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Life in the Fast(ing) Lane

“When I’m not fasting, I do 21 days of juicing with just fresh juice and water. Juicing with calorie restriction helps me to focus so when I do go back to eating, I tend to be much more selective with the foods I’m having.” – Dr. Stephen Thomas

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Stephen Thomas, MD: Family Medicine, North Houston Campus

May 2023

When he finished his residency, Dr. Thomas became the only doctor in a small town, working over 60 hours a week, not exercising, and eating a lot of processed foods on the go. When he joined Kelsey-Seybold, he made his health a priority. Dr. Thomas found that intermittent fasting and 21 days of juicing four times a year, along with regular rides on his outdoor elliptical bike, helped him not only lose a third of his weight, but maintain the weight loss.

How did your wellness journey begin?

When I came to Kelsey-Seybold in 2005, I was just a couple of donuts away from 300 lbs. I was coming out of residency and I was the only doctor in a small community center, working 60+ hours a week. I was not exercising at all and eating way too much of the wrong things – a lot of processed foods, easy fast foods, stress reducing foods, comfort foods. Also, being on call all the time, being up all night, wasn’t conducive to losing weight. So, when I knew I was coming to Kelsey-Seybold and leaving that environment, one of the main priorities I had was to get to a place where I could be away from the schedule I had and have more time for exercise. When I came to Houston, I changed my diet and exercise.

What changes did you make at the beginning?

One thing that helped me was getting on a regular sleep schedule. I ended up getting a trainer and going to the gym for at least a couple of hours two days a week, and at least 45 minutes the other days. I did a lot of cardio on an elliptical machine and weight training. I also became a vegetarian. In about two years, I lost over 100 lbs.

How has your wellness journey evolved?

I found that intermittent fasting helped me maintain my weight. It helps me restrict my calories. When I’m not fasting, I do 21 days of juicing with just fresh juice and water. I do that each quarter, four times a year. I’ve also cut out trigger foods. I used to have an issue with a lot of Italian food, so I haven’t had a piece of pizza in years. I cut out trigger foods completely. And I try to do at 15 miles three days a week on my outdoor elliptical bike.

You found a way of eating that works for you. What are first steps for others who are trying to figure out which diet is right for them?

There are so many diets out there. I think everyone would benefit from not necessarily sticking to the typical American diet. The Mediterranean diet is kind of a good foundational diet to go to. Getting enough macros is also important. Protein helps you be full a little bit longer, which is great. About 20% of your calories should come from a good protein source. Most of your calories should come from complex carbohydrates. You want to limit fat, so you want to have less than 20% of your calories from fat.

What do you think the biggest obstacles are to losing weight, in general?

The biggest issue initially is looking for early resolution. You’re doing this lifestyle change and you look at the scale to change. You can get very discouraged. Instead of looking at the scale, look more at waist-to-hip ratio. In general, men want their waist circumference under 40 inches and women want it under 35 inches. That’s the minimum. Ideally, you want to get under 37 for men and under 33 for women. This is definitely more helpful than body mass index or body weight. If you got used to not looking at the scale, you’d feel better about what you’re doing. Also, I tell people to just forget numbers in general and don’t do it for weight loss, but to be healthy.

What advice do you have for people who are just starting out with exercise?

I think a lot of people, if they can’t take a whole hour to go to the gym or run, they think, “What’s the point?” But I think there definitely is a point, because as long as you’re not sitting there doing nothing, you’re getting some sort of movement in and it’s helpful. Just keep moving, keep walking, and stay active. It may not be everything you need, but it’s at least a starting point. You just want to look at it as, “I can do this now. Long-term, I want to do more, but what can I do right now?”

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