always have.  The difference now is that I make them and don’t eat them. I will let you in on a little secret. I have cheated four or five times during this process. But once I was at Dallas’s finest five-star restaurant and I was not going to leave without my Grand Marnier soufflé. And the other times it was a couple bites here and there. And as difficult as it was in the beginning, it is not so hard any more. I love the way I look much more than I ever did sugar.

Now, diet alone wouldn’t do it. I had to consider my options for some sort of exercise. I don’t know about you, but in my line of business, a lot of people count on you. There is not much time during the day to get away to the gym. So my options are early morning before work or late in the evening after. I have a confession. I am not a morning person. Never have been. I am a night owl. But after a long day’s work I am often too tired to work out. Going to the gym requires dressing for it, cleaning up after it and getting back on with your day. It is not just the hour you spend there. It is the half hour before and the hour after. Two and one half hours of my day? Uhhh, NO! There is not enough time. So, I put an elliptical machine next to my bed along with a set of adjustable free-weights and a balance ball. Three times a week I jump on the elliptical for 25-30 minutes while I am watching the morning news. Twice per week I do some upper body strength training and some yoga. Every day I do 100 lunges and reverse lunges. Anyone over 45 knows that those dimples that appear in your ass are hard to get rid of. So, I started back into lunges. And I also found a website called They have a fantastic squats routine that I am doing four times a week. It is ten sets of ten different squats. I love it. It is hard but a lot of fun. And my ass…. Well it is 35 years old again. Nuff Said! Also, there is an app called Fitness Buddy. It is great because you click on a muscle and it gives you all the exercises you can do to improve it. LOVE!

donnie on love seat photo shootApril 2015 by Steven Visneau

The result… I have lost 50 pounds in five months. I feel better than ever before. I have more energy than in many years. My body is changing. And, the doctor has taken me off the chemicals. That’s right. I don’t even take blood pressure medication anymore. This has helped in so many ways I cannot begin to tell you. The side effects of those medications are devastating. I feel so much better. I look better. I have had to purchase a lot of new clothes.  For a long time I have wanted to wear clothes that blouse and hide everything. You know, circus tent clothing. But not anymore. The tighter and more form-fitting the better! I LOVE IT!!! I am pulling out clothes from over ten years ago and they are mostly too big. Good problem to have! Next step is to load up the trunk with clothes and head for the seamstress!!

Someone recently asked me how I stayed focused. And the answer came out of my mouth without really acknowledging it until I heard myself say it. It really made sense. For most of my life and would guess most of your lives too, everything has been centered around food. What do you do when you wake up? What do you do when you get home? What do you plan for the weekend? I will bet you that everything has a meal attached to it. That is no longer the case with me. Food is now a function of my day rather than the focus.

I hope this helps you. It is hard to publicly get so personal.  But I felt if it helped just one person improve their health and their piece of mind, it would be worth it for me to talk about.

Here’s to our renewed future. Happy and Healthy!!


donnie-at-the-office-2015June 2015 (Selfie)