Wellness at Webster
Registrar looks back on his 170-pound weight loss
By Preston Petri
A smiling Don Morris sits in his office reflecting on his last year. He’s brimming with confidence as he talks about his recent achievements, and why he decided to undertake them.
A year ago, the Webster University registrar was battling high blood pressure and high cholesterol. After a friend died from a heart attack, Morris knew he needed to do something about his health. Not many people, including Morris himself, could envision the way his life was about to change.
Morris weighed 380 pounds last year. He was on numerous medications for his blood pressure and cholesterol and had to take two water pills a day for acid reflex disease.
“The doctor said I was within 30 to 60 days to having to start diabetes medications” Morris said.
The onset of diabetes also stood as a warning sign his health was declining rapidly. Although the situation was not life or death, Morris was inspired to begin dieting and exercising in an attempt to better his health.
His decision would lead him to lose 170 pounds in just eight months.
“I wasn’t afraid that I was close to dying, but I knew that my health was deteriorating,” Morris said. “I never felt good, and I knew that it was time.”
After learning of his friend’s death, Morris told his wife he wasn’t planning on being the next one. That’s when he decided to follow a diet program through SSM Health Care, where his wife works. The new diet program Morris selected was a very low calorie diet. When mixed with exercise, he dropped the pounds quickly.Morris’s low calorie diet consisted of three meals a day, from a selection of 14.
Then, Morris sat down with his wife, Kathleen, and his son Ryan Morris to ask for their support. His daughter Lindsay Morris, a junior computer science major, studied abroad but gave her support from afar.
“You can’t do it alone,” Don Morris said. “You need the support and backing of your family to do it.”
The family had to reduce the amount of times they ate out as a family, and have been encouraged themselves to try and eat healthier.
“Since he has been doing the program, he has helped change the way we cook our meals,” Lindsay Morris said. “We no longer fry food, we don’t use much salt, if we buy canned or bagged items we look at sodium before most other things, and we use a majority of Splenda instead of sugar.”
In the beginning of Don Morris’ weight loss journey, Ryan Morris helped him clean up the basement where some fitness equipment sat unused. Together, they began to get Don Morris back in shape. Now, he works out for an hour a day.
One of the biggest differences Don Morris noticed was his endurace on the basketball court. As an early member of “Noon Hoops” at Webster, Don Morris played when they didn’t have enough people to play full court. As the years went on, more people started joining, and the “Noon Hoops” players began using the entire court. “I don’t have to stop or take breaks,” Don Morris said. “I run the entire hour, and I don’t tire out anymore.”
His friend and colleague John Ginsburg, director of the University Center and Student Activities, as well as another member of “Noon Hoops,” was able to see his drastic change.
“When we played full court, Don used to say that he would just go work out instead,” Ginsburg said. “He kept saying that when he reached a certain goal or milestone, that he would be back out on the court, and now he is!”
Lindsay Morris has really seen a change in her father and in his lifestyle.
“I definitely notice a difference in his outlook and personality now that he has dropped the weight,” Lindsay Morris said. “He has a lot more energy to do the things he loves to do with both my brother and I. He is more willing to go out this summer when we go on vacation, and now it’s easier for him to go on roller coasters with me. Instead of living to eat, he now eats to live.”
Don Morris’ support also came from friends. Many times when he and his friends went out to eat, they had to ask the restaurant to heat one of his pre-planned meals. His friends always told him that if the restaurant rejected his request, they would walk out and leave. But to this day, a restaurant has never turned down his request.
Don Morris is adamant that his 170-pound weight loss could have never happened without the support of his friends, family and co-workers. He still recounts example after example of a loved one encouraging him to walk in the mornings, to drink only one beer or to eat fruit instead of birthday cake.
Before last year, many Januarys came and went when Don Morris decided to lose weight. After doing well every January, something would always sidetrack him.
“I always started off very well,” Don Morris said. “But when I had a bad day and all of my habits went back to where they were it was like, boom! Once I felt I had changed it, it was just all over with.”
Now, when Don Morris reverts to his old habits, he forgets about it and gets back on track the next day.
He even realizes himself how many more good days he is having recently.
“Everyone says I’m happier,” he said. “My whole disposition has gotten happier, and more like the old me. People told me I was kind of getting grumpy, and I could see it as well. But now I’m happier and my family says it’s so easy to get along with me now.”
Morris had another New Year’s resolution this past January. It didn’t compare to last year’s, however it was just as important. This year his resolution was to keep off the weight.
“I don’t know what his secret is, but he defiantly exhibits a positive all around attitude which I’m sure is to be related to him being successful in achieving his weight goal,” Ginsburg said.
Today, Don Morris no longer needs to take any of the medication.
“The biggest advice I would give is to keep your goals within reachable levels,” Don Morris said. “If I would have had a resolution to lose 170 pounds in eight months, I would have thought that it was impossible. Just don’t give up. If you fall off the horse, just jump back on that damn thing and get at it again.”
A sense of pride finds its way on his modest face. Don Morris has achieved something that changed his life for the better, and he loves it.
“I just can’t say enough of how good it feels to feel good.”