Author Archives: Bill Streetman

Escaping the Prison of Obesity

Escaping the Prison of Obesity.  This is my presentation to the Ohio Association of Occupational Health Nurses in Columbus, Ohio on November 3rd 2018.   During the removal of a tumor from my neck my vocal cords were damaged and I lost my voice.  I had recovered about 25% of my voice by the time of this presentation.


March 24, 2011 to March 24, 2018… From Falling Flat on My Face to Becoming a BariAthlete®

I wasn’t always a BariAthlete, although at one time in my life I was very athletic – I played every sport, studied and taught gymnastics, and ran long distances.  I was in my early 20’s and obesity had not yet grabbed ahold of me.

By my mid 50’s I tipped the scales at 404 pounds.  Athletics and sports were a thing of the past.  I could no longer take part in the activities I loved.  My weight would not allow it.

On October 4, 2010, at age 54, I underwent gastric bypass and over the following five and a half months I lost about 150 pounds.  It wasn’t an easy period for me – I suffered a couple of post-surgery complications that kept me from attempting to add exercise into my now daily practice of healthy eating.  But in the evening of March 23rd of 2011 I was ready to start my road back to enjoying exercise, sports and physical activities.

So, it was with a mix of both excitement and apprehension, that I downloaded “Couch to 5k,” an app for my iPhone that coaches a person through a month-long training to go from being a ‘couch potato’ to running a 5k.  In the morning I would follow the directions of the phone app which instructed me to run for 30 seconds and walk for 90 seconds, and then repeat that six times.  With a warm up and a warm down, a total of 20 minutes of exercise.

Not Always a Couch Potato

In my youth and early 20’s I loved to run… the longer the distance, the more I loved it.  I often went out at night and ran till I got bored… sometimes 20 or more miles.  Just me and my thoughts cruising through quiet still neighborhood streets at 2am.  I loved it.  So, 20 minutes seemed like an easy way to start getting back into exercise.  “Why, I’ll be running a 5k, maybe a 10k, maybe a half marathon or more, within a few weeks,” I said to myself.  “Piece of cake.”

On the evening of March 23rd, set my alarm to wake me at 5:30am, and I went to bed, happy in the knowledge that in the morning I would be well on my way back to the athletic prowess of years gone by.

A New Beginning?

The five-thirty AM alarm woke me as programmed.  I quickly dressed in my tee-shirt and sweat pants, had a protein shake, and headed out to reclaim my athletic glory.  A few seconds opening the Couch to 5k app and I was ready.  Let the count down begin.  5 – 4 – 3 – 2 – 1… GO!  I took a deep breath, lifted my leg to stretch it out into my first running step in years, and… fell straight on my face.

My dreams of easily reclaiming my athletic lifestyle, along with my nose, lips and chin, were firmly ground into the sidewalk.  While my legs were certainly strong from holding up over 400 pounds every day – you could probably place a building on my head and I would stay standing… they had no strength for the mechanics of running.  They hadn’t had the work of putting one foot way out in front of the other, into that long stride of a runner, for years.  Even at my reduced weight of 250 pounds, my legs couldn’t hold me in any position other than standing straight up. I returned home with a mix of blood and tears on my face, and the fear of defeat in my heart.

After a few hours of a ‘poor me’ session, I decided that I would not be defeated.  I would not let the work I had done since October 4th, the pain, the discomfort, and the fear I  overcame, be taken from me.  I would not only try again, I would do whatever it took to get my legs back into shape, and I set a goal that I would run a 5k in 3 months.  And for three months I ran or trained to run every day, and on June 11th, 2011, I ran a 5k with my son Terry.

In the years that followed, I got back on my bike and rediscovered my love of riding.  Of course, I’ve taken that hobby to the extreme and gone on some amazing long-distance bike rides.

Bike Life

The hardest part of part of several rides has been getting over mountains. The ascents are difficult and the descents scary.  But I found them a perfect metaphor for what can come from the challenges we often confront in life… Right in the middle of the worst of them came the most beautiful views… The beauty of the mountains revealing itself to me as I crested each peak, something that I never would have experienced had I avoided the challenge.

We face challenges all throughout life.  Some are imposed upon us, others we impose upon ourselves. My Journey has had challenges of both types.  Both have tested me, but also gifted me with beauty and joy.

Right in the middle of my life, I accepted the challenge to get healthy.  I never would have experienced my rebirth into a healthy life, the joy of riding through the mountains, or the honor of meeting so many wonderful people from the WLS community and across the country, had I not accepted and faced this challenge… if I had not ‘Dreamed BIG and Dared to Fail.’

And for all of this riding, in the summer of 2017 I was named the Male BariAthlete of the Year.

What I’ve Learned as a BariAthlete

BariAthletes of 2017

The BariAthlete award is more than recognition of the athletics I’ve employed since WLS.  It is an acknowledgement that nothing can stop a person from overcoming any obstacle, changing any circumstance, or achieving any dream, except their own fears and self-doubts.  As is said in a popular meme, “Everything you desire is located on the other side of Fear.”  We are capable of far more than we can imagine. There are no limits except those we impose upon ourselves. Age has nothing to do with possibilities – who is too old to dream?

I’ve met many wonderful people, seen unbelievable natural beauty, and experienced several life-changing moments.  My life is richer, more peaceful, and fuller than I could ever imagine.  My soul has found flight.  I want to live a long time and experience everything I can from this planet and the people who populate it.  To paraphrase the words of the One Republic song, ‘I Lived’:

Hope when my moment comes (when my time is up, and God comes to seize my soul), I can say:

“I, I did it all.
I owned every second,
That this world could give.
I saw so many places,
The things that I did, and
With every broken bone, I swear I lived.”

Go Find Your Mountain and Climb It!

Gastric Bypass is the tool I used to save my life. My bike is the tool I use to express my love for living.   Saving my life was only the start. Now I get to live it anyway I want, and I like to live it on my bike… seeing the world at 12 to 15 MPH.   And I want to live it a lot.  Life is Good – Living is Great.

I hope that you use your WLS tool to experience life, however that manifests itself for you.

I hope when your moment comes you will say: “I, I Did It All!”

Business Travel and Leading a Healthy Lifestyle

What are the healthy lifestyle challenges that a business person faces every day?

I’ve been a consultant to the gas and electric utility industry for over 30 years and spent a lot of time flying across the country, staying in hotels, entertaining clients and eating in restaurants.  While I have loved the lifestyle, it definitely took its toll on my health and physical fitness.

When I wasn’t traveling, I was working 60+ hours a week at my office, in meetings, on conference calls, leading planning sessions, attending board meetings, holding staff meetings, or presenting in client meetings.  I rarely left the office from the time I arrived at 7am till I left for home sometime after 7pm… six or seven days a week.

If you search the Internet for ‘success habits for long-term weight loss’ you’ll find a study that lists the following traits for people who lost weight and kept it off for several years.  The traits are:

  • Eat well
  • Exercise
  • Get proper sleep
  • Drink water
  • Take vitamins
  • Reduce stress

I had two reactions to this list after reading it… one was “Duh!” – because it seems so obvious, and second was, “Yeah, and who has time for any of that.”

  1. It’s hard to eat well when traveling or leaving my house at 6am to make the commute to the office or catch a 6:45am flight.
  2. It is darn near impossible to make time to exercise when 12 hours a day are dedicated to work and I still have to make time to help raise my children, do household chores and maintenance, take the car for an oil change… etc., etc., etc.  And even harder when traveling, where getting to an airport, flying, getting bags, picking up the rental car, driving to the client’s office, making a sales presentation, taking the client to dinner and drinks, finding and checking into the hotel, and prepping for the next day, often took 18 to 20 of the 24 hours in the day.
  3. Proper sleep?  You’ve got to be kidding!  If I got more than 4 hours a night I thought I was wasting time.
  4. Drinking water and taking vitamins.  Sure.  I’d try, but first the coffee.  Lots and lots of coffee… (and donuts).  Then maybe.  Maybe.
  5. Reduce stress? Reread the four items above and ask me why I felt stressed.

All of this leads to being overweight, putting an undue stress on the heart and immune systems.  Over use of caffeine and alcohol create potential blood sugar and blood pressure issues, chronic tiredness, headaches, and other ailments.

It is difficult to eat well when “ordering in” at the office because the meeting is running long, or when dining/entertaining at nice restaurants with drinks and appetizers.  It was either the BLT (with the half a pound of bacon) from the local deli, or too many drinks, too big of a steak, and rich deserts when at Smith & Wollensky.

Develop a regular routine for proper eating or exercising is difficult when you have no regular routine.

When I traveled I was always subject to someone or something else dictating when and where I’d be… a client, employees, Delta, the weather.  My schedule wasn’t my own.  When I wasn’t traveling these same entities were usually still in charge of my time and schedule.

Even if a hotel had a workout facility for guests, many weren’t 24/7, so it would be closed during the four hours between 1am and 5am that I had targeted to sleep or to try to hit the gym.

Joining a health club at home was problematic because I either wouldn’t be in town or by the time I got home, it would be closed for the evening.

Stories of business people sharing their experiences about health problems they face because of the lack of a healthy routine.

The business lifestyle – that of business travel, long hours at the office, eating on the run or eating and drinking excessively while entertaining, getting little sleep, not making time to exercise, and living in a high stress environment, will eventually catch up with anybody, regardless of how well they ate or exercised before being overcome by the lifestyle.

Being out of shape becomes an inconvenience and situational hazard.  Struggling to carry a briefcase, a computer, a load of manuals, a screen and projector, from a parking lot into your clients building, can cause you to sweat through your shirt or get so out of breath that you can’t speak.

It could be dangerous and embarrassing such as not being able to fit into a restaurant booth or needing to ask for a seat belt extender.

Your image suffers when your client is a workout fiend that takes the stairs from the third floor to the twentieth and expects you to do so with her.

I used to sit on the airplane and pray that nobody would be assigned the seat next to me because I was so big that I might make them uncomfortable by spilling over into their space.  In fact, I used to watch people boarding the plane and actually had the following preferred order for who might sit next to me:

  1. Any child.  ANY!
  2. A skinny teenager
  3. A small woman or man
  4. A medium-sized woman or man
  5. Everybody else

I’d take any child, crying, whining, talking… a baby, it didn’t matter as they were usually small and we wouldn’t be fighting for arm space.  I had similar fears when meeting people at a restaurant.  I prayed they had a table and not a booth.

Other issues that poor health problems could cause me were, low energy levels and a lack of confidence in myself.

What kind of health and fitness tips are business people on the
lookout for that would fit their business schedule?

In order to work into the busy schedule of a traveling business person, any eating or exercise solution has to meet the following criteria. It:

  • Must not add significant time for preparation or execution. It must either save time, or be able to be done during some other activity… i.e. while on a conference call, while sitting in a meeting or on an airplane.
  • Shouldn’t require special equipment, which cannot be brought on an airplane or placed in luggage, or take up space in an office.
  • Is best if whatever exercise is done in an office environment can be done in a small space – especially if the person doesn’t have his/her own private office.  And it can’t be noisy or disruptive.

When possible, select a hotel that has a 24 hour fitness center, and a large one so that it isn’t full just when you try to use it.

What kind of workout would be suitable for business people on the go?

When I decided to get serious about finding a way to exercise and workout while traveling, I decided to use the tools available to me where I found them.  That is, while at a hotel, if there was no workout room, or if it was closed or full when I wanted to use it (as is often the case), I started walking up the steps in the fire/emergence stair wells.  After all, what’s more like a stair step machine than a set of stairs?  Even if the hotel was only two stories, I’d walk up and down for a half an hour.  It’s an aerobic and weight training exercise all in one!  Easy – I didn’t even have to leave the hotel.  Simple – ‘Always Open.’ Great exercise.  My office building was three stories tall, so this worked there also.

A couple of us started a lunchtime walking ‘club’ where we would take our lunch and walk a couple of miles around the building and around the block. This had the added benefit of keeping me from eating the two-story Reuben sandwich and instead have a protein or fiber bar while walking.

In the airport, I started taking the stairs and avoiding escalators and moving walkways.  Even a little exercise helped.

I brought a set of 10 pound hand weights that I could use in my office – doing arm and wrist curls, even in meetings, and overhead presses and chest fly’s when in my office alone – sometimes during conference calls when I’d normally just be sitting there.

When I’d get back to the hotel I’d watch the news on TV while doing sit ups or push-ups, or doing a leg squat against a wall (great for leg strength).  I also bought two resistance bands, one kept in my luggage for travel, the other in my office.  With these I could do several resistance training exercises in my office or hotel room.

I purchased an arm band that tracked my steps and calorie burn each day.  Because in the back of my mind I knew I was being monitored and would be able to see what I did at the end of the day, my competitive nature caused me to walk more, and walk faster, so that I would always be trying to top my record number of steps and calories burned.

There are hundreds if not thousands of videos online (YouTube and other sources), everything from P90X to general calisthenics, that I could easily watch on my laptop or tablet using my office or hotel Wi-Fi.

To help me eat better while at the office, I started a brown bag partnership with a workmate.  For each day that we were both in the office on the same day, one of us would make a two healthy lunches at home the night before and bring them in to share.  I could have done that for just myself, and sometimes did.  However, when everyone would head out to lunch and I’d be the only one staying back and eating in the office by myself, I’d usually just toss my healthy lunch and go with the group.  But because there was two of us, I always had a buddy to stay back with me and eat healthy while the rest of the group went out and over ate at the local deli or Mexican restaurant.

When traveling out-of-town, I packed several protein or fiber bars in my luggage and have them in place of airplane or hotel or fast food options that usually were high in salt and calories and low in taste anyway.

Two Thumbs Up to Bill Streetman for “Simple… not Easy”

I love speaking at conferences, conventions and meetings.  Last week I had the honor of presenting “Simple… not Easy” to the Columbus New Neighbors League.  It is the story of the process and actions I took to overcome and defeat obesity.  Nothing warms my soul more than feeling a connection with my audience and sharing my personal story.  Apparently the audience felt the same.  What follows is the review of my presentation, from the person responsible for booking me for their event:

Two Thumbs Up to Bill Streetman For Leading the NNLC Speakers’ Line-up for 2018 With a Guide to a Happier, Fitter Life

We couldn’t have picked a better speaker to start the New Year. Westerville resident and citizen of the World, Bill Streetman, was billed as a speaker on his successful weight loss regimen, but it turns out he is more of a life coach and inspirational speaker. What a great way to start 2018!

We are an audience of mostly over 55s, mostly women and some men. We are a good cross-section, however, of backgrounds and interests as well as fitness and health levels. There was something for each of us in Bill’s presentation. It is interesting to see his personal journey from 400 to 200 pounds and his having kept his new slimmer self for the last six years. But more fascinating is how he taught us how to formulate a plan—for weight, for fitness, for life! His power point was organized and interesting and his speaking style is dynamic. He has a simple idea that is not easy to implement: burn more calories than you eat (or drink). The plan part was fascinating because he shows you how to analyze your particular problem with the implementation of the plan and then how to follow through with your plan. Thus, his individual journey does not need to be your journey because everyone is different.

Since he shows you how to devise your own way to get there, it is empowering. But the part of the presentation I found so inspirational is Bill’s approach to life. He started on a long distance bike ride through a, perhaps rash, comment on a conference call to a weight loss group whose conference he would be speaking to in North Carolina. Without numerous prestigious letters after his name like the other presenters, when it came his turn to introduce himself on the telephone conference, he said he was going to ride his bike there from Columbus. Oops! Another need to analyze his particular problem and make a plan. You will have to listen to his wonderful presentation to find out the outcome, but I suspect you can already guess.

Don’t miss an opportunity to hear this entertaining, bigger-than-life personality hand you the keys to a fitter, happier you. – Deb Solove, Columbus New Neighbors League

Sisu, Moving Forward and the Act of Becoming

What I Learned on My 468-mile Bike Ride

From July 29th through August 5th, a period of 8 days and seven nights, Steve Boona and I rode our bicycles from Westerville, Ohio to Gaylord, Michigan… a total of 468 miles. We camped at state parks and carried everything we needed on our bikes or purchased it along the way.

This was not my first long-distance bike ride. I’ve ridden from my Westerville home down to Raleigh, NC, a total of 525 miles. I’ve ridden across parts of Colorado and Kansas, over 500 miles. As with all previous rides, as I peddled away from my driveway my stomach was in knots and my mind raced with thoughts, not the least being: “Can I actually do this?”

The Ride is Complete!

The Ride is Complete!

It didn’t take long for a feeling of comfort to overcome me and I relaxed and began to enjoy the ride. However, that level of anxiety, of discomforting worry and fear, would return, nightly, as I sat in my tent and reviewed the agenda for the next day. But each day I got up and peddled my bike – and each day brought a new level of accomplishment, of wonder, and a sense of personal achievement and victory.

And as with other rides, I felt so viscerally alive – testing my inner strength against challenges I couldn’t see coming, but knew were out there… the daily cycle of fear of the unknown being overcome by the accomplishment of doing and achieving.

The true joy of biking across the country is in the people that you meet along the way. You meet people everywhere… at restaurants, camp grounds, and stores… when you stop for water, to rest, to check directions. And because you are holding a bike and dressed in spandex and bike shorts, people will notice, and they will ask questions. It is always satisfying to see the look on people’s faces when you tell them that you’re in the middle of a multi-day, 500-mile bike trip – especially when they learn my age… and that I weighed over 400 pounds just 5 years ago.

We met so many interesting and wonderful people: Dan, the guy who recently bought the campground, Judy, the woman just outside of Bowling Green who gave us water and bananas, Paige, our waitress at the bar and grille who was from my hometown of Westerville, Budd, the camp manager who shared personal stories and delivered extra firewood to our campground, Jim, the 40 year veteran of driving a fuel truck, who was fascinated by our ride and our back-stories, Amanda and her family who welcomed us into their campground at Higgins Lake. These are just a few of the people who made an impact on us, and hopefully we left them feeling the same.

The lessons and enlightenment of past bike rides were with me on this ride. But as with every ride, new ideas, new truths, new paradigms, and new insights were revealed as the miles went by and the wheels turned. I am always amazed at how lessons learned that apply to bike riding, usually have great significance for weight loss and for life in general.

The following are three insights I took away from this ride.

1) Sisu and True Grit

On the fourth evening of our ride, as we set up camp in Sleepy Hollow state park, we were joined by Steve’s in-laws, Elly and Ken Davis. They live nearby and drove over to check on us, take us to dinner, and brought us food for breakfast the next day!

While we were setting up camp, Ken mentioned that our bike riding efforts had certainly shown real Sisu.

Sisu? Ken described it as grit personified… grit plus.


Sisu is a uniquely Finnish quality; the word used to typify the Finnish spirit; a concept that is at the heart of how all Finns view themselves; a certain feature or value considered by Finns to be typically Finnish.

• endurance, resilience, tenacity, determination, perseverance,
• an inner reserve of diligence, capacity, the ability to face head-on and always overcome,
• the recklessness that inspires a person to take on something in the face of incredible odds,
• bravery, empowerment, inner strength,
• gritting your teeth, continuing to fight against an overwhelming enemy,
• continuing on to win a race even after falling.

Sisu means that you finish what you start, you don’t quit in the middle of a job, and you don’t whine.


The bike ride certainly demanded Sisu of us and proved that we had it. On several hills and against stiff winds, you’d often hear me shouting out loud, “I eat Sisu for breakfast… I bite its head off and swallow it whole…,” etc., etc., etc., to motivate and drive me forward. Sisu: breakfast of champions.

My fellow weight loss surgery friends, riding the next morning it occurred to me, we have great Sisu.

Think about it. We took it upon ourselves, against incredible odds, to make a huge change in our lifestyle and remake our bodies. It took endurance, resilience, tenacity, determination and perseverance to learn new skills and develop new habits. It took bravery and inner strength to face the challenge of surgery, recovery and starting over. We’ve all had setbacks and found a way to continue even after falling. And we don’t quit in the middle… in fact, because our life-style changes are life-long, there is no middle, just a journey that we will live for the rest of our lives. It seems that people who possess Sisu are always moving forward. They are striving… struggling… overcoming… continuing… fighting… and racing. To accomplish is to do, act, or become. To achieve is to change, evolve and grow. Winning is not a destination but a way of living.

My fellow WLS peeps… We possess great Sisu!

2) Always Moving Forward

In the movie Wish I Was Here, Aidan’s father, Gabe, relays that his cancer has returned and this time it’s worse. The future is uncertain and bleak. Aidan is shocked and confused:

Aidan: What do we do?
Gabe: What do you mean what do we do? We move forward. It’s the only option God has given us.

As I was riding, Gabe’s words keep replaying over and over in my head. “We move forward. It’s the only option God has given us.” I think it is obvious that as much as we might like to be able to go back in time, we cannot. That option is totally closed off to us. Many people advise living in the moment… in the ‘now.’ That sounds like good advice, especially since you are never guaranteed another day or even another moment. However, living in the now is a very fleeting thing. For one, “Now” was here and instantly become “Then” (the past). There isn’t much we can do with any one moment. I think what most people mean by “Live in the moment” is actually “Live in the next few moments strung together to represent the near-term future.” This is still a forward moving thought.

So it seems to me that God has laid out the direction of life pretty clearly for us… We either move forward, with as much Sisu as we can muster, or we suffer, we lose out on life, we die. There is no use fighting for options that have not been given to us.

As I was riding out of Grayling, Michigan on Highway Old27, I saw a sign in front of a church that said:


Now, I have no idea how the pastor of that church was planning on using these words in a sermon, nor the lesson she may wish to impart. I am not directing this at her or her headline. But reading that sign made me think about how often I experience people who live exactly as these three steps outline… 1) ask God, 2) trust that God will grant, 3) wait for God to deliver.

I don’t feel quite comfortable with that outline. I am familiar with the Bible verse “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (English Standard Version), but I prefer the New Living Translation which says: “Keep asking, and you will receive what you ask for. Keep on seeking, and you will find. Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.”   Don’t ‘ask, trust and wait,’ be active… ask – and keep asking, seek – and keep seeking, and go find what you’ve asked for. Act, don’t wait.

Further, I don’t really believe that God gives us what we ask for anyway. In fact, I think the only thing that She gives us is 1) life itself, 2) the seven billion potential best friends of ours that live on earth now, and 3) the seven continents, five oceans, and hundreds of lakes, rivers, mountains, prairies, fields and woods to explore and experience. After that, God doesn’t give us anything. God prefers:


The bike ride was a great example of this. I wanted to get from Westerville to Gaylord, by bike. I prayed I could do it, and I trusted I could do it, but if I had waited for it, I would still be sitting on my bike in my driveway. Instead, I moved forward. I went and got it. I peddled for eight days and guess what, the more I acted, the more my prayer and trust were ‘answered.’

My fellow weight loss surgery friends, riding the rest of the way to Gaylord it occurred to me, we embrace the philosophy of Always Moving Forward. Think about it. We call our experience a ‘journey,’ which by definition is an act of moving forward. We can ask (pray) for weight loss and a fit, healthy body all we want, but it won’t happen if we wait for it. We had to act for it to happen. We may have found strength in Divine support along the way, but our weight loss was achieved, not given, because we acted and didn’t wait.

God gave us only Forward, and it is the only direction She allows us to pursue. The answer to our prayers are always out there in front of us to go and discover, to get for ourselves, Divinely provided, but not to those who wait, rather to those act. Remember, it is also said that “God helps them who help themselves.”

My fellow WLS peeps… We possess the strength to be Always Moving Forward!

3) The Act of Becoming

At dinner that fourth night Ken related how he had described his beds of flowers, vegetation and greenery as being in the process of “Becoming a Garden,” upon an inquiry from a neighbor.

I was instantly mesmerized by the concept of Becoming.

Ken’s beds likely held all of the ingredients of a garden… fertile soil and flowers… maybe a mix of perennials and annuals, maybe a few well-placed ferns or hosta, some early bloomers and some late summer show. He likely regularly watered it and preened the beds of weeds. But even with all of the required parts of a garden being present, it hadn’t become a garden quite yet… it was on its way, it held the promise of being a garden… it was in the process of becoming a garden.

The bike ride was certainly an act of becoming. I wanted a ride from Westerville to Gaylord. I had the bike, a planned route and reservations at campgrounds. My bike was tuned, I was trained, my gear, tools, and spare parts all packed. I had all of the components of a bike ride, but I didn’t have a bike ride yet. But I noticed something as the days passed and I peddled on; the planning and coordination of resources, combined with the people we met, the sights we saw, the experiences we had, the miles we covered were blending, and becoming a bike ride.

And riding the rest of the week it occurred to me, my fellow weight loss surgery friends, that we are all in the act of becoming.

Think of yourself as a constant work in progress – one that will continue until the day you leave this earth. The journey will never end, therefore the goal, while important, isn’t the end-game.

Always be becoming, never have become.

It is one of the most important lessons I’ve come to learn from my weight loss journey. At first I thought my goal was to lose 200 pounds and wear a size 34 pant. But eventually I realized that my goal wasn’t either of these things, rather it was dedicating my journey to becoming a healthy, trim and fit person. The former requires magic, the latter is a way of life.

I look at it this way, I bought into my weight loss journey as a life-changing event, I accepted that for the rest of my life I’ll eat well and exercise, so too, I accept that for the rest of my life I’ll be becoming ‘me.’ That the ‘me’ you see today will yield to the ‘me’ I’ll be tomorrow. That continually becoming Me is as much a goal of my journey as weight loss – and every bit as important.

My fellow WLS peeps… It’s really very simple, we are all in the process of becoming something, someone. Let’s set a goal to always be becoming our best self… happy, healthy and fit.

What did I learn on my ride from Westerville to Gaylord?

In life we often marshal all of our resources (time, energy, mind, heart and soul) to focus on achieving a goal, an end result, or an outcome. And while it is good to set and have goals, sometimes we focus too much on the end objective and not enough on the journey. And while we are in the process of becoming something, we fail to recognize, celebrate, enjoy, and appreciate the beauty we create and that has been created for us. We fail to see the moments we experience as significant learning opportunities. We fail to honor the things we share and the people we share them with.

This ride has reinforced what I’ve learned on every other ride I’ve ever taken… That it’s the journey that makes the effort special, rather than the achievement of a specific end goal. It’s in the journey that the life-lessons are located. They are found and experienced only as they are discovered within the journey, only when your mind, body, heart and soul are ready for them.

This ride was significant for me, not simply because I had a goal to ride 468 miles and I accomplished that goal. No, this ride made an impact on my life because of the people we met, the things we saw and what we learned about ourselves along the way.

I believe a couple of secrets to a cross-country bike ride, to losing weight and changing a life-style, or to living life as full as we can, are:

1) To understand that life often requires us to exude Sisu, a concept of endurance, perseverance, and inner strength that is called upon to overcome incredible odds and overwhelming challenges,
2) To realize that we are made to be Always Moving Forward (the only option God has given us). That to receive the gifts we want to enjoy we must go and get them where God has left them for us,
3) That we should always be in the act of becoming.

There are many ‘secrets’ to a happy and successful life. I can think of others, but none more important than these.

Thank you to everyone who followed the ride and sent support and encouragement. I cannot fully express just how much your support provided a lift in spirits and attitude, often just as it was needed, helping us push through the toughest stretches. Thank you also for your donations to WLSFA. My hope is that these funds will help provide someone the same life-changing tool that has helped me so much.

You can still donate to WLSFA. Go to Click on the ‘Causes’ tab and then the ‘Tour of Hope.’ Thanks.

Tour of Hope

08:00 Wed, 22 JUN 2016



IMG_4975Six years ago Bill Streetman (then age 54) weighed 404 pounds and his health was failing.  He could no longer do the things he loved such as hike, snow ski, play soccer or ride his bike.  Diets and weight loss plans had not worked for him.  On October 4, 2010 Bill underwent Roux-en-Y1 gastric bypass surgery.  The surgery provided him a tool to manage his eating. He implemented a vigorous exercise program and over the next 12 months lost half his body weight.  He has maintained his weight loss for five years and has returned to hiking, skiing, playing soccer and riding his bike.  He calls his experience a “Journey to Fitness” and today shares his story with people all over the world through lectures and blogging. 

Bill worried that he was too old to make the kind of lifestyle changes that both surgery and ongoing weight management needs would require.   He feared that if eating well would be difficult, exercising, especially at advancing age and after years of inactivity, would be extremely difficult… and painful… maybe impossible. It wasn’t!  

As a result of his weight loss and successful ongoing weight management, Bill has focused on helping others in their personal weight loss journey, with a special focus on the needs of people 55+ years old and those who may not be able to afford the same life-saving surgery that has helped him achieve his goals. 

Making a Statement and Leading by Example

logo draft 4aTo increase awareness of the obesity epidemic in older adults, and to raise funds for the Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America (, an organization that provides funds to help people without the financial means or insurance resources to have weight loss surgery, and to use his own Journey to Fitness as an example, Bill (now age 60) will peddle his Trek bicycle from his home in Columbus, Ohio, to Gaylord, Michigan.  The ride is approximately 426 miles and will span eight days, starting on July 29th and concluding on August 5th, 2016.  Bill has named the ride the Tour of Hope. 

PWesterville to Gaylord Map 3aassing through dozens of cities in Ohio and Michigan, he will share his story with local press, visit various Weight Loss Centers of Excellence and spread the word that it is never too late to take control of your health, defeat obesity, and reclaim your active, healthy and productive life. 

A public donation page has been established:

Fans will be able to view the progress of his bike trip on his Facebook page ( where he will document the trip with the use of his GoPRO and the AT&T Network, streaming live from the road and leaving video messages when being online isn’t possible. 

Become a Sponsor

Several sponsors have signed up to support Bill and his ride, including Bariatrix ( and Celebrate Vitamins (  They will be sharing his ride on their social media to increase the fund raising reach. To become a sponsor contact Bill, his contact information is included below.

About Weight Loss Surgery Foundation of America

The WLSFA core mission is to fund grants for weight loss surgery and reconstructive surgery. Founded in 2010, the WLSFA is a 501(c)(3) Charitable Organization powered by donations from weight loss surgery patients, medical professionals and industry partners. Qualified Bariatric and Plastic Surgeons may refer patients to apply for full or partial grants. Completed applications are blinded and reviewed by the selection committee. Finalists are presented to the Board of Directors where funds are awarded. The WLSFA hosts an annual national fundraiser. The WLSFA is a 100% volunteer organization. For more information, please visit

About Bill Streetman

On October 4, 2010 Bill underwent weight loss surgery, with Dr. Sabir performing the Roux-en-Y procedure at St. John’s Weight Loss Center of Excellence in Madison Heights, Michigan. With this life changing tool and Bill’s hard work and dedication, he is now half the man he used to be. Bill is maintaining his 200 pound loss!

“Weight-loss surgery doesn’t do the work for you. It’s just a tool. It doesn’t select the foods you eat or get you get out of bed in the morning to go to the gym and work out. You have to take control.”

But more than simply losing weight – a GREAT accomplishment in and of itself – Bill’s journey has brought him tremendous improvement in health and fitness, in frame of mind and perspective on life, in energy levels and in his relationships with others. Today Bill’s blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol levels are all perfect. He attends aerobic and weight training classes three days a week, studies Tai Chi, rides his bike and carefully manages his diet and nutritional needs. Bill shares his journey, by writing and speaking about the topic of living healthy after gastric bypass.  For more information, please visit his blog at



Yvonne McCarthy, Media Director

For Bill Streetman:

1. Roux-en-Y Gastric Bypass Surgery.  The Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is the most common and successful type of gastric bypass procedure. The surgeon begins by creating a small pouch by dividing the upper end of the stomach. This restricts the intake of food.

Next, a Y-shaped section of the small intestine is attached to the pouch to allow food to bypass the lower stomach, the duodenum (the first segment of the small intestine), as well as the first portion of the jejunum (the second segment of the small intestine). The procedure creates a direct connection from the stomach to the lower segment of the small intestine, literally bypassing portions of the digestive tract that absorb calories and nutrients.

How Did You Lose Weight?

surprisedWhen you lose a significant amount of weight, heck when you lose any noticeable amount of weight, people will ask questions. People are not shy about asking personal, probing, and sometimes very silly questions.  Many WLS patients are a bit apprehensive about fielding questions – even people who would, on almost any other subject, be an “open book.”  The question that drives this fear is probably the most obvious and logical question someone could ask: “How did you lose weight?”

The apprehension comes from the fear that their answer: “I had weight loss surgery,” will be followed by a response of… “Oh, I thought that you did it yourself,” or the dreaded, “Oh, you took the easy way out.”

It may be that people respond with these types of reactions due to an ignorance of WLS, it may be a reflection of some jealousy or resentment they may hold toward the successful WLS patient, or, at worst, it could be a desire to insult or offend.

Regardless of the reason, such a response is hurtful to the WLS patient and is perceived as totally devaluing their efforts… the costs, pains, risks, fears, and hard work that all successful weight loss endeavors require.

I love being asked the question: “Bill, how did you lose all that weight?”  But before I explain why, and how I answer, let me first suggest that “weight loss surgery” is an incorrect answer to the question.

A person loses weight one way and one way only… they take in less calories than their body burns.  It’s been that way since day one, and will likely be this way till the end of time.  Its simple math, addition and subtraction, learned in the first grade – 54 years ago in my case!  Add the calories eaten and subtract the calories burned to power bodily functions (heart beating, lungs breathing, body temperature) and calories burned from exercise or other physical activity.

Weight loss surgery is not the reason you lost weight.  To believe such passes all of the credit for achieving weight loss to something outside your control.  It would indeed be taking the easy way out.

When I am asked the $100,000 question, here is how I answer:

Person: “Wow, Bill, you look great… you’ve lost a lot of weight!  How did you do it?

Me: “Well, I lost weight the only way anybody can… I took in less calories than I burned up.  To put it simply, on a daily basis, I eat well and I exercise.  I eat well to limit the calories that go into my body and I exercise regularly to increase the calories my body burns.

Most of my life I had difficulty eating well, that is, managing my calorie intake, so to assist me with that goal I had gastric bypass, which helps me limit the amount of food I eat at any one time.  It doesn’t choose what I eat, so I must be certain to choose highly nutritious foods.  It is a lot of work, but well worth it.  And of course to burn calories I work out on a daily basis.  My gastric bypass doesn’t help me with that… it hasn’t once yet got me up off the couch and sent me to the gym!”

At this point, if the person asking me how I lost weight was not familiar with gastric bypass, they likely want to know more.  And if they had any inclination to be less than supportive, they quickly reconsider as my enthusiasm and excitement for what I have achieved is obvious and undeniable.  I am a freight train of unrepentant excitement that nobody wants to try and derail.

Gastric bypass, the vertical sleeve, and the lap band are tools.  Tools compensate for our limitations.

Fifty-four years of life had taught me that I didn’t have the ability to manage my eating. Try as I did (and I tried all the diets and weight loss plans out there), I simply didn’t have the skill, strength, ability, intestinal fortitude, whatever you want to call it, to manage my food intake. Some people are born with the innate ability to self-manage this aspect of their life. I wasn’t.

Consider a short person trying to paint their ceiling. No matter how hard they call on their internal strengths and intestinal fortitude, someone five foot tall cannot paint their ceiling without the aid of a ladder – a tool that allows them to overcome certain physical limitations they face so that they can unleash their skills and energy to achieve their goals. The ladder doesn’t paint the ceiling for them. It doesn’t select the color or neatly trim the moldings. A ladder, like WLS, is simply a tool that someone can use to accomplish their goal of brightening up their home.  The WLS patient simply uses their surgery as their tool to help them lose weight and maintain weight loss for the rest of their life.

Does this conversation make any sense?:

Person 1: “Wow, your room looks nice, you’ve done a great job of painting.  I like the style and color of what you did to the ceiling! I really… hey, wait a minute, is that a ladder I see over there in the corner?”

Person 2: “Yes.”

Person 1: “Oh… [sounding less than impressed] I thought you did it yourself.  I guess you took the easy way out.”

Ridiculous.  🙁

Be proud of what you have done for yourself.  NEVER feel bad about using the correct tool for the job you’ve undertaken.  You have accomplished something that very few humans are capable of.  You turned your life around and now lead a healthy lifestyle because you were smart enough to select – and utilize – the tool you needed to accomplish a goal you set for yourself.  You did that.  YOU!

I am often asked for lessons learned.  Here are my three running rules:

1) Never, never, ever give up,
2) Remember that you’re doing this for YOU and you’re worth the effort and investment, and
3) You will make mistakes and suffer a setback or two – when this happens refer to #1 and #2 above.

And above all know this:

You are capable of more than you can imagine,
You can do this,
Don’t overcomplicate things,
Eat well and exercise,
Believe in yourself,
Do a little better today than you did yesterday.
It’s the journey that gets you there, not the surgery.
A better life, a new life awaits… GO CLAIM YOURS!!

What I Learned After Biking 525 Miles to Speak at ObesityHelp2015

Five years ago I was 54 years old and the prospects of a 55th birthday seemed bleak. I weighed 404 pounds and my health was failing, obesity was putting my life at risk. Countless diets and weight loss plans had not worked.  But on October 4, 2010, I underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass surgery and my life changed forever.

IMG_4975 Bike RideToday, I weigh 200, and instead of watching life pass me by, I embarked on a 525 mile bike ride to increase awareness of the dangers of obesity, specifically in people aged 55 years and older.  My destination was the 2015 ObesityHelp annual conference in Cary, North Carolina, where I was a speaker.

It’s important that people realize that it’s never too late to take control of their health. You can defeat obesity and reclaim your active, healthy and productive life, even in your senior years.  I am living proof that it can be done.

The Planning and the Anticipation

The time that goes into planning these things. The details, the specifics, the decisions. Trying to imagine what it will be like… what I will need…. how it will feel… how I’ll react. Planning not only the agenda, but for the resources I’ll need for contingencies unforeseen. Knowing it will be work. Hard work. Knowing I’ll be tested. Afraid of the possibility of failure but excited about the chance to feel success and accomplishment.

There was a point when my mind switched from the images conjured and formed during the planning process, to the cold hard reality of implementation.   The planning process being full of hazy, vague and often romanticized thoughts, images and feelings of what I was about to do, which were quickly replaced by the stark, bold, distinct, and often ugly facts that present themselves when I actually took action.

For me this point of demarcation came on Thursday morning October 1st as I jumped on my bike and began to peddle away from my home in Westerville, Ohio. My stomach was in knots. My mind raced with thoughts, not the least being: “Can I actually do this?”

The Implementation

I was off and riding. It didn’t take long for a feeling of comfort to overcome me and I relaxed and began to enjoy the ride. But that level of anxiety, of discomforting worry and fear, would return, almost nightly, as I reviewed the agenda for the next day. Would the weather hold? Would there be hills that might defeat me? Would the wind turn against me and beat me into submission? And my most personal and private fear, “Will I have the strength to ride as far as I planned?” But each day I got up and peddled my bike – and each day brought a new level of accomplishment, of wonder, and a sense of personal achievement and victory.

I was having the time of my life. The trip far exceeded my wildest dreams. I was having a great time viewing wonderful parts of America as I rolled by at 10 to 15 miles per hour.  It had been years since I had felt so alive and had such confirmation of proof of life… proof that I alive – felt ever so viscerally through testing my inner strength against challenges I couldn’t see coming, but knew were out there… Of the daily cycle of fear of the unknown being overcome by the accomplishment of doing and achieving.

There is a tremendous sense of freedom while traveling around by bike. Your spirits soar, the shackles of everyday life are lost, and you cannot help but feel a joy for life, a lifting of limits, the elation of living LARGE.

Things I’ll Never Forget

· Being up in the mountains of West Virginia looking down on clouds that filled the valleys leaving the mountain tops exposed above them like endless waves upon the ocean.

· The absolute fear and rush of careening down a Virginia mountain at 35 MPH on a narrow road that twists and turns and has no shoulders, a rock wall on one side and a 300 foot drop on the other, holding the handlebars for dear life and praying that there aren’t any potholes or out of control cars ahead.

· Spending time in Mt Airy (Mayberry RFD) with thousands of people celebrating their Autumn Leaves Festival and meeting some special people who sat and talked and laughed with us.

· Riding for miles along Paint Creek in West Virginia, observing beauty so profound that words cannot describe it and photographs cannot capture it.

· Getting up each morning and facing the fear of not being up to the task of the miles and the climbs, and then the feeling of success and victory that came when the day ended and I’d defeated every obstacle I faced.

And I Wept When It Was All Done… For Being Done Too Soon

Then, after months of planning, 12 days of riding through four states, the Appalachian Mountains, 400,000+ revolutions of my bike wheels, one flat tire, a bee sting, being chased by a half-dozen dogs, temperatures as low as 40 degrees and as high as 81, riding in the rain, being watched online by over 40,000 people, burning 25,000 calories, making dozens of new friends and hundreds of memories… the ride was over.

I had accomplished what I had set out to do.

What I Learned

The hardest part of the ride was the mountains. The ascents were difficult and the descents were scary. But I found them a perfect metaphor for what can come from the challenges we often face in life… Right in the middle of the worst of them came the most beautiful views… The beauty of the mountains revealing itself to me as I crested each peak, something that I never would have experienced had I avoided the challenge.

We face challenges all throughout life.  Some are imposed upon us, others we impose upon ourselves. My Journey to Fitness has had challenges of both types.  Both have tested me, but also gifted me with beauty and joy.

Right in the middle of my life, I accepted the challenge to get healthy.  I never would have experienced my rebirth into a healthy life, the joy of riding through the mountains, or the honor of meeting so many wonderful people from the WLS community, had I not accepted and faced this challenge… if I had not ‘Dreamed BIG and Dared to Fail.’

We are capable of far more than we can imagine. There are no limits except those we impose upon ourselves. Age has nothing to do with possibilities – who is too old to dream?

Thank you to everyone who prayed, supported, encouraged, cheered, coached, followed and believed in me (even when I doubted myself).  You are part of the beauty that this challenge has revealed to me and I am infinitely wealthier for the experience of knowing you.

Do I Wish I’d Have Had WLS Earlier in Life?

I was recently asked if I wish I had undergone WLS earlier in my life.  At age 54, after two decades of trying to manage my weight – and failing miserably, I underwent the RNY procedure and in one year lost one-half of my 404 pound body.  Better yet, I’ve maintained that loss for four more years.

Old Man and Young Man optical illusionYou lose weight by taking in fewer calories than you burn up.  This is accomplished by managing the food you put into your body, and by managing the energy you burn through exercise and activity.  Until I weighed 350 or so pounds, I had no trouble with exercising.  I played sports, rode my bike, hiked, and kept active with my three sons.  But I couldn’t seem to manage my eating.  No matter how much I exercised, my calorie intake continued to exceed my calorie burn, and over time I went from 190 pounds to 404 pounds.

The last straw in my decent into an unhealthy life came when I went above 350 pounds and it became almost impossible for me to engage in the types of physical activities I loved and regularly enjoyed.  The decrease in exercise only made the situation worse and soon I weighed over 400 pounds.

WLS gave me the tool I needed to manage my food intake.  From the day my surgery gave me the gift of food management, I have eaten well and exercised, causing a calorie deficit that facilitated a 202 pound weight loss.  Today that same tool helps me manage myself such that I’ve maintained the weight loss and built a strong, healthy and fit body.

So with all of my success coming at the end of my 50’s (I’m now 59 years old – almost five years post-op), it would seem a logical question for someone to ask me: “Don’t you wish you’d have had WLS earlier in your life?”

The Author of My Life Story

Of course I’d have preferred to have stayed at 190 pounds through my 30’s, 40’s and early 50’s.  It would have allowed me to have even more fun with my kids, play sports even more intensely, explore the world more completely, avoid a couple of health issues, and saved me tons of embarrassment and heartache.   Yes, I wish that I hadn’t become overweight and obese.  But do I wish I’d have had WLS earlier?  Maybe, but probably not.

In the WLS world we say that with surgery we’ve made a life-style choice to travel a different path. We describe this path as a new life-long Journey.  And we have.  And it is.

However, since surgery only gives us a tool we can use to self-manage our journey, our success with WLS depends on us being able to use the tool for that purpose.  And our being able to use this tool is a direct result of the things we’ve learned in life, our outlook, our attitude, our mental toughness, our resolve to accomplish this goal.  It’s the total of all we are that gives us the resources we need to overcome the weaknesses and failures we’ve suffered.  That and the tool of WLS.

At thirty years of age there was much I hadn’t yet learned… I hadn’t faced the adversity of building a career, the challenge of fatherhood, I hadn’t gained a true and honest picture of what and who I am, I still possessed the idealized vision of myself I held in my teens and twenties.  I hadn’t grown to understand me.  And without that background, I wouldn’t have been able to use the tool that WLS gave me to make the changes required for my Journey to Fitness.

It’s all Part of the Journey of ME

To me, my life before WLS and my life after ARE my life.  My only life.  WLS is simply a point of demarcation – a date on the calendar of MY life.  An important date for sure, but not one that can stand alone.  I don’t believe that WLS would have worked for me at forty years of age any more than getting married at fifteen or retiring at thirty would have worked for me.  I wouldn’t have been prepared.

My grandfather used to have a colorful saying: “There are some things you just can’t explain to a virgin with words and pictures.”  WLS is something that worked for me at fifty-four years of age because I was ready for it, my experiences giving me the experiences to manage the process.  I believe that until I possessed these experiences, WLS would have been another failure in my attempts to manage my weight.

So while it is interesting to ponder, I really don’t waste much time looking back.  I am who I am because of what I’ve done, what I’ve experienced, and how I respond to the twists and turns that life throws me.  To wish it any different is to wish I was other than who I am.  And I’ve got to say, I’d miss me if I was anybody else!

Tools for the Journey

What it takes to Get You There

I’ve noticed a large number of online journals, blogs and Facebook pages being written and published by people who have undergone weight loss surgery. It seems many WLS patients are keen to write about some aspect of their experience utilizing these online mediums. I understand why. Writing can be cathartic. It’s a process that many, including me, use as a form of therapy, where we work through personal issues, exorcise demons that challenge us, and work to realize our resolve to change our lives for the better.

For the last couple of weeks I have been cruising the Internet looking at hundreds of these sites.

One thing I noticed is that WLS people frequently use the word “Journey” in the title or subtitle of their blog or Facebook page, with names such as: ‘Journey to Health,’ My Weight Loss Journey,’ ‘Journey to a Skinny Me,’ and my own blog, ‘My Journey to Fitness.’

Journey: It’s More Than a Word

I can’t ‘prove’ what I am about to write… that is, I haven’t done any statistically valid market research nor has anybody else to my knowledge, but here goes:

From what I see, people with the word ‘Journey’ in the name of their blog/webpage are more successful at weight loss and ongoing weight management than people who don’t.

IMG_0638aNot that its 100%, not at all. There are plenty of successful WLS patients without a ‘Journey’ blog. But my thesis is this: People who describe their weight loss and weight management efforts as a Journey, understand that WLS is a tool they have selected to help them take control of their life. They accept that they have elected to follow a life-long, life-changing path to a better life. They don’t look at WLS as a fix, or a solution in-and-of itself. They don’t look at WLS as THE answer. Surgery is not something that happened to them, rather it was a conscious decision to acquire a tool that fits a need they have.

Tools Compensate for Our Limitations

Fifty-four years of life taught me that I didn’t have the ability to manage my eating. Try as I did (and I tried all the diets and weight loss plans out there), I simply didn’t have the skill, strength, ability, personal fortitude, whatever you want to call it, to manage my food intake. Some people are born with the innate ability to self-manage this aspect of their life. I wasn’t. I needed a tool to help ME on my Journey to Fitness.

Consider a short person trying to paint their ceiling. No matter how hard they call on their internal strengths and intestinal fortitude, someone five foot tall cannot paint their ceiling without the aid of a ladder – a tool that allows them to overcome certain physical limitations they face. The ladder doesn’t paint the ceiling for them. It doesn’t select the color or neatly trim the moldings. A ladder, like WLS, is simply a tool that someone can use in their journey – to continually brighten up their home, or to lose weight and maintain weight loss for the rest of their life.

Remember, it’s the journey, not the WLS that gets you there. It’s YOUR tool. It’s YOUR journey. Enjoy the ride!