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Weight loss and my machine 'companion'
Glenn Keller and Fit Nation Athletic Director April Burkey stretch after a run in Atlanta.
March 28th, 2012
09:01 AM ET

Weight loss and my machine 'companion'

Glenn Keller is one of seven CNN viewers participating in the 2012 Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge. At the beginning of the challenge, Keller weighed more than 300 pounds and suffered from sleep apnea due to his obesity.

It's been ten years or so now that I was diagnosed with sleep apnea. I was told that it was a result of my being overweight. The process started with a sleep study when I spent the night in a sleep lab so that the degree of sleep apnea could be diagnosed. That way they would be able to determine settings for my new companion, a C.P.A.P. (continuous positive airway pressure) machine.

I use the term "companion" because the machine goes everywhere with me. I've been unable to go anywhere without it for years and I mean anywhere.

It has gone more places with me than my wife.

When I went on a cruise ... it was there.

When I go to Louisiana to visit my mother - it's right there.

Spend a night somewhere in a motel ... and it's right there.

And yes, it's in the truck also, every time it moves.

It's really an experience going to sleep looking like a scuba diver.

My wife could probably speak more to this issue but there is nothing intimate about it. However, my wife never lets me fall asleep without it. The snoring associated with sleep apnea is unbearable. Yes our sleep apnea affects others. Occasionally while watching television I will doze off and it seems without hesitation she will wake me up and tell me "put that mask on."

Trust me, going to sleep without it was an accident. There have been a few times that I had an occasion to sleep without it. When I would awaken I would always have a splitting headache.

So here we are 10 years later - not joined at the hip - but instead joined at the face.

What has been totally ridiculous about this is that I could have done something about it. I wasn't going through this as a result of some incurable disease. I was allowing myself to go through this because I would not stop overeating. I endured over 10 years, over 120 months, more than 480 weeks and more than 3360 nights of having no sleep with this thing on my face because I wouldn't stop stuffing my face. I can't imagine the cost to my insurance provider for the sleep studies and CPAP machines over the years with all I really needed was diet and exercise.

Unfortunately sleep apnea isn't the only problem that being overweight can cause. Being an over-the-road truck driver I'm required by law to take and pass a physical every two years. They test for things like hypertension and diabetes - and both can be disqualifying. There were times leading up to a physical I would be taking garlic pills and drinking vinegar in an attempt to get my blood pressure down.

How sleep apnea can wreck your sex life

A couple of weeks ago I was at a truck stop standing in line behind someone who was buying a pickle that was in a little plastic bag with pickle juice in it. He turned to me and asked, "doesn't this vinegar help bring your blood pressure down?"

It was with a great deal of pride that I responded, "not like diet and exercise."

The last time I saw my doctor, my blood pressure was great.

That's not all diet and exercise has done for me. Since becoming part of The CNN Fit Nation Tri Challenge I've lost almost 30 pounds.

At the beginning of this blog I spoke about the splitting headaches I would have whenever I tried to sleep without the CPAP machine. While in Atlanta for Kick Off Weekend I didn't have access to it for three nights - which I had never done. I slept without it and not one morning did I wake up with a headache.

Then a couple of weeks ago, while at home, I left it in the truck and didn't realize it until bed time and didn't feel like driving back to the truck.

I just knew my wife was going to have to sleep in another room because she was not going to be able to put up with the snoring.

Much to my surprise, when I woke up she was right there. When I asked her about my snoring she said it was so mild she hardly noticed and it didn't even bother her.

What has been so wonderful is that I still need to lose a bunch of weight - but how much of a difference simply heading in the right direction has made!

What is it going to be like when I arrive?

I'm thanking God already. Dieting and exercise has been a challenge, but it's been a rewarding challenge.


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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.