Eanelli MD – Thanks To Dr Sandra Cabot

By Thomas R. Eanelli, M.D.

First and foremost, let me start this letter with a powerful and accurate statement: “Dr.Cabot has literally saved my life!” Words cannot fully express the thanks and gratitude I feel, not only for her groundbreaking and innovative work on liver cleansing for a healthful life, but more importantly for the incredible personal interest, empathy and involvement she shows in her patients’ progress and happiness.

Please allow me to share my incredible story and journey. I am a 42-year-old product of a typically neurotic third-generation Italian-American household where food (we owned a bakery) and love were in abundance. Unfortunately, so was compulsive behaviour and depression. As a matter of fact, there is not one member of my family who isn’t obese, alcohol/drug dependent or a pathological gambler. In any event, my father was an abusive alcoholic who died of cirrhosis at the age of 48 (I was 12). Not coincidentally, I can still trace my emotional, nervous binge-eating to this very unstable and horrific period in my life.

After high school, my compulsive overeating became uncontrollable, and I surpassed the 250-pound mark for the first time during my freshman year of college. My weight gain was so logarithmic, that I quickly learned the embarrassment and sorrow of stretch marks and specialty clothing stores. There were brief periods of successful dieting (you name it I tried it) interspersed with rebound weight gain. From 1979 until 1985, I basically weighed between 270 and 350 pounds. My “flaw fatale” was not sweets, but rather salty meats, fried foods, pizza and fast food.

My cousin John was my partner in crime, and some of our “finest moments” make some of the scenes from the movie Fatso eerily realistic. It would not be unusual to eat 12 to 14 equivalents (a term we invented to quantify an amount of food; i.e. a Big Mac would be 1.25 equivalents, a hot dog 1, etc. etc.) during a binge before reaching the point of physical illness.

Incredibly, my obesity did not detract from a stellar scholastic career that included a medical degree from a prestigious school, growing a successful practice, a traditional marriage with 3 lovely children, strong friendships and interpersonal relationships, and an honoured and respected position in my community.

Little did I know, however, that a physiological time bomb in my liver was about to explode! My medical epiphany took place in 1997, during a business trip to Kansas City. After a 5-hour plane flight, several pieces of pepperoni pizza, ribs and beer, I went back to my hotel room, undressed, and was horrified to see what stared back at me from the mirror. Instead of a 37-year-old successful man, I saw a 60-year-old, obese, bloated, edematous father of 3 young children who would be lucky to see their high school graduation, never mind weddings. I summoned up the courage to see my internist for the million-dollar workup; blood tests, nuclear scans, stress tests, echocardiogram, cat scans. I’ll never forget the conversation we had during our meeting to recapitulate the test results.

“No problem, all you have is a fatty liver.” At first, I was ecstatic. I was OK, healthy, never mind that I weighed 350 pounds and my liver enzymes were off the charts. My doctor said I was fine. I could resume my old lifestyle, try to employ moderation, and live to be 100. But deep in the recesses of my mind, a mind that had been vigorously schooled in the intricacies and secrets of the microscopic and macroscopic world of the human body, something did not sit right. As a matter of fact, in retrospect, my history of abnormal liver functions were actually first discovered during a routine blood test when I was 20. After the hepatitis screen returned back negative, the matter was quickly dropped. But why? And then it suddenly struck me, harder than a ton of bricks or a Mac truck. I was being railroaded by the traditional medical community who tell the upper middle-class suburbanites exactly what they want to hear, then sign their untimely death certificates without much afterthought.

To be fair, I am being too hard on one individual, rather than on a medical educational system where nutritional knowledge is handed out in parsimonious bits and pieces like expensive brandy or caviar at a company Christmas party. It was then I realised that if I were to survive to see any grey hairs develop, I would have to take matters into my own hands. But I needed help.

Amazingly, my exhaustive expedition into the scholarly and reputable annals of traditional medical literature failed to turn up anything more than a few incidental, vague references about steatosis and fatty liver. Sure there was a wealth of information about alcoholic cirrhosis, idiopathic biliary blah blah blah, but a glaring absence of information in regard to the nefarious precursor of a scarred liver that is steatosis. But how does the body know the difference between 2 scotches a night versus 2 Big Macs if the end result is the same (fatty accumulation that eventually turns into scar tissue)? The answer is it doesn’t, and that realisation felt as if someone had struck me between the eyes with a 4 X 4. It turned out that with all the wonderful gifts God had given me; brains, Romanesque good looks, charm, charisma, he likewise gave me an Achilles liver. There are millions of obese individuals walking this earth with normal hepatic enzymes that are slowly suffocating their livers with fat, but for some reason, I was the one destined to be vulnerable to this poorly defined enigma of a disease.

I was in big trouble. As I had egregiously failed every known diet to man, along with hypnosis and acupuncture to boot, it was painfully apparent that a self-directed program would be futile. My next excursion to good health occurred in a fat clinic, where the soup de jour included lacklustre liquid, chalky meals, novelle garbage, heart-damaging amphetamines, and a lot of questions about why I hated my mother. Getting desperate, I even flew out to San Diego for the annual International Bariatric Surgical meeting to pick up some information about gastric bypass and stapling.

I must say that I met some wonderful, non-judgmental, sincere, sharing people. This is probably because most of the ancillary staff were former patients whose lives had been drastically changed by this operation, and as callous and detached as surgeons are known to be, I found this subset of specialists to be truly concerned and dedicated to using their gifts and skills to try to reconfigure the gastrointestinal tract to mechanically force weight loss. On the downside, there is the inability to consume more than sips and bites, vitamin deficiency issues, malnutrition, dumping syndrome, worsening of fat accumulation in the liver, and operative failure. Despite these minor points, I was convinced that this was the way to go, and tentatively booked my case with the world’s most experienced laparoscopic expert who reportedly could rebuild an engine through a carburettor. The only caveat I voiced to my surgeon was a refusal to get on the operating room table weighing 350 pounds and being in such bad shape. I had seen too many postoperative thrombosis, infections and pneumonias, and didn’t want to be another statistic at their morbidity and mortality rounds. I therefore decided to lose a few pounds and exercise a bit to prepare for my new life.

Now many people don’t believe in karma, kismet, cosmic directives, deital intervention, or even putting pineapple on their pizza, but I do. It is thus very clear to me, that on that fateful day while browsing books at the Barnes and Noble superstore in Paramus, New Jersey, God purposely led me to some off the beaten track shelf which contained this bright green paperback book entitled “The Liver Cleansing Diet” by some Aussie doctor named Sandra Cabot.

When I first spotted the title, I literally had to do a double-take and force myself out of shock. After all, I just spent 3 months in Ivy League medical libraries, millions of cyber hours on the Internet, joined and contributed to the American Liver Foundation, and flew across my great country to hear internationally recognised physicians speak about morbid obesity and it’s inherent health hazards, and all I got about fatty liver disease were a few abstracts, blank stares, topic changing segues, and off-colour jokes. Now here I was, in a generic chain store where bibliophiles go to die, lost among racks of the Old New Testament, the New Old Testament, Erma Bombeck meets Tom Clancy, and Kama Sutra for the Double Jointed, when out of left field, I spot a book completely devoted to liver health and information.

My luck was changing. When I got home, I devoured the book immediately and must have re-read it 5 times. It was well written, comprehensive, light-heartedly illustrated, and easy to follow. It could just as easily appeal to a hepatologist as to a cosmetologist. The most ingenious, original, and germane concept of the book, centres around the organ which is the body’s largest, most vascular, and most metabolically active. Paradoxically, it is also the organ which is least understood, highly ignored, and most grossly underrated. “Forget the heart, the brain, the reproductive tract. Fix the liver and good health will follow.”

Once I began Dr Cabot’s program, the weight literally began melting in an eerie “wicked witch of the west gets caught in a summer rain” sort of way. The change was so drastic and instantaneous that people began worrying that I had a chronic disease, but their concerns would quickly vanish when they were not able to reconcile the radiant glow and aura of good health that emanated from my core. I couldn’t believe how good I felt. My liver enzymes, lipids and cholesterol dropped to ridiculous and unimaginable low levels. I also restarted the modest exercise program I had struggled with my whole adult life:

  • • 30 minutes on the stair master level 4, 2 times per week
  • • Circuit around the nautilus track
  • • 3 mile run thrown in for good luck every full moon

After only one month I felt as if I were sleepwalking through the once challenging and difficult routine. My previous aerobic and athletic barriers started falling quicker than internet stock. Easy hiking soon led to full gear weekend backpacking trips which led to section hiking the Appalachian Trail. Peakbagging mountain excursions began with summiting small hills in my native New Jersey, to the more challenging Catskill and Adirondack Mountains of New York, Green and White Mountains of New England, to the dizzying heights of Mt. Hood, Mt. Rainier, and the other Cascade sisters. Rock scrambling up small boulders evolved into solving challenging technical routes in the Shawangunk Ridge and Grand Tetons. Three-mile runs turned into 5 and 10K races which soon led to one half and full marathons and triathlons. Never mind that I usually came in close to last, I was competing in events I used to dream about. I was grasping life for all it was worth.

Last summer, standing on top of Mt Rainier, I began to cry. My group thought that I was demoralised, hypoxic, physically exhausted. On the contrary, I was rejuvenated. Each step I took, each muscular contraction, was a celebration of myself. I might as well have been standing on the moon, that’s how far I felt I had come. This is the gift given to me by Dr Cabot; a gift as miraculous as a child’s birth, an ocean sunset, a field of wildflowers. She gave me a compulsive, long-suffering overeater and steatotic, a life-program which is a literal and tangible fountain of youth! More importantly, this miraculous transformation not only drastically improved my health, energy, and motivation, but also bolstered my self-confidence, and helped me grow in many other positive directions.

  • I became more involved as a father now that I could get down on my knees and play with my children at eye level. Weekends are now crammed with long walks, bike trips, runs, swims, hikes, rollerblading and skiing.
  • I became a more energetic doctor, starting a local cancer survivor group which has touched thousands of lives and has helped raise tens of thousands of dollars for research and philanthropy (www.crocalumni.org).
  • I began taking acting classes and participating in community theatre.
  • Last but not least, I have been inspired to begin creative writing which is a dream I have always wanted to follow but never had the energy or confidence to pursue.

But my story does not end at this point. It will never end for any compulsive overeater. Like Charlie in the book “Flowers for Algernon”, I wake up every morning in a cold sweat with the fear of losing control. For me, food is my kryptonite, my enemy. As I painfully observe others being able to enjoy good food in moderation and utilise meals as a social and enjoyable event, it takes every ounce of strength for me to show restraint. I would be lying if I said that since I’ve been on the program I have been completely faithful. There have been many days where I have strayed, or fallen into a lull of complacency. I would stop weighing myself for fear of recognising the obvious. My clothes would tighten and that paralysing fear would return. It is at this point I relax and try not to get angry with myself. Then I pick up that weathered, overused, bright green book, start from the beginning, and thank God for that Aussie doctor named Sandra Cabot.

Thank you Dr. Cabot!
Thomas R. Eanelli, M.D.