Sometimes a single event is all it takes to spur you to commit to losing weight—a chastening visit to a doctor, say, or the death of a loved one. David, for one, got plenty of wake-up calls: his cholesterol was out of control, staying above the 220-milligrams-per-deciliter danger zone even as his doctor prescribed higher and higher doses of a cholesterol-lowering drug. One winter afternoon, he nearly fainted as he bent over to lace up his skates for a pick-up hockey game. His own mortality suddenly loomed large. “I used to think I’d be fine if I made it to age 65,” David explains. “But as I got closer to 50, it scared the heck out of me that I could drop dead of a heart attack any day.”
For Jan, the signs were more subtle. She’d gained a few pounds a year as she raised her children—but her kids were now 18 and 21, and her weight had climbed to nearly 200 pounds. “I wasn’t eating junk food; I’ve always been interested in healthy eating,” she says. “I just ate too much.’’
Looking back, David describes them as “living the fat, happy American lifestyle.” Maybe they weren’t always happy, but they were certainly busy: Both were working long hours at NRG Systems, the world’s leading manufacturer of wind-measurement equipment for the energy industry. David founded the company in 1982 in his college dorm room; Jan, a former nurse whose student loans once provided the first venture capital, was recently made CEO. (David now designs small home wind turbines for Earth Turbines, his new startup.)
Like most overworked executives, David and Jan didn’t have much time to prepare or plan meals or even think about what they were eating. And, while they weren’t couch potatoes, neither found time to exercise regularly. Ironically, even after NRG moved into a super-energy-efficient “green” building, which had extensive fitness facilities, including an indoor pool, the Blittersdorfs still rarely found time to work out. “The fitness room was sort of for everybody else,” admits David.
Just as the pounds crept on slowly, so did the recognition that it was time to make a change. The turning point came when the Blittersdorfs spent a summer vacation with John Miller, an NRG engineer who had just shed more than 70 pounds following the VTrim program. “He’d gone from looking like me to being this skinny guy who was doing all kinds of exercise,” David recalls. The more Miller told them about VTrim, the more the Blittersdorfs liked the concept. It seemed simple enough: keep track of daily food intake and exercise in a journal, and meet weekly with an educator trained in nutrition and behavioral techniques, a person who would help you to replace old habits with healthier ones. That the plan was science-based and university-backed was especially appealing. Inspired, the couple agreed to sign up for the next VTrim session, that September. “I knew there was no turning back,” says Jan.