PUNXSUTAWNEY — When Dr. Frank Bizousky finally settled on a decision and a game plan to lose weight, he didn’t do it just to shed a few pounds.
He was doing it as a game plan for the rest of his life.
Since March 2011, after seriously dedicating himself to the task, Bizousky, a 1978 PAHS graduate and long-time physician at Punxsutawney Area Hospital, has lost 110 pounds, having reached his weight goal in seven months.
To put it another way, Bizousky — also a star Chucks football player who attended the University of Virginia (UVA) in Charlottesville, Va., on a full football scholarship and earned a biology degree — lost 12 inches off his waistline and, had he lost another 10 pounds, would have lost one-third of his former weight.
He said as an athlete, he could lose 20 or 30 pounds, then put it back on fairly easily. But at this stage in his life, that’s not the case.
“The more I stuck to it, the more I knew 30 pounds wasn’t going to be enough,” he said.
Bizousky said he finally made his decision to change his eating habits and lifestyle after a trip to a special NCAA event March 17 — his wife Monika’s birthday — in Cleveland, Ohio, last year.
“I just got to a point where I just became disgusted, fed up with being that way,” Bizousky said. “I would see people in situations where they did have health concerns, and I got serious about losing it, and was looking at gastric bypass surgery. I knew it was taking years off my life.”
The Bizouskys dramatically changed their diet, shying away from red meat and foods high in starches and carbohydrates, instead focusing on items such as fish and vegetables.
In the beginning, their children — Erika and Blake — weren’t too keen on their parents’ new dinner menus, so Monika would prepare two dinners: One for her and Frank, the other for Erika and Blake.
But Bizousky noted that now, “I think we’ve been making an impression on the kids. Even with us, for not initially making the kids eat the diet, they are more closely incorporating it.”
He said it was important to undertake this challenge with help from Monika, as the two could coach and encourage each other along the way.
The Bizouskys implemented a number of different diets into their plan, as well as exercise. For Frank, that meant biking for 30 to 45 minutes a day on the Mahoning Shadow Trail.
“Even when I was volunteer coaching for seventh- and eighth-grade football, I had to get in my bike ride,” he said.
For Bizousky to undertake his weight loss seriously, he had to become “obsessed” with it, he said.
“There would be days that I gained a pound or two, then days I would eat the same, and I’d go four or five days without loss,” Bizousky said.
Unlike other dieters, he weighed himself daily, not just a day here or a day there.
“I weighed myself every day, because I had become obsessed with it,” he said, even reaching the point that he took his scale on vacation.
“I knew I would be eating a little more, so the biking became two times a day,” Bizousky said.
Of course, there were days that his plan wasn’t running the way he wanted it to, but he remained committed.
“I would get discouraged but not enough to stop,” Bizousky said. “It was more of a motivational tool. Through what I’ve done and achieved, I got to know myself better.”
At his former weight, Bizousky found it challenging to offer advice to his patients — who could be good friends, at times — about healthy changes when he, at the time, wasn’t living up to. He also joked that some physicians have a motto: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
Now that he has lost the weight, Bizousky can advise — and know from his own experience — that problems such as a bothersome knee or back can be attributed to weight.
After losing the weight, Bizousky said he no longer needs blood pressure medication, he no longer snores, and his cholesterol is much lower.
All in all, he just feels better.
“Because I was large, I can sympathize,” Bizousky said. “Large people are discriminated against,” whether it has to do with clothing or even seating at public events or via public transportation or air travel.
“I was a stress eater,” said Bizousky, who attended St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada, West Indies, and earned his doctor of osteopathy degree from the Southeastern University of Health Sciences College of Osteopathic Medicine, North Miami Beach, Fla. “After years in the ER, I would pull all-nighters with doughnuts, pizza, something I could crunch on.”
Part of his lifestyle change was realizing that much of eating is centered around an event or a celebration, such as a football game or a party, when the selection of food and beverages may or may not be healthy.
Bizousky said the toughest part of his journey was the first two weeks, “and probably the weekends, too, because that was usually the time I would socialize.”
“The more weight that I lost, the easier it was to continue,” he said. “When I got halfway there, I thought, ‘I’m not stopping now.’”
Bizousky said his goal is to not only keep the weight off, but to continue his path of healthy living.
“It’s not just about dieting; it’s about diet and exercise,” he said.
Certainly, there have been other perks aside from the positive effects of Bizousky’s weight loss.
He said he admits to seeing himself and thinking, “‘Is that me? Should I get a new driver’s license?’ I think I’m already rubbing off on patients. They say, ‘You’ve inspired me.’”
And then there are people who have not been back to Punxsy for some time, come to his office and say, “‘Where’s Dr. Bizousky?’ he said. “It is always, ‘Boy, you look good.’
“Monika asked me, ‘Don’t you get tired of people saying that?’” Bizousky said. “And I say, ‘Absolutely not. People can tell me that every day.’”