Bittersweet Breakthroughs



Tim Krauss

Photo by Weston Carls

 

Tim Krauss

Dominating Type 1 Diabetes 

“We didn’t think you would make it,” she said. 

In that moment, Tim Krauss didn’t even know who she was. It turns out, she was a nurse and he was in a hospital bed. The last thing he recalled was waking up from a nap at home with a horrible burning pain in his entire body. Thinking he might be hungry from sleeping through dinner, he went to reach for a piece of fruit on the kitchen counter. That was it. That was the last thing he remembers.

What Krauss didn’t know was that he had been in a coma for the last three days and was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age 28. This life-saving (as it turns out) blackout was the culmination of over three years of misery, questions, fear, and agony for Krauss and his family. 

A lifelong athlete, Krauss spent his childhood years playing soccer in his homeland, Germany. When he moved to Austin, he played multiple sports, including tennis at Westlake High School. He later raced and excelled at triathlons, including the Half Ironman and Full Ironman distances. “I thought maybe I would get my pro card and make a living, but I already had a family to support,” he recalls. “I was always traveling, racing, and spending money we didn’t have.”  A surgery forced him off his training regime for a few months and it was then that he realized he was spending way too much time away from his young family. “I actually liked being home with my kids,” he jokes. It was a tough decision for a peaking triathlete, but in the prime of his racing career, Krauss walked away from triathlon in 2010 to create a more stable life in the corporate world. 

Like he did with training and racing, Krauss hit it full-throttle and spent the majority of time on airplanes traveling internationally. “It really was a 24–7 lifestyle because I was working in all time zones,” he says. Sure, he was stressed, tired, dehydrated, and extremely fatigued, but wasn’t everybody? That’s what he kept telling himself as he started noticing peculiar changes in his body.

There was one day in 2011 he recounts vividly. “It was a Thursday and I got to the office early and, of course, there was a box of Krispy Kreme donuts, so I ate one.” Then, he ate another, and another, and another. When all was said and done, Krauss had devoured all 12 donuts in a matter of minutes. “Sadly, my biggest concern was how much work it was going to take to burn that off,” he laughs. 

That gluttonous episode was coupled with a growing list of things that just seemed “off” to him. He was thirsty all of the time, he craved sugar, and he was losing a significant amount of weight even though he was consuming 5,000–6,000 calories a day. As a active adult in his mid-20s, Krauss just kept chalking it up to stress and fatigue. That changed, though, when he started to experience his most alarming symptom—bouts of blurred vision. This is when he and his wife got legitimately scared. 

“I’d tell her I was going to the doctor, but I wouldn’t because, honestly, I was too frightened to find out what it was,” he said. “I didn’t want to accept the fact that something was wrong, but I was just convinced I was dying.”

He wasn’t wrong. By the time Krauss had his fainting spell in the kitchen, he was a gaunt and sickly 130 pounds, pronounced and indisputable on a six-foot-tall frame that usually weighs 170 pounds. His collapse ultimately saved his life, but he now had to process the inconceivable diagnosis of Type 1

Diabetes, a disease he knew nothing about.  

Type 1 Diabetes is when the pancreas stops producing insulin, the hormone that enables people to get energy from food. There is no definitive cause and, sadly, no cure. “To live a normal life, I had to change everything,” he emphasizes. “Before I ate anything, I had to give myself an injection. I had to know what it was, its nutritional value, the last time I ate, how I was feeling, and so on. It became a full-time job.” It was also frustrating, especially in the early months. Your body responds one way to eating for 25 years and then, suddenly, it’s completely different.

Within 10 months, he ballooned from 130 pounds to 250 pounds as he tried, unsuccessfully, to create balance. “This wasn’t 250 pounds strong either,” he admits. “I was the fat guy. I looked and felt like crap. I had no energy, but I still had to save face. There were so many things on my plate and there were days I thought I was going to explode.” 

With the help of his brother, Krauss started following the Paleo diet and lifting a lot of weights. The first 30 pounds dropped quickly and he gained a lot of strength. Although he never envisioned himself returning to elite athletics, he still longed to run again and, after a few stalled attempts and an ego check, Krauss started his return, albeit slowly. At first, he didn’t think it was worth it because he was going so slow and he needed to consume so many extra calories, but, “I just kept telling myself that it had to get better.” Eventually, it did.

“One shoe doesn’t fit everybody with research,” he says, “and my body doesn’t respond well when I have to inject myself with insulin to grab carbs. Instead of releasing the carbs, my body actually stores them.” Because of this, he further tweaked his eating and for the last five months, has been following a ketogenic diet, known as a high-fat, low-carb way of eating.

His daily staples include nut butters, macadamia and brazil nuts, grass fed beef, avocados, salad and low starch veggies. He also eats and fuels his training with Epic Bars and Primal Kitchen Bars. The most promising result? His insulin consumption has reduced by almost 65 percent and he’s now running trails up to six days a week. He may not be dropping a 5:30 min/mile anymore, but, at the age of 33, this husband and father of four has never been happier because he finally feels like an athlete again.

“For the first time in my diabetic career, I’m more confident than I’ve ever been. It’s still a pain, but I don’t think about it all the time. It’s nice to be able to think about my fitness instead of just my blood sugar. I don’t know if I can ever give enough credit to my wife. She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Without her, I would’ve died.”

Well, we’re glad you’re still here, Tim, in spite of what that nurse said when you woke up from your coma. After all, you’ve got some 100 mile trail races to conquer next year!



PHOTO BY MIKE REED STUDIOS

Adam Sud

Transformation from Pills To Plants 

“I need help.”

The night he picked up the phone and called his father pleading those three words, Adam Sud had just barely regained consciousness from a drug overdose that left him for dead. To this day, he has no idea how long he was out, but was told by doctors to consider himself lucky that he fell forward and not on his back. Otherwise, he could’ve easily aspirated and choked to death. People often ask him if it was a suicide attempt. “When you’re living the life I was living and taking the amount of drugs I was taking,” he says, “every single day is a suicide attempt.”

There was clear realization, though, when he awoke. “Up until that point, I didn’t care about myself and I had set in motion a series of events that were only going to play out in one way. My parents would spend the rest of their lives trying to figure out why their son had to eat and drug himself to death.”

That’s why he picked up the phone. His father and mother, without judgment, simply said, “Don’t worry. Just leave your apartment and come home.” It’s the day every family of an addict waits for—the moment of resignation. Finally, Sud was ready to get comfortable with being uncomfortable.

How did an idyllic upbringing even fall to this low point? Sud, one of three children, comes from a supportive family and is a graduate of Westlake High (class of 2001). He’s a 7th generation Texan and had the ego to match it. He admits he was a bit of walking cliché’ as a teenager. “I was spoiled, arrogant, and entitled. For example, I thought I knew everything so I didn’t even work that hard in high school, but was awarded the highest scholarship to Savannah College of Art and Design.” While he was living the west Austin, entitled-kid stereotype, what others didn’t know was that he was also dangerously addicted to Adderall, a drug that was prescribed to him as an adolescent to treat his ADHD. Adderall, he explained, is basically the medically pure version of meth. Among other side effects, it makes you uber-focused, revs up your metabolism and is highly addicting.

He was uber-focused alright—on scoring as many pills as possible, buying them from classmates and even doctor shopping through college. Part of Sud’s addiction, he admits, was dealing with an adversarial relationship with his father. “One of the things I resented about my dad was how much emphasis he put on healthy eating.” he said. “My dad had lost his father when he was young and he himself had suffered a stroke. Therefore, he became super critical of everything we put in our mouths.” It didn’t help that his dad had been involved with Whole Foods Market from the beginning and is still a top-level executive at the company. He’s also a lifelong marathoner. No pressure there, right? In 2009, he even sent Sud to a week-long Whole Foods Engine 2 Immersion led by Rip Esselstyn, to educate him on the benefits of a whole foods, plant-based diet to reverse lifestyle diseases. Sud showed up high and used drugs the whole time he was there, unwilling to think about changes. In hindsight, Sud can see it was just his father’s way of saying, “I’m afraid of what I’m seeing and I love you.” 

After some time at Savannah College of Art and Design, Sud, now out of control in his addiction, dropped out of college and moved back to Austin to work in the film industry. “My life quickly became nothing more than existing in a hoarder-like apartment, eating 10,000 calories of fast food and junk food, drinking up to 15 sodas a day and doing 450 mg of Adderall in the course of 24 hours.” He was somewhere between 320-350 pounds, but had stopped weighing himself long before. He cut off ties with family and friends and the only time he left his apartment was for fast food or drugs.

Finally, in August 2012, when he regained consciousness after an overdose in his own filth and vomit, Sud made the phone call to his dad that would save his life. “I need help.”

REHAB

Sud had two goals in his recovery: Make sure his parents never had to worry about him dying and prove to himself that he could make a comeback.
The initial days were humiliating as staff stripped search him and ran batteries of invasive tests to make sure he was disease free and not carrying drugs into the treatment center. Almost immediately, he was asked to go see a doctor who said, “You didn’t mention in your intake forms that you’re dealing with heart disease and Type II diabetes.”

“That’s because I don’t have those,” he replied with his usual arrogance.

He had them both in spades at the age of 30.

When he called his dad to let him know about his diagnosis, his father came through with prolific advice. He said, “Suppose you do have diabetes, high cholesterol and heart disease. You’ve been to the Engine 2 Immersion and you know exactly what you need to do to reverse these diseases.” Sud was ready to use food as medicine, and heal the damage it had done.

THE NEW ADAM

After a 37-day stint in rehab, Sud was transferred to a halfway house in Santa Monica, California. It was packed with junk food like Totinos Pizza Rolls, sodas, Fruity Pebbles, packaged deli meat, and other highly processed food. People may leave here sober, but no one will leave here healthy, he thought. He was determined to change that. The home leader (humorously with the last name, “Hamburger”) agreed to get Sud whatever he needed for his new diet, so he asked for only oatmeal, black beans, broccoli, and fruit. For the first few months, to develop a taste for these foods, he would make oil-free egg white omelets with veggies. Then he transitioned to a completely plant-based diet.

These were the only things Sud ate for 10 months and in just two months his heart disease and diabetes were gone. His blood sugar returned to normal, so Sud stopped taking the medication. One of the best days of his life was when he met with his doctor who seemed satisfied (and shocked) that the medication was working so well. Sud had the privilege of telling him it wasn’t the medication, it was his diet.

“I felt self worth for the first time in my life when I walked out of that doctor’s office and told him I would no longer need his services,” he said. “To me, self worth is what’s necessary to feel like you’re worth saving.”

In just over 10 months, Sud lost 100 pounds and was off all medications when he left the halfway house. Driven by this new life, Sud began working with other facilities developing programs to help addicts create a plant-based environment. Helping others transformed his life from one of entitlement to one of compassion.

COMING HOME

In January 2017, Sud moved back to Austin to work in his dream job as a Health Coach for the Whole Foods Market Medical and Wellness Clinic. He works with Whole Foods employees and their families on diet, disease prevention, and the benefits of adopting a whole foods, plant-based diet. He also works with the Engine 2 Staff traveling to events and retreats telling his remarkable story. “The deadliest substance abuse on the planet is the standard American diet,” he shares in his talks. “And that’s coming from a drug addict who had an overdose.” Sadly, over 55,000 people will die from overdoses this year, but over half a million will die from heart disease in the United States.

Five years ago, Sud was barely able to get off the couch without getting dizzy. These days, you’ll find him on Lady Bird Lake Trail training for endurance events, even running races with his dad. Endurance sports, he says, are a great metaphor for recovery. It’s about being comfortable with being uncomfortable for long periods of time. It’s a meditation. Every movement and breath is purposeful and nothing else matters but the next necessary step.

Sud’s next steps are full of passion and purpose. He’s currently working on his memoir, tentatively titled, “Plant Based Recovery: My Journey From Pills to Plants” and is preparing to speak at many events this fall, including Plant-Stock in upstate New York.

When asked how he keeps Austin fit, Sud replied simply, “I enjoy being fit because I eat healthy. Health starts in your kitchen, so keep Austin healthy and you will enjoy being fit!” 

 

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