Purposefully Pursuing Health

Can’t stop, won’t stop.

223 pounds. After an unexpected trip to the hospital over Thanksgiving weekend and a few internal tests, I was most surprised by the number on the scale. Had you asked me, I probably would have said I was around 210, maaaaaybe 215. But this medical visit proved otherwise. I could no longer avoid the facts.

My year had already been filled with more than enough health challenges for the people I loved. My wife had been through a grueling surgery earlier in the year and had taken nearly six-months to fully recover. My mom had been in and out of the hospital, too, for her diabetes, landing her promptly on the kidney transplant list. Now, it was my turn.

I already wasn’t happy in my clothes and had silently promised myself that I wouldn’t let myself inch up another waste size — 36s were already feeling snug. Truth be told, for me, I had gotten fat. But that extrinsic motivation wasn’t enough, apparently.

This marked something intrinsic. My cholesterol numbers were way too high. My liver wasn’t doing well. My blood sugar levels were pre-diabetic. My blood pressure was out of whack. Moreover, I wanted to set a better example for my three young kids. I wanted to look better for my smokin’ hot wife. I wanted to live a long, healthy, active life.

Time for a change

Here’s what I did to start pursuing health in every area of my life.

I started eating more frequently

Running my own business at the time, it was easy for me to start my day early without eating breakfast. Then, by around 1:30 in the afternoon, I would realize that I was hungry. “Nah, I’m close enough to dinner now,” I would console my growling stomach. “Keep pushing.”

While I wish I had the superpower, I couldn’t outsmart poor habits. So, the first thing I did was start by eating oatmeal in the morning and eating lunch around Noon. A revelation!

I changed what I ate and drank

Due to the liver thing, semi-occasional whiskeys had to go. (Brutal, I know.) I could still have it on special occasions, but the doctor made it clear that it would be wise to cut the intake down at least. I chose to cut it out entirely.

While I wasn’t eating fried food every day, I also started switching to less carbs and opting for more balanced meals. Egg whites instead of eggs. Greens instead of breads. Waters instead of any sodas. Simple stuff, really, and the results started to show on the scale very quickly.

I cemented these as habits before my next steps

I knew I couldn’t begin this new lifestyle simply by launching into the gym five-days a week and converting my diet to protein smoothies. Baby steps. I locked in these changes over 60-days before taking my next steps. Sustainability was always in the front of my mind.

I wrote down and started tracking my health goals

Accountability is everything. Until it’s written down on a page, it’s hard to make it real. So, in my quarterly plans, I got clear. Waste size: 32. Weight: 190. Cholesterol: <199. LDLs: <125. No more messing around.

I shared my goals with an incredible accountability partner who I knew would hold my feet to the fire. For my personal Q2 plan, health was my chief focus. I started using Fitbit, too, to remain conscious of my activity. Awareness and pursuit improved my game across the board.

I rewarded myself

By this point, I looked like I was a kid wearing his dad’s clothes. Clown suits were the only thing I had to wear, apparently, swimming in my previously cozy attire. It was time to go shopping.

By throwing out my entire closet (and switching to a capsule wardrobe in the process, which was also an upgrade), I not only rewarded myself with my progress, I gave myself zero permission to go back to the way things were. No more 36s ever again, I promised myself. Finally, I felt more confident in my own skin — and clothes.

I signed up for high intensity interval training (HIIT)

After losing 30-pounds purely through a better diet, it was time to ratchet up my intensity. My aunt had been singing the praises of her HITT gym for the last year. I was proud of her, but ignored any application for myself.

<Heavy sigh> Here we go. </Heavy sigh>

I went in one afternoon to meet with the gym owner, Ryan McCarthy, who happened to be an old friend of mine. I updated him on my story and said I was ready. I needed his help for the next phase.

Training #1: I threw up. We were only about ten-minutes in. I told myself it was due to the oatmeal. (It wasn’t.)

Training #2: I made it through about halfway. At least I didn’t throw up.

Training #3: Barely made it, but I did.

As each training happened, I kept pushing myself. In a short while, it became fun. I looked forward to it. I felt great afterwards. True Strength Fitness became a very early morning home away from home. I cannot recommend Ryan, his gym, or the community he’s built enough. (Wanna come workout with me?)

I upped my goals

I turn 35 in August. After a monthly check-up with Ryan and talking through my aspirations, I asked him how quickly I could get there. He said, “You’re an entrepreneur, you can push yourself and get there quickly.”

Let’s do this!

When I had started at the gym, I began tracking my body fat. Since I had already lost a lot of weight, it was already around 18%. Not bad, but not good enough. Next milestone: 12%.

Future goals I set for myself by that meeting also included running a marathon in 2018 and training for an Iron Man in 2020. Just writing this down here for everyone to read intimidates me a little bit, because I know that 140-miles of swimming, biking, and running is no small feat. But I’m committed — and by communicating this goal with everyone, I’m more likely to achieve it.

But before all that huge stuff, my next milestone is simple: Get in the best shape of my life by the time I turn 35. Plus, abs. I wouldn’t mind those. (I’m sure my wife wouldn’t, either.)

Most of all, I focused internally

As I wrote about earlier this year, after my health awakening at Thanksgiving, January 2017 came like a storm, going down in the history books as the worst month of my life. But I remain quite thankful for it. As I had already begun this effort to get healthy, I let the events of the new year catalyze my focus on health in every area of my life.

Nothing was off limits. Spiritual health. Mental health. Relational health. Financial health. I believe that what manifested itself in my physical health was primarily an overflow of what was happening inside of me. I found the following passage of scripture to be a good reminder of that:

For physical exercise is of limited value, but godliness is valuable in every way, holding promise for the present life and for the one to come.

Also, this:

Beloved, I pray that all may go well with you and that you may be in good health, as it goes well with your soul.

It is well with my soul, indeed, and I believe much of my intrinsic motivation has been a direct result of that inner health, first and foremost.

Today, I am the healthiest I’ve ever been

It’s only been a little over six-months since I began implementing these changes. I started small. Now, I’m continuing to up my game and commitment.

One of the most encouraging things about my effort thus far were the results I learned today (hence my writing). After some fairly negative lab results back in early December, these health changes have completely reversed my previous numbers. Today, things are looking up!

Maybe I’ll share my before and after photos when I reach my August goal, but for now, enjoy the chiseled abs of this chart. 😃

This has been a process, and it’s definitely a journey I’m not done walking (or running or swimming or biking or…you name it). The main thing in the way was me.

I know that staying healthy will always be a challenge, but it’s a challenge I’m focused on overcoming from here on out. Or, as I recently wrote, I’m diligently leveraging my discomfort so that I will continue growing better, healthier, and stronger. While that commitment makes me regularly feel uncomfortable (and very sweaty at the gym), it also makes my spirit, mind, and body feel something I hadn’t felt in far too long — well.