Anders Risum Mortensen, pictured, is a 39-year-old father of two and a product manager at an anti-food waste organization in Denmark. His health journey has certainly not been an easy one, and it took years of persistence for him to get where he is today.
It all started in 2012, with a battle against relentless migraines. The headaches were taking a toll on Anders’ life, and despite trying various medications, relief seemed elusive. He decided to consult his doctor in hopes of finding a solution.
Anders’ doctor was quick to point out that his weight was likely a significant contributing factor to his health issues. In addition to the frequent migraines, he also had very high blood pressure. However, the doctor attributed the majority of his problems to his weight, noting the possibility that he could face more serious consequences later on down the line if he did not lose weight. While Anders agreed with the doctor, he wondered if the number on the scale was being singled out as the overarching cause of his health issues, because he felt there was not much effort being made to look beyond that.
Parenthood ups the stakes
After that conversation, Anders recalled feeling a growing sense of frustration and resentment towards working out, weight management, and even being around people who openly discussed their fitness achievements. He knew he wanted to change, but found he was lacking the motivation to start. Then, Anders got the exciting — and life-altering — news that he was going to be a father. Immediately, the thought of not being able to keep up with his child due to his health problems troubled him. He knew he had to take control of his health, to be there for his family and to simply feel better in his own body.
And so, he kicked off his weight loss journey that very same year, in 2012. Anders decided to take a systematic approach to getting fit, hopeful that maintaining structure would be an efficient way to see results. He began by cutting back on sweets — he admits, he’s a great lover of cake — biking back from work on sunny days, and soon incorporated simple weight training at home into his new routine. He started logging his food intake and tracked his progress, finding that seeing tangible numbers really incentivized him.
At first, Anders used a Google Doc to manually record all his measurements, but he soon discovered a Withings smart scale that seamlessly tracked all of his data for him. With the ability to explore different modes and even track his kids’ weights along with his own, he found it much easier to stay on top of his health data.
Conquering weight loss, and confronting new challenges
By 2018, Anders told us he had lost 70 kilos (154 lbs), but realized he had become too obsessed with the numbers on the scale. His fixation on calorie counting and rigid routines was taking a toll on his mental well-being and his growing family. He found himself only eating enough to sustain the next workout, and cooking different meals for himself than he did for the rest of his family, who expressed their concern that he might need to take a step back. It was then that Anders changed his approach to focus on maintaining a more sustainable lifestyle that allowed for flexibility and balance.
Despite his significant weight loss, he says that the migraines persisted and his blood pressure remained alarmingly high. His BP was causing him to wake up multiple times throughout the night to use the bathroom, and these extra sleep disruptions caused him to feel more irritable and stressed than usual.
Determined to find answers, Anders took matters into his own hands and began tracking his blood pressure from home using a Withings smart blood pressure monitor. He looked for any specific activities in his daily life that led his numbers to spike. Armed with data in hand, he sought second opinions and eventually found a cardiovascular expert and then a hormone specialist who diagnosed him with Conn’s Syndrome.
Finding strength in community
Having a diagnosis shed light on the rare condition that was causing Anders’ blood pressure to not respond appropriately to his medications. He underwent surgery to have his left adrenal gland removed, since Conn’s Syndrome is characterized by the presence of benign tumors — called adenomas — which secrete too much aldosterone, a hormone that helps regulate blood pressure.
As he recovered, Anders joined a support group on Facebook, connecting with others who understood his struggle and provided encouragement. He found immense value in finding a community, and discovered many other people with Conn’s Syndrome were not diagnosed for many years after their symptoms began.
Sharing wisdom, hoping to inspire others
Looking back on his journey, Anders realized how biased assumptions about his weight may have delayed his correct diagnosis for far too long. His experience taught him the value of taking charge of his health and advocating for himself, even if it meant challenging the status quo. After all, no one knows your body and what you are experiencing everyday better than you do.
Today, Anders maintains a 50 kilos (110 lb) weight loss and shares his story to inspire others. He advises taking gradual, sustainable steps toward better health and finding ways to work out at home, especially for those with busy schedules. He believes that even the smallest decisions we make each day can accumulate and lead to profound changes in our well-being.
Anders’ story teaches us that by taking responsibility for our health even when it’s hard and embracing change, we can become happier, healthier versions of ourselves. So, let us all heed his main piece of advice — “Stop doing nothing, and start doing something.” Instead of hiding from the numbers on the scale, he would encourage you to take them in, relate to them, and use them as a spark to ignite the health champion inside of you.