Larry Peterson remembers the day when he was confined to a wheelchair wanting to die.
He remembers weighing over 600 pounds and recalls all too vividly the low self-esteem, societal pressure and hopelessness that can result from obesity.
"I know how low you can feel," said Peterson.
It's been a few years since Larry weighed in at 600 pounds. In a little more than three years, he has lost more than 300 pounds and gained a new positive outlook on life.
Thanks to a loving wife and a stubborn dietitian, Peterson found within himself the mental strength to transform his life.
Nearly three years ago, Larry was admitted into the Veterans Clinic in Minneapolis for complications resulting from obesity. His wife was at his side, and a very concerned dietitian refused to leave his room unless he agreed to attend a two-week in-hospital behavioral modification clinic.
"I'm here because two people cared enough about me to help me," said Larry. "If a couple women wouldn't have interfered in my life when I didn't want them to, I would be dead now."
He's decided to use his story to change the lives of others undergoing similar struggles with obesity.
"My whole purpose now is to interfere with as many people's lives as I can."
Larry "interferes" through giving his own seminars. For a couple years now, he's been bringing seminars to several locations and organizations. Larry's next seminar will be held Monday, June 28, in Algona. He is hoping to line up his first appearance in Storm Lake soon.
"Since I have given seminars in Australia, I guess that makes me an international speaker," said Larry. "I have given seminars at several Curves locations, TOPS (Take Off Pounds Sensibly) locations, CORE - Center Of Research Education for Obesity, NPACE - Nurse Practitioners Area Continuing Education; the Armed Forces of the U.S., Diabetes conferences, several major hospitals and public groups." Larry has also recently appeared on Dr. Phil's show and The Early Show.
Larry's seminars center around the idea that weight loss begins in the mind and that no specific magic diet exists that will work for everyone.
"The battle ground to lose that weight lies between our ears and that's where it's going to be won," said Larry.
He said that he sees the value in many of the diet systems that exist, but won't endorse any of them.
"I don't endorse any specific diet, nor do I have any weight loss company endorsements," he said. "A person has to take whatever is good about different diets that fits their lifestyle and put it into their arsenal of weapons to fight their own personal battle.
"To me, weight was like a huge puzzle. Not only didn't I know what the puzzle looked like, I didn't know what the pieces looked like, where they were or how they fit together. I now understand that it was a mental thing," Larry said. "Some people call it a behavioral change, some call it a lifestyle change."
Larry said his confidence in the mental weight loss strategy has been supported by standing ovations from doctors, dietitians, psychologists and the general public.
"It all boils down to this: the truth is the truth is the truth - no matter how it's told, it's the truth."
Larry will continue to share his weight loss testimony and strategies through seminars for as long as he receives calls to do so.
"It's hard to speak to the people you know," he said. "They say 30 miles out of your home area, you're an expert."
But Larry hopes to bring his expertise to a Lakes area seminar in the next few months.
He is also involved in a local weigh-loss group where he both aids others in their battles and receives support himself. Thirteen months ago, he helped start a TOPS group in Milford. TOPS stands for Take Off Pounds Sensibly.
"The TOPS philosophy is similar to mine," Larry said. "TOPS doesn't have a specific diet per se, it's more of a support group. It recommends sensible eating, good nutrition and mental focus. I assisted in starting a TOPS group in Milford because my support group is four hours away in Minneapolis and because I wanted to be able to share my ideas locally."
In late May, Larry was awarded first place for most weight lost in Iowa in 2003 for Division VII - the division for those weighing more 400 pounds. He lost 107 pounds in 2003.
Larry's TOPS group consists of 14 women and three men, who have lost a combined total of over 400 pounds in 13 months.
"We all have different albatrosses to bear," Larry said. "We all have different problems. We must learn to cope with those problems and don't use those problems as an excuse for not losing weight."
* The group is a highly motivated weight loss support system looking to help more people. For more information call Char Howard 712-338-2715 or Larry Peterson 332-9762.
* Larry Peterson, Arnolds Park, will present two Behavioral Modification Seminars Monday, June 28 at the Algona Public Library. Seminars begin at 2 and 7 p.m. and last approximately 90 minutes.
Seminars are open to the public. Fee is $20 for adults, $10 for students.
Peterson says his seminars are a must for those who:
* need to lose just a few pounds up to those who are morbidly obese
* are friends, relatives, or business associates of someone heavy
* are thinking of going on a diet or are now on a diet
* are health care providers or educators on weight control
* are thinking of or have made the ultimate sacrifice of stomach stapling
Larry hopes attendees will learn how to:
* help themselves, and others, with weight control
* gain control over food
* raise self esteem
* lose weight properly
* handle weight, depression and impulse eating