David Bergman, a professional photographer for 25 years who most recently toured with Bon Jovi as their official tour photographer, used to be overweight. He was always “the fat guy.” He ate what he wanted and didn’t worry about it until he got on the scale and saw that he had reached 290 pounds, just four days shy of his 44th birthday. David was inspired after watching Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead but he struggled to stay committed to juicing. What changed his life was Camp Reboot. Read all the details, tips he learned along the way, and see photos he took during his journey back to good health.
My doctor said seven simple words that scared the heck out of me.
“You are getting close to surgery weight.”
I hoped he was exaggerating for dramatic effect. The “surgery” was gastric bypass – otherwise known as the stomach staple procedure. I had always imagined it was for those morbidly obese people you see on TV who can’t get out of bed. Then I got on the scale, and was stunned to weigh in at a whopping 290 pounds. Just four days shy of my 44th birthday, it was the heaviest I’d ever been.
I had always been a fat guy. I was picked last at kickball and routinely fell into the ‘friend zone’ with the hot girls at school.
Don’t feel badly for me. My life has been good. As a professional photographer for nearly 25 years, I’ve accomplished a lot. I’ve covered hundreds of major sporting events including the Olympics, Super Bowls, and the World Series. I have also toured with big rock bands and spent the last few years traveling around the world on a private jet with Bon Jovi as their official tour photographer. I’m well respected in my industry and have plenty of friends.
While I have family members who have struggled with weight issues over the years, I never dieted. I just ate what I wanted and didn’t really worry about it. I hovered around 250 pounds and knew that was too much, but I wasn’t depressed and everything seemed fine.
When I left the midtown Manhattan doctor’s office that day, I was angry and determined. There was no way I was going to have surgery. But I was fat. Even for me.
I had finally hit a wall and knew I had to do something. A year earlier, I had stumbled onto a documentary about juicing. Fat, Sick & Nearly Dead featured a crazy Australian businessman named Joe Cross who weighed 320 and had a rare skin disease. After 60 days of consuming only fresh vegetable and fruit juices, he was on the path to significant weight loss and optimum health.
The movie inspired me. I bought a juicer the next day and made a few juices.
But after a week or two, life got in the way and the juicer began gathering dust on the counter. Eventually it was moved underneath with the unused pots and pans.
Fortunately, I continued to follow that crazy Aussie on social media.
Fast forward to the doctor’s office. 290 pounds.
I remembered seeing that Joe had hosted a “Camp Reboot” in upstate New York a year earlier. It really didn’t interest me because I’m not traditionally a “camp” guy. I imagined sitting around a campfire with a bunch of other fat people singing “Kumbayah,” and that really turned me off.
But I knew I had to do something drastic. And it just so happens that the second Camp Reboot was in two weeks. I swallowed my pride, pulled out my credit card, and signed up that day. I was going.
Leading up to camp, I followed the recommended 5-day transition plan provided by the Reboot team. The idea was to eliminate all caffeine, alcohol, meat, and processed food before I started juicing. I have never been a coffee drinker, so caffeine was easy. I certainly like to drink, but had no problem going five days without an adult beverage. Meat and processed food? That was the tough one. I was a burger and fries guy. Pizza and pasta rounded out my food groups. I rarely ate anything green.
On day five, I went to a friend’s engagement party and was surrounded by all-you-can-eat pasta and dessert. I was hungry and pretty miserable. But I was committed. I spent most of the party talking with friends and eating fruit salad.
Then I went to camp. I didn’t tell anyone I was going and cell coverage was virtually non-existent. I was truly off the grid. Five days of nothing but juice. Lots of seminars with actual medical doctors, and much of the focus was on how to transition out of juicing and back to eating. I never heard “Kumbayah” even once.
I lost a few pounds (not as much as I expected), but more importantly, I was on the right path.
When I got home, I decided that, since five days was relatively easy, I would do five more days and then see how it went. I continued with five day intervals until I simply didn’t want to do it anymore.
I juiced for 45 days. Forty-five days without eating any solid food. Insane.
TIP #1: I didn’t love the process of making juice, so I bought a couple dozen mason jars and would have marathon juicing sessions about twice a week. Most of the juice would go in the freezer, with a day or two in the fridge. I would bring one day’s worth out of the freezer each night so I always had thawed juice ready to go.
If you had told me a year ago that I wouldn’t eat for even one day, I would have called you crazy. Joe nailed it when he called it a “reboot.” It’s not a fast because I was still getting calories (not as many as I was used to) and nutrients (way more than I was used to!). It’s also not a cleanse, because your body is always naturally cleansing itself. I was just keeping my system clean so my cells were able to do their job more efficiently.
TIP #2: I travel a lot for work and was concerned since you can’t bring juice onto an airplane. My best friend on the road was Yelp.com. The site and mobile app allowed me to find juice bars in every city, whether I was in Minneapolis or Frankfurt. I put 4-6 empty mason jars in my checked baggage, and would buy a bunch of juices and put them in jars for the day. As long as I had juice with me, I had no problem resisting the junk food temptation, even while covering a baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston.
After 45 days, I had dropped about 50 pounds. My goal was to get below 200 pounds. I hadn’t seen a “1” as the first digit in my weight since high school. Most veteran juicers can tell you what happened next. I didn’t crave many of the things I used to eat. The thought of putting a cheeseburger in my gut made me nauseous. Just the thought of it!
What I did crave was fruits and vegetables. One of the first things I ate was steamed broccoli. Something I rarely ate before. It was delicious. Since then, I’ve stuck with a mostly healthy diet that consists primarily of plant-based foods, although I’m certainly no vegetarian. I love chicken and fish (salmon – yum!), and I will occasionally have pizza. But I’ll have a slice or two and not the entire pie.
I’ve gone on to do a couple more short Reboots. I had a big gallery opening and launch party for my Bon Jovi photo book in November and was going to be doing a lot of interviews. I completed a 10-day juice-only reboot leading up to it and, on the morning of the event, I was 199.5! Goal reached! I even took a photo of the scale.
TIP #3: Goal setting is incredibly important. It’s amazing how your brain takes the information you give it and helps you make things happen. I told my close friends that I was going to be “below 200 at the gallery.” Somehow I wound up right on the money.
In less than seven months, I had dropped 90.5 pounds. Jon Bon Jovi came to the event and we were on the TV show “Extra.” While I’m not quite as good looking as he is, I think I held my own next to him on TV.
Finally, I went back to my doctor’s office. He was blown away by my transformation. Not only had I lost the weight, but my blood pressure went from 146/97 to 114/74. At the end of the day, the vanity aspect is nice, but it’s really about health. I was thrilled to see the new BP numbers.
As I left the office, I thought to myself, “Surgery? What surgery?”
Special thanks to my Camp Reboot coach Kristen DeAngelis. She went above and beyond by taking extra time to help me figure out the logistics of juicing both at home and on the road. I’m happy to say that we stayed in touch after camp and she has always been there to hear about my juicing challenges and successes. Thanks, Kristen!
*“After” photo (c) 2015 Jordan Matter / JordanMatter.com