At age 43, the West Hartford, CT resident weighed 458 pounds and struggled with type 2 diabetes, sleep apnea, an irregular heartbeat and other health problems. He had tried non-surgical weight-loss programs with limited success. When his doctor told him he couldn’t take any more insulin, he decided to have bariatric surgery. “I knew, it’s either do this or die,” Singer recalls. The procedure involved stapling part of the stomach to leave a small pouch, and bypassing parts of the small intestine to reduce food and fat absorption.
In the following months, Singer began rebuilding his life, changing his diet and exercising, of course, but also re-evaluating his goals. Concerned about his knees, he searched for an exercise which could include low-impact workouts. This is when he discovered triathlon. Jeff found that the combination of swimming and cycling workouts with the jogging made for a symbiotic relationship, and his body responded. Like most of us, Jeff needed a goal; he set his sights on training for his first triathlon. He completed his first Sprint Tri in September 2010 and repeated it in 2011 (finishing almost 27min faster than 2010). Jeff then completed the Quassy Rev3 Olympic in June 2011, and will be repeating Quassy in June 2012, determined to earn another PR at the race.
When asked about his exercise regime, Jeff explains this hasn’t been easy. After surgery, Singer hired a personal trainer to help him achieve more muscle mass. Jeff spends two to three days a week weight training, does a Spinning class once a week, swims once a week, runs 3 times a week and is back skating as a Level 1 USA hockey official, a passion he’d given up 12 years ago. His weight is down to around 200 pounds and he’s gained nine pounds of muscle mass.
One thing Jeff feels very strongly about is the healthy life regime needed to sustain the weight loss. “Surgery is not the answer for everyone”, urges Jeff. “In fact many of the people who got it done when I did lost only 100- 150 lbs and many have gained 20-30% of it back. There is no maintenance in bariatrics. You constantly have to adjust your diet, your workouts. You have to work at transforming your body and keep muscle mass to help burn calories”.
Jeff plans to compete in more triathlons with the ultimate goal of doing an Irondistance triathlon …. Rev3 Cedar Point being his goal. Jeff strongly believes the true mark of an athlete is not just in the physical execution, but it is in the mental toughness as well. “Chance favors the prepared mind”, he says. Jeff is also committed to helping others. He attends The Hospital of Central Connecticut’s bariatric support group meetings and talks with those who haven’t yet had surgery and those who, like him, have found bariatric surgery an invaluable tool in building a new future.
On his cell phone, Jeff keeps a picture of a trip he took to Disney World with his three young daughters before surgery. He’s sitting in the photo – something he had to do a lot, he says. When he returned to Disney in November 2010, he was half his original size, and was carrying one of the girls on his shoulders. “Life was different this time,” he says. “Life was good.”
Written by: Carole Sharpless