That featured picture was halfway though our health transformation. The one above was taken right before my wife and I decided we needed to make some changes to our life and lose some weight, become healthier for our children, and live long enough to see our grandkids. We look nothing like that anymore, and it wasn’t as much work as we thought it was going to be, at least initially.
Last week I began a series called Transformational Tuesdays. It is based on my wife and my transition from obesity to a healthy lifestyle. Before we began to implement any of these changes we were both well over two hundred pounds. Sarah was in extra-large or extra-extra-large shirts and size 18 pants. I was in large or extra-large shirts and had a hefty 36-38 inch waist. Today Sarah is in extra-small to small shirts and wears a size 4 or 6 pant or dress. I’m in small shirts and wear a 32 pant. While today we exercise quite a bit, running, road biking, and strength training almost daily, our transformation didn’t start there. It started far, far from that. We were both allergic to gyms and had lost all confidence we could ever be fit again.
In the first post about how to begin to kick the American lifestyle, I wrote about how simply cutting out all flavored beverages (i.e. soda, milk, juice, and diet drinks) allow both of us to lose 5-10 pounds without as much as a sit up. That success began to propel us into more and more healthy choices.
At the time we gave up soda our family was growing and my paycheck wasn’t. When Sarah and I were newly married we ate out a lot. I think most couples do. It’s almost as cheap as cooking, the clean up is so much easier, and it was extra dates every week. By the time we had our third child, though, eating out was expensive. We began to crunch the numbers, and we simply couldn’t afford to dine away from home as often. Even fast food meals were well over thirty dollars a trip. Our budget simply couldn’t handle that sort of expense every meal. So we decided we would stop dining out. No fast food, no semi-fast food, no family style restaurants. Now, we still went on romantic dinner dates, but they were the exception where they were once the rule.
We began to notice changes almost immediately. Not only were we saving money, we were loosing weight. That was not something we expected. Of course we knew fast food burger chains were not exactly healthy, but what we didn’t realize is just how many fewer calories there are in homemade burgers. Most of what we ate didn’t have hidden processed sugars and all the other lovely additives food companies hide to make their product addictive and cheap.
We also found we were adding a lot more fruits and vegetables than we would have, had we eaten out. Making french fries at home is time-consuming. Thawing frozen broccoli is not. Our kids pediatrician recommended our kids eat fruit and vegetables, and we wanted to be good parents, so we served it to them. That meant that we were eating them too. Unlike at a restaurant where everyone can get different sides, when cooking at home that is simply not an option.
Over the next six months I found I was swimming in my extra-large shirts. Sarah had dropped a few sizes as well. We liked more vegetables than we thought we did. We began to eat healthier and healthier. When we did eat out we found we were far more conscious of our choices and the calories of the dishes. Without exercise of any real kind (sometimes I walked to work if it was nice, but my office was less than a mile from my house) we found we lost an additional 5-10 pounds. Two changes to our diet, no exercise, and I had lost 20 pounds, while Sarah lost 10.
Transforming your health doesn’t take extreme measures or fad diets. Sarah and I had tried all those in the past. They never worked. They don’t work for most anyone. What works is small incremental changes to your behavior. When you see positive results over time, you will be encouraged to make more changes. That is how it worked for me and my wife. Both of us were obese, out of shape, and stuck in a rut. Now we are healthy, happy, and ready to keep up with our kids.