I’m surrounded by versions. I have been for years, working in technology versioning is something you encounter every day. From downloading the latest version of iOS to dreaming about a future version of the software or maybe just cursing that buggy version of that one app. Versions are everywhere. Even I have been through many versions of my life, some buggy, some minor, some just maintenance cleanups, and some very feature-bloated ones! Today I wanted to share my personal journey to the single biggest release of my life. That’s right, Dan 2.0.
I believe that some of the best products in the world are born from hyper focus. Sometimes scope creep stops a great product idea from ever getting shipped or feature bloat gets in the way of a good idea. I kept my feature set pretty small; I just wanted to be healthy and look better. Blinded by a love for what I do for a living; I sat in front of a computer for years eating what I wanted, drinking what I wanted, and ignoring any physical activity. It took years, but it all caught up with me, leading to severe degradation in my life performance. I had found myself weighing 250 lbs with Stage 1 Hypertension at only 28 years of age. I needed to reformat. But unlike my old Windows machines, this wasn’t going to happen overnight.
I was what I ate. Reminded of this daily by my boss, Chris Friedland. If you know Chris, you know this wasn’t a beating around the bush kind of reminder either. A large caramel macchiato with extra caramel for breakfast. The equivalent of a 12-pack of coke by days end. Candy, ice cream, In-N-Out by night, sign me up! Was I surprised at the results? No. But I certainly was in denial with how I would solve it. I convinced myself that getting to the gym was the only way to solve this dilemma. One hundred and one reasons later I would rarely make it there. But when I did the funny thing is I somehow found myself justifying eating a little bit more. Brilliant Dan! For being a computer programmer, you would think I knew that burning 300 calories at the gym and then eating 800 calories after the gym wouldn’t accomplish anything.
I wanted change. It wasn’t that I didn’t. I mean shit, I’ve built my career on embracing and enacting change, yet I couldn’t seem to adopt change myself. Eat, Work, Eat, Work, Eat, Sleep. The gym - no time for that. How would I break this vicious cycle? The mental idea of changing pretty much everything I was doing was an overload and a non-starter. I mean, those caramel macchiatos I needed for energy and ending the night after a stressful day with an animal style In-N-Out burger was just too tasty. I knew all this stuff was bad, but the thought of dropping all that for salads, water, and five-hour energy drinks just didn’t seem sustainable. I tried and failed of course. I could nail it for three weeks but by week four I was back to my old ways.
Fuck, I taught myself programming, yet I couldn’t teach myself how to eat right? That’s when I had an aha moment; I needed to iterate! Just like I had learned in software, iterating allows you to accomplish bigger goals by focusing on delivering smaller changes. The beauty of this approach is you get to reap the value of those changes along the way. All while you are working towards a larger goal.
So I started. I prioritized the glaring things first. Stop drinking soda. This change was surely going to be hard, as I was addicted. But I certainly knew this was not impossible. The most difficult part of weening myself off was dealing with the cravings for sugar. By solely focusing on this one task of quitting I came up with strategies that worked for myself. As odd as it may sound my solution was simple. Replace soda with orange juice. Ironically orange juice has more sugar than soda. What this allowed though was for me to start breaking the habit of going for coca-cola. I switched to water but when I had a sugar craving, a glass of orange juice instead. Before I knew it, about six weeks, I found myself not missing soda. The next step was now to cut the orange juice. What did I do? I replaced those sugar cravings with raspberries, strawberries, and blackberries. Before long I was completely drinking water and rarely eating berries because I just didn’t have those sugar cravings like I once did. Even when I did, I knew I was eating something much healthier. I didn’t need to be a nutritionist to know that! Best of all, I reaped the value of this iteration. I easily lost over 15 lbs from this one change alone!
Starbucks and what I fooled myself into believing was breakfast was next in my backlog. I knew I needed to ditch that Trenta sized cup full of sugar. I also knew I needed to add something that could be considered food to my morning. Again pretty obvious things. Trenta black iced coffee was in order, I started with half the sweetener and worked my way down to no sweetener over the course of a few weeks. I added a strawberry yogurt along with it from Starbucks. Breakfast with my coffee. What a new idea! Before I knew it, I had a noticeable amount more energy in the mornings. Funny enough, I quickly had developed new pet peeves, hating it when the baristas messed up my order and put sweetener in it! How tastes change so quickly! Oh and my weight, I’m down another 15 lbs in short order.
Results without even stepping foot in the gym. Why didn’t I think of this approach before!? Clearly this approach is working far better than anything else has in the past. Not only are these changes sticking but it’s motivating me to make further changes.
So what was next. Let’s see. Sugary drinks? Check. Breakfast? Check. Healthy meals? Not so fast. Clearly my next area of opportunity was in my decision making for lunch and dinner. Like my approach to the previous changes I knew I couldn’t go from eating out to cooking 100% at home. You know because that’s the belief that you can only eat “healthy” by preparing it yourself. So what’s Dan to do. Portion control! I’ll just eat less of what I’ve been eating. So instead of ordering six tacos from Aco Taco, I started getting four, then three, then two. Slowly but surely those two tacos began satisfying me up just as the six used too. Best of all, I still enjoyed the food I ate, it took no extra time and created no dishes at home (my biggest fear of all). Eating less isn’t all that bad, so on I went. Less rice with my Chipotle burrito bowl. Salads from Pluto’s without extra dressing. The weight keeps dropping, and now I’m getting addicted to this. Change is awesome!
As I started making these healthier decisions, I saw the results I wanted. My weight was dropping like a rock. For the first time in years, I was under 200 lbs! My blood pressure was going in the right direction too, now only in the pre-hypertension stage. Better but I still wasn’t where I wanted and quite honestly needed to be. For the next year, I hovered around the same weight fluctuating between 5 and 10 pounds. I was proud of myself, I was maintaining this weight, this was my new normal. The changes I made stuck. But I didn’t have many other obvious changes to make…except for one.
It was time, I knew this day would come. Quite honestly I dreaded this moment…I needed to get to the gym and build some good exercise habits. If I was going to make more progress, I knew this was going to be key. What was different this time around as I mulled going back to the gym was the fact I was 70 lbs lighter! Tell you what, the thought of going to the gym that much lighter was considerably different than when I had considered it before, doable I figured. So as I do, I started telling people my plans to get to the gym. When I tell people things, it’s my way of self-inflicting peer pressure/obligation. I’m one to do what I say; I’m a man of my word.
Eventually, this paid off in an unexpected way. I was grabbing lunch at Bacio Catering when I randomly ran into Chris there doing the same. He had remembered me saying I wanted to get to the gym. That’s when he presented an opportunity that I couldn’t say no to now. Angelo Poli from Whole Body Fitness was looking for some technical advice and in return he would give one-on-one personal training. Of course, Chris had thought of me! Within 30 minutes, Chris had made an introduction via text. Within three days, I was meeting Angelo at Whole Body Fitness. The next day I was in the gym working out with him.
What just happened I thought to myself. Did I just actually sign up for this? I’ll be lucky to get through this first week. Will this really last? On the first day he’s having me lay on the ground doing these “exercises”, he says they will help with my posture. Who is this Angelo guy? Does he actually expect me to be eating six times a day!?
Before I knew, a whole month flew on by, I’m digging this! Not only am I truly enjoying my time in the gym but I’m also learning things I would have never dreamed. From metabolic profiling to postural importance to how to lift these things they call weights. I love learning new things and I certainly was loving what I was learning here. Understanding that everyone is different and so goes their metabolic rate was eye opening for me. How food choices I was making could otherwise hack my metabolism to work in my favor, as a programmer this made so much sense to me. It’s an analytical approach to making food decisions. Data driven decision, I’m in, I’ll give this system you call MetPro a try!
I was seeing how simple exercises were immediately changing my alignment. My shoulders were square, and I was standing straighter within a few short weeks. It was all starting to make perfect sense, the years I had spent sitting in front of my computer were compounding my issues. Working out became easier as my posture improved. Not only was I looking better but I was also standing, walking, sitting, shoot… I was doing everything better. I was certainly getting stronger, and it was happening much more quickly than I had thought it would.
Over the next many months, I stayed focused on eating right and making it to the gym. Yes, there were times my hectic schedule got in the way; messing up my food plans and causing me to miss days at the gym. But if it’s one thing Angelo has taught me it’s that missing a meal, or missing a day at the gym isn’t the killer. It’s allowing that to slip into a habit. I found myself truly missing the gym when I can’t make it. I’m certainly always back to eating right if I have a cheat meal. Doing so has lead to results. 159 lbs, a weight that I never imagined years ago. 120/70 blood pressure without medications. Older yet stronger, smarter, and healthier. #winning
These changes lead to much more than new habits but have become a lifestyle change for me. One I’m grateful I’ve discovered when I did. Certainly one that I will never look back on.
As with everything this version will soon become outdated. But if it’s one thing I’ve come to love, it’s the next version. What changes lie ahead in Dan >2.0.0 we won’t know yet, but if a good product manager has anything to say about it, it’ll certainly only be better than the last. For now, I’m going to enjoy this newest version of myself.
Today I introduce you to a lean, pretty handsome, white guy, Dan 2.0!
Special Thanks To
Chris Friedland — For always pushing me to be a better me. Both personally and professionally you’ve been an inspirational and inspiring person to me. I certainly would not be where I am today if it hadn’t been for you.
Angelo Poli — For leveling me up beyond my wildest dreams. Eating right (MetPro), standing right and workout right (Whole Body Fitness). These lessons I’ve learned from you as a coach will be life long.
My Friends/Family — For supporting me in everything I’ve done. For never judging me along the way. For being there at my lowest and highest of times…most literally.