As many of you know, I am a co-creator of a Wellness and Lifestyle Group at the Family Practice Group (FPG). The Wellness and Lifestyle Groups are by far my favorite part of the job. This is because my groups graciously invite me into their lives. I get to see their struggles and triumphs in a more intimate way, that I often don’t get to see in my individual appointments. I look forward to every Tuesday evening because I watch these amazing people, who have so many obstacles in their lives, take steps to transform and it is astonishing. Losing weight is not that hard! However, the struggles to keep weight off, create a NEW YOU and a new lifestyle in my opinion is one of the most difficult and challenging things anyone will ever have to face in their lifetime.
My inspiration for motivation story today features an incredible man, Howard, who not only has transformed himself, but is now connecting, supporting and inspiring perfect “strangers” that they can change and be healthy too.
I met Howard for the first time in G4 (Group 4) in September 2010. When he first started little did I know what a big part he would play in the Wellness Groups and my life. Howard is a pretty amazing guy and from all his success he has a goal to “pay-it forward”. He does not just say those words but rather acts on them. He has a heart of gold and is so eloquent in supporting others in their lifestyle change journeys.
To give back Howard attends our Wellness and Lifestyle groups as a veteran, to share about his experiences and the importance of support. He not only shares his story but reaches out to our groups. He encourages all members to email, talk and meet for healthy dinner or walk. Watching Howard, you can see those connections are so important to the other group members, but even more important to him. You can see how much energy and motivation he gets from connecting and helping others.
Howard also has become and avid walker. He has started a walking club called Walking with Howard, where he can share and allow other to experience, all the joys walking has given him. If that was not engough Howard has been participating in charity fundraising walks such as Boston Marathon Jimmy Fund Walk and is currently fund raising for the Project Bread’s 20 Mile Walk for Hunger. (Consider making a donation towards Howard’s efforts and his Walk for Hunger.)
Howard has a signature at the end of his email, that summarizes his amazing transformation and journey “I used to be different and now I’m the same…”
Enjoy Howard’s story and advice:
Why did you want to lose weight & when did you start your journey?
I began my journey in September 2010 at the urging – actually, the prodding – of Dr. Wayne Altman, my primary care physician, because of issues relating to high blood pressure, cholesterol, and elevated A1C (blood sugar). I was pre-diabetic and my BMI was at the upper range of the “obese”. I had always wanted to live a healthier lifestyle and mostly succeeded in convincing myself I was…except the tests said otherwise.
When/why did weight become an issue for you?
It’s really has been an “up-and-down” issue for me most of my adult life. Nothing I’d tried over the past 50+ years ever worked (or worked for very long). The truth is that over the past several years, except for some walking, my fitness had slid and I was becoming mostly a “couch-potato”.
What were your keys to your success?
Also significant for me was that the Wellness and Lifestyle program did not involve a prescribed “diet regimen”. Rather changes made, gradually (and hopefully for life) are encouraged. So, I joined a gym and I shifted my food intake strongly in the direction of fruits, veggies and salads. I experimented with preparing foods that were previously foreign to me (e.g., kale, Swiss chard, dried beans) and changed to whole-wheat pasta, whole grain flours and brown rice (which, by the way, I learned includes black rice, red rice and any rice that has not been stripped of the bran and germ layers).
I eliminated foods and ingredients that previously were a regular part of my diet but that I found I could live without or consume only on occasion: red meats, butter, salt and sugars (except modest amounts in food prep.), fried foods, most baked goods and breads (unless I baked them with healthy ingredients), ice cream, alcohol, soda, juices and other soft drinks.
And, because a “diet regimen” was not involved, my body never felt it was being starved. Yes, I experienced “hunger” but I learned it was the kind that should manifest itself around mealtimes – not “toxic hunger”. Another plus was that calorie-counting was not involved and I doubt I would have had the patience to achieve the results I did if it were a part of the program.
My change occurred gradually; there were ups and downs and I seized on each small success as motivation to continue my overall effort. Also a factor was my willingness to allow this experience to be “different”, for it to work this time.
What changes have you noticed/appreciated the most other than the weight loss?
I sleep like a babe, my mood is generally ‘happy’ in the sense of being a content and deeply grateful man. At my annual physical last spring, all my results were “normal” or “optimal”.
But the biggest surprise is that my personality has changed. I’ve never been shy or reserved but I guess I kept a lot of ‘who I am’ under wraps for most of my adult life. I no longer do that. In part, it’s due to the encouragement and positive feed-back I’ve received both from those in my “social circles” as well as from people I just happen to encounter in the course of my life. Also in part, it’s due to my desire to share what I’ve accomplished – to ‘pay it forward’.
If you could give one piece of advice to someone, what would it be?
How about two pieces??
- The FPG program works. It isn’t easy but it’s definitely doable. My sense is that the greatest obstacle someone faces is “impatience”. We live in a world where we have come to demand ‘instant everything’. You need to give the changes you will make some time to show results. It’s also a bit like learning a new language: some will “get it” faster than others but, as this is “for life”, you have all the time you need. After all, it took me until I was 69 to “get it”!
- You also need to be open to the possibility that the program will work for you vs. unconsciously looking to validate the past (nothing like this has ever worked for you).
“Motivation” has many facets and different people are motivated by different things; one size does not fit all.
As a result of all the work I’ve done since September 2010, I’ve managed to develop what I call a sense of “self-control”. Now, I don’t mean ‘discipline’ or ‘self-denial’ (after all, I’m a Wolverine, not a Spartan!!). Rather, it’s more like a “know-how” – how to be responsible about what I eat, how much and when; how to enjoy a treat and then correct for the indulgence; how to give my body the exercise and activity it needs to function properly. You couldn’t pay me enough to go back to my former self!
I’m motivated when I look in the mirror and still don’t fully recognize what and who I see looking back. I’m motivated by positive feedback I often get via chance encounters on the Minuteman Bike Trail when I Nordic-walk or by “Will”, greeting me at the gym with “Hi, Skinny” (I’ve been called lots of names in my life but never that one) or by being able to wear a blue boat-neck sailing sweater I bought in Ann Arbor when I was a sophomore at Michigan that hadn’t fit in 3+ decades or by all that I see in the media regarding health and wellness to which I am now attuned; by the battle we are waging against our “food and pharma industrial complex” which appears to value corporate profits over what’s best – and least invasive and expensive – for our bodies or by the good works Kerri and Dr. Altman are doing and thier dedication to promoting health and wellness, combating obesity and, in a real sense, for saving my life and by knowing that, having “gotten it”, I need to take it to the next level and pay it forward.
Who supports you and how?
Where to start?? I feel like an Oscar recipient who needs to make sure he thanks everyone.
How about the amazing and dedicated fellow Wellness and Lifestyle group members who have supported and motivated me along the way to make a paradigm shift in how I live my life, allowed me to contribute to theirs, and continue to be part of my very special community. Jamie Strzepek, CPT, of Joyfully Fit, Lexington MA, the personal trainer who initially got me started with an exercise regime at Gold’s, whom I now train with, monthly, at her exercise studio (and whom I just encountered today on the Minuteman Bike Trail with her client, greeting me with a big hug and words of praise for what I’ve accomplished). Suzanne, my encourager-in-chief, my prime motivator, the cultivator of my ideas and the monitor of the mirror of my soul, who always seems to know ‘what’s up’ with me before even I do, when to fan the embers and when to let me ‘chill’ just a bit.
And of course, the two of you (Kerri & Dr. Altman) who arrange, periodically, for additional challenges and opportunities for me to stay involved in and committed to the process.
What are your next goals for health/weight?
I’d like to lose an additional 9 lbs. which would put me @ 139 for a total weight loss of 40 lbs. (22.4%); thereafter, to plateau at or about that level. In the process, when I reach 144, my BMI becomes ‘normal’. Otherwise, my health appears to be excellent.
Challenge this week make lifelong commitment to YOU! When you do, share your success with others, you never know who you are going to inspire!