Wellness Plan

Background

I was a college athlete and in great shape, but then life hit. After 2 kids and 20 years sitting behind a desk, I had let myself get horribly out of shape. On Oct. 14, 2016, I tipped the scales at over 343 pounds. In college, I weighed around 190 pounds, so I was carrying over 150 pounds of extra weight. This didn’t happen overnight, in fact, I went on the South Beach Diet back in 2004 to try to lose weight. While I was successful losing weight short term, by the next year I had gained it all back and more. In the beginning of 2016, I tried another diet but was not successful. You see, what I found was that I needed a permanent life change and not a diet.

Getting Started

In October 2016 I finally took the step of admitting my health was an issue and deciding to do something about it. This is the list of steps I took to get control over my health:

 

Step 1: Admit your health is an issue and be willing to do something about it

Over the years, I have had lots of people who wanted me to do something about my health, but it was not until I wanted to do something about my health that I was able to change. You don’t need to tell the world, but look yourself in the mirror and say “I have a problem”. You will not change if it is not a true desire coming from inside. I know – I spent years pretending I was going to do something as well.

 

Step 2: Measure your baseline and set goals

One of my favorite quotes regarding improvement is from Bob Parsons – “Anything that is measured and watched, improves.” When it comes to health, there are a number of things to measure:
  • Weight
  • Body Fat
  • Body Water
  • Muscle Mass
  • Daily Caloric Intake
  • Body Measurements
  • Food Journal

The first five can all be measured with a good bioelectrical impedance scale. I use the iHealth Core wireless scale which syncs your data to the cloud and has a website and smartphone app for seeing charts and looking at the details. It also has the great feature of supporting up to 400 pounds when many off-the-shelf scales wouldn’t handle over 300.

For the body measurements, take down measurements with Body Measurement Tape and also have someone take a picture of you with nothing in the background from the front and from the side. You can repeat this photo over time to visually see the changes. For me, this has been very motivating.

 

The food journal is a measure of how many calories you are consuming. If you have never kept one before, you really need to think about keeping a food journal. It sounds like a lot of work, but once you get in the habit it is not really burdensome. I recommend finding an app for your phone that helps to automate tracking your food and I personally use one called MyNetDiary. Why is it important to keep a food diary? We are very inefficient at estimating how much we eat and ultimately, losing weight is about using more calories than we consume on a consistent basis. Studies have shown that just keeping a journal can help you lose weight, so if you are just getting started this is a great place to start.

 

Step 3: Measure your progress

Gaining weight doesn’t happen overnight and neither does losing it. Taking these measurements is not a one-time activity, you need to be measuring these and checking them on a regular basis. Decide how often you will measure and find a way to chart the changes over time. With the iHealth Core wireless scale, I just need to remember to step on the scale every morning at about the same time and everything else is handled automatically. The only thing it doesn’t measure is your body measurements and food journal.

 

Pictures are really self-motivating because when we see that side-by-side of old and new, we are able to more clearly recognize how far we have come. Here is an example from my journey. In October 2016, my wife took the picture on the left. I was standing next to a sign that reads Thyme and we were joking that it was “Thyme” for me to get serious about losing weight. The picture on the right was taken 6 months later in the same shirt. At that point I had lost over 80 pounds!
Its Thyme

 

Step 4: Have an accountability partner

My wife is my accountability partner and I check in with her regularly to review my measurements and talk about what is working and what isn’t. Find someone you trust and share what you are doing. They can help motivate you when you get down and celebrate you when you succeed.

Step 5: Identify Low Hanging Fruit

As you get started on this journey, there will likely be some obvious and simple changes you can make that will yield quick results. For me, the most obvious one was giving up soda. I had a very unhealthy relationship with soda and would drink several cans per day. If I wasn’t drinking soda, then I was drinking sweet tea, which is nearly as bad. A 12 oz. can of Mountain Dew has 170 calories and I would have 2 or 3 every morning for my caffeine rush (I don’t drink coffee.) I would usually have around 32 oz. of sweet tea for lunch, and a coke for dinner. Just in my drinks for the day I was at over 800 calories. I replaced them all with water at 0 calories. Find one thing that you know is bad for you and give it up. It doesn’t have to be permanent, but give it up for 1 week or 1 month and evaluate the impact.

Identify Your Weaknesses

I’m going to say right up front that this is hard. This requires some self-reflection. You may even need to give permission to the ones closest to you to be brutally honest and take their words to heart. When I started these weren’t all obvious. As I really focused on being healthy, I uncovered these weaknesses one by one. This is my list and some of the techniques I have found to address the weaknesses, yours may be different but hopefully, my list will help you in your search for yours.

  1. Emotional Eating – I would often make poor food choices because I felt like I needed a certain food. There were many times when I would go get some fast food after dinner just because I didn’t feel satisfied. I also ate a lot of desserts because I felt like I needed to have a dessert with every meal. Sugar can be addictive, and I believe that I was addicted to sugar (and I still struggle with it). The thing that helped me most in addressing this issue was going through the 5 Day Cleanse. In addition to helping me understand portion sizes, I credit this cleanse with providing me with a complete reset in the way I look at food. If you have never done something like that before, I highly recommend it.
  2. Stress Eating – We all live busy lives with lots of stress. When we are under stress, we often use that as an excuse for eating unhealthy. I would say “I deserve …” (insert poor food choice) whenever I was stressed. You see, one of my biggest problems with my diet was stress eating. When I would get stressed I would make very poor nutritional choices. I found different ways to handle stress, so I no longer needed to use food in that way. For me, the solution was
  3. Snacking – Snacking was another area where I would eat way too many empty calories. Ever feel hungry and grab a bag of Oreos only to find that the whole bag is gone in minutes? I have. When I went through my Slique Challenge, I found the benefits of the Slique product line. I often have a Slique Shake as one of my meals and it helps me feel full and avoid snacking between meals. Having healthy snack options on hand (and getting rid of the unhealthy ones) ensures that when you do snack, you aren’t eating so many empty calories. I love the Slique Bars and always have Larabars on hand as well.
  4. Exercise – Every day before I head to the gym, I have a glass of NingXia RedNingXia Red is a fruity, whole body supplement that is filled with antioxidants. It helps provide support for energy levels, normal cellular function, and whole-body health so it is a great way to get going. Once I started adding in exercise, I found myself facing sore muscles, and general aches and pains. Cool Azul Pain Cream provides cooling relief from minor muscle and joint aches, arthritis, strains, bruises, and sprains. I also found many oils that helped with motivation and respiratory support that helped me get through my workouts. My bottle of Deep Relief is always in my gym bag.
  5. Water – On Day 1, I gave up soda and other sugary drinks. Given that those were almost 100% of my beverages, I had to find a replacement. Initially, I just drank water, but over time looking for some flavor options. I found that by infusing sparkling water with citrus essential oils, I could get the taste without any of the sugar. I also found NingXia Zyng to be a great low-calorie fruity drink.
  6. Sleep – Sleep is a really important component of being healthy. If you have trouble sleeping deeply, diffusing Lavender and/or Frankincense in the bedroom provides a relaxing, calming atmosphere.

Some other tips that I find help me:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. My diet consisted of mostly highly processed foods. There are lots of fruits and vegetables that I love to eat, so there is no reason that I wasn’t eating them more often.
  • Avoid bread before meals. When you are at a restaurant and they bring out a bread basket, what do you do? I’m not going to completely eliminate bread, but I gave it up in the bread basket before a meal. My rule is that I don’t eat bread by itself. If I’m having a sandwich then I’m eating bread. Most bread choices are highly processed and have a lot of added sugar, so cutting back here makes a big difference.
  • Limit fried foods. For me, this really means always choosing something other than french fries.
  • Portion Sizes. It is easy to eat past being full and doing the 5-day cleanse taught me that I don’t really need all the extra calories. This visual guide is a helpful reminder and you can always have more if you find you really still need more.

Exercise

You can achieve your weight goals without exercise, but if you want to be able to be more active and participate in sports or other outdoor adventures, then you are going to need to start exercising. For me, I found 3 key exercises that I incorporate regularly:
  • Strength Training. 1-2 times a week I do a weight lifting program where I focus on heavy lifting with the ‘Big 4’ exercises – Squat, Deadlift, Bench Press, and Shoulder Press. I also rotate in some other smaller muscle groups from time to time. My target is 3 sets of 15 reps.
  • Tabata. A few weeks after I started this journey, I found out about Tabata (and High Intensity Interval Training). Since this challenge, I have made this a part my training 2-3 times a week.
  • Moov Boxing. As another cardio exercise or as a warm up, I like to do Cardio Boxing with my Moov Now.

Intermittent Fasting

When I first started my journey, I intentionally stopped eating breakfast and began drinking a lot more water. This just fit my personal preferences and lifestyle better, but as I learned more about it, I realized that what I was doing was something called intermittent fasting and that it has a lot of physiological research behind it. Intermittent fasting is just a different way to eat. It isn’t a diet and there are a number of different ways to do it. The concept has been gaining in popularity over the last 10 years and there have been several popular books like Eat Stop Eat, The Warrior Diet, The Alternate-Day Diet, and The Obesity Code. Here are some great links that I found as I was reading on the subject:

I love this line from the book The Obesity Code:

Everything you believe about how to lose weight is wrong. Weight gain and obesity are driven by hormones—in everyone—and only by understanding the effects of insulin and insulin resistance can we achieve lasting weight loss.

Summary

Ultimately, the only thing I gave up in my diet was soda and bread before meals. I’m trying to limit fried foods so I typically do not order/eat french fries either (as that was my biggest weakness with fried food.) Other than those specific limitations, that I chose for their ability to take me personally off track, I do not restrict what I eat. I do restrict when I eat – specifically, I follow an intermittent fasting schedule where I only eat in an 8-hour window each day.

 

I believe the key to my success is that I am not on a diet, instead I am on a journey to change my life. As part of that, I am exploring and changing many parts of my lifestyle, but all of them are improvements and not restrictions. Each and every change I have made has been because I tried it and it worked AND was something I preferred doing.

 

As I mentioned earlier, I gave up soda on day 1. As a reminder of the initial low-hanging fruit that I gave up, here is a counter showing how many days it has been since I gave up soda: