Inactivity and a terrible diet almost killed one Mississippi investigator.
Here’s what he did to save himself.
As PIs, we often plan our investigations ahead of time, but we don’t plan on taking care of ourselves. On the road, staying in hotels, or sitting in a car for eight or more hours at a stretch, we often eat whatever we can whenever we can. We grab and go instead of packing a healthy lunch. And our health suffers as a result.
Terrible diets and days of inactivity are the hallmarks of a PI’s workday. After 15 years of this, I started to see the signs. And then it all caught up with me in nearly catastrophic fashion.
This is the story of how I slowly destroyed my health, by living the stereotypical life of a private investigator. But it wasn’t too late for me to change my ways and save my own life, and in the process, become a more focused and energetic investigator, with (hopefully) many work years ahead of me.
I hope you find my story instructive.
A Growth Industry
First, I noticed that the weight, especially around the gut, began to pile on. I got fed up and started lifting weights. I lifted heavy, took creatine, and ate massive amounts of protein.
I grew. Folks seemed to like the new look. I was even cast on a reality show as a PI, briefly. The show’s producers encouraged me to keep bulking up.
My muscles may have been big, but that didn’t mean I was healthy. I did very little cardio and was often out of breath. And the heavy protein diet, heavy lifting, and sitting in cars all day played havoc with my digestive tract. I’ve had stomach problems for 25 years (IBS & GERD), and my diet and weightlifting habits were making matters far worse.
Day of the Dead
One day while lifting in the gym, I shattered a disc in my neck, an injury that required surgery. After taking several months off and completing physical rehabilitation, I got back into the gym. While trying to work out, I began to have difficulty breathing. After a few days of this, I visited a doctor. I was told I had fluid in both lungs. They thought I had pneumonia. I was sent to the emergency room.
When a cardiologist came to talk to me, I thought he was in the wrong room. Then he told me I was in congestive heart failure and that I could die.
My heart had dropped to 15 percent of normal function. Because of my size, lack of cardiovascular exercise, and poor diet — which consisted of junk food, massive quantities of protein (mostly chicken and fish), and processed foods — my heart was not pumping blood efficiently to my vital organs. As a consequence, fluid had backed up into my lungs. I was drowning.
After five days in the hospital, I added numerous daily heart pills to the stomach pills that I was already taking. I was scheduled for a defibrillator within the coming weeks. I was 42 years old.
A Change of Heart
I was very lucky: I responded well to the medications, and in a year, my heart was functioning at 65 percent. My heart doctor cancelled the scheduled surgery to install a defibrillator.
Another year went by, and I tried to ease back into the gym. After a few trips, my neck really began to bother me. I saw a neurosurgeon, who told me my neck was shot. The discs above and below the last fusion were failing. I needed a second neck surgery.
I had also developed spondylosis in my neck and back from the heavy lifting, lack of proper exercise, and inactivity over the last two years. I had the second neck surgery and was in a lot of pain. Physical rehabilitation did very little, and I was placed on several pain medications. Within a month of being prescribed controlled release pain medications, I felt as though I was addicted. Being in pain and on meds all the time made for a miserable existence. I was inactive and gaining weight. I had difficulty sleeping, and I was placed on sleeping medication.
While lying in bed one day with nothing else to do, I happened to see two documentaries that opened my eyes about health: “Hungry for Change” and “Fat, Sick, & Nearly Dead.” The messages may seem obvious, but these movies also opened my eyes about the diet/food industry, my health, and eating a plant-based diet.
I wasn’t a “vegan;” I never ate a lot of red meat due to my stomach condition but, I did eat a lot of protein and processed food. The movies explained how a plant-based diet might improve things dramatically for me.
I was already miserable — my IBS and acid reflux were making me nauseous all the time, and I’d stopped going to the gym. So I thought, why not try it?
Within three months of eating no meat, maintaining a plant-based diet, and seriously limiting processed food, I lost 35 pounds. I didn’t really need to lose weight, but lose weight I did. I performed no exercise during that time. In addition, my stomach improved about 75 percent!
The nausea was gone. I felt better. In fact, I felt so good that I started walking and doing DDP yoga. After a short time, I started running. After a few months, I headed back to the gym and began lifting weights again.
Back to Life
I have continued to educate myself about the food industry and their corrupt practices. I have watched several documentaries such as “Fed Up”, “Cowspiracy”, “Veducated,” “Food Inc.,” “Forks Over Knives,” “Food Matters,” and “Supersize Me,” just to name a few. I continue to learn about the benefits of a plant-based diet. I do not consider myself a vegan, but I sure eat like one.
Although I don’t lift as heavy as I used to, I am in the gym daily. I always try to perform some type of cardiovascular exercise. I am now off all medications, and I feel great. I have no pain, and I’m in the best shape of my life. I still have to push myself to get moving, especially in the mornings, but the benefits continue to motivate me.
My work as a private investigator has improved, as my energy is off the charts. Even when I don’t sleep that well, I have the energy to carry on. My concentration has improved.
I plan my days carefully now — to include packing a lunch. If I’m on surveillance or going to the field for any reason, I always carry healthy snacks and a salad. Even if the case is only scheduled to last a few hours, I plan as if I will be there all day or night.
When I am working away from home, I always carry fruit and nuts with me as a snack. I also bring plenty of water. For lunch, I usually eat some type of salad. I rarely eat regular (iceberg) lettuce with my salad. Instead, I start with something like kale or spinach, and I’ll add quinoa, lentils, mushrooms, olives, etc. — whatever I can find! I occasionally eat a protein bar or have a protein shake like I did back in my heavy lifting days. The difference now is that my shakes and bars will consist of a plant-based protein. I stay away from whey protein or anything animal based.
When I am done working, or before I go on the case, I hit the gym. If I have hours of paperwork, I always try to stop and do some type of exercise, even if it’s only 30 minutes. If the sun is shining, I get outside as often as I can.
It only takes a few minutes a day to exercise, and it takes little to no time at all to eat right. Your work will improve. You will feel sharper and think better. It will extend your career. And it may also save your life.
I also find that I sleep much better now that I’m off medications and active every day. I do my best to stay on schedule, as that also helps my stomach condition, which has almost completely gone away. As long as I eat right, maintain some level of physical fitness, and remain on some sort of a schedule, I have little to no digestive discomfort.
The “WTD” Retirement Program
I encourage all of you to put your health first. Watch the documentaries I listed. Want to read a book? Check out The China Study, by Dr. T. Colin Campbell. This information will change your life.
Educate yourself about health and nutrition. Nobody is saying you have to be a vegan. No one is saying that PIs shouldn’t eat meat. I had some health conditions, and avoiding meat worked for me. It may also work for you.
We should all eat better and be more active. It only takes a few minutes a day to exercise, and it takes little to no time at all to eat right. Your work will improve. You will feel sharper and think better. It will extend your career. And it may also save your life.
Personally, I don’t have a retirement program or a 401K. My retirement program is “WTD.” So if you are like me and have a WTD retirement plan (“Work ‘Til Death”), then you also need to keep working for many years to come. Put down the fast-food burgers, avoid the drive thru, and pack a salad before you head to the field.
Trust me, you’ll be glad you did. Be safe out there!
About the author:
Richard A. Brooks has specialized in insurance fraud investigations in the Southeast for almost 15 years. In 2006, he founded Richard Brooks Investigations, a Jackson, MS firm with satellite offices near Mobile, AL and Ft. Lauderdale, FL. He is the immediate past president of the Mississippi Professional Investigators Association, the state director for the Mississippi Chapter of the Association of Christian Investigators, and a member of many other international, national and state PI associations. Before becoming a PI, Brooks was an active duty military and civilian law enforcement officer for approximately 10 years. He has also testified as an expert in general police procedures.