Saturday, March 30, 2013

Eat Right, Exercise and Do It Forever

This was originally posted in the Get Healthy Challenge Blog that I'm participating in:

As Carly explained in her post, since I'm her husband and she is in charge of this challenge, I was required to join the group. Just kidding!

I actually like to try to be as healthy as I can, but food sometimes really gets in the way. However, I'm inspired by a friend of mine who said that his grandmother told him "nothing tastes as good as being thin feels."

I realize that this post is super long, but I feel the need to express my past experiences with managing my health and the changes that can happen from taking it seriously.

My weight fluctuated growing up quite a bit and particularly in my early twenties. The all you can eat college cafeteria plan helped me gain the freshman fifty and my first area in my mission covered a Tongan ward that loved to feed us tons of food. After all that I reached 264 pounds and stayed that way from 2000-2006.

BYU-Idaho 2006
BYU-Idaho Graduation 2006
Mission 200-2002

Three things really changed all that for me in 2006:
  1. My sister Lauren, who is part of this group, lost a lot of weight through changing her eating habits and exercising more. I was inspired by her results and decided that I needed to make some serious adjustments.
  2. Gary Crittenden, former CFO of Citigroup, came to speak at BYU-Idaho for a business summit and described his story of how he lost weight. He said that early in his career a manager told him that he need to stop wearing yellow shirts and that he was "too fat." The very next morning, he laced up his running shoes and ran before work and continued that habit for more than thirty years (He stopped wearing yellow shirts too, as far as I could tell!).
  3. For anyone who knows me well, I'm all about Apple products. During this time I was inspired by Lauren and Gary, Apple introduced the Nike Plus iPod running sensor. Of course, I HAD to get it the moment it came out and that really helped to provide the extra motivation I needed to begin my running routine.
And so began my regular early morning exercise. One of my health professors taught that "If exercise were a pill, it would be the most prescribed medicine in the world." I can definitely say that running certainly helped me get my body in better condition.

When I decided to take losing weight seriously, I decided to count calories and made sure that I was burning more than I was taking in. I planned out my meals based on the amount of calories I allowed myself for each day. For simplicity, I ate a bowl of Cheerios and a banana for breakfast, a turkey sandwich and apple for lunch and anything I wanted that was around 500 calories for dinner everyday for three years.

Photo from 2007 when I reached 155 pounds
With my new exercise routine and eating habits, I lost 109 pounds in eight months. Going from 264 to 155 in such a short time frame caused me to have to buy a whole new wardrobe every other month!

I never imagined that I could lose so much weight and certainly not in that short amount of time. It didn't seem all that short while it was happening, but I knew that it would pay off at some point.

Interestingly, I lost all this weight after graduating from BYU-Idaho when I moved to Arizona. I went back to Rexburg for a conference in 2007 and when I approached some of my old friends, they did not recognize me at all! They kept telling me I looked like a completely different person.

I love showing old pictures to new friends to show them how much I weighed just a few years ago. They also give the same reaction as my friends in Rexburg, saying that I don't even look like the same person.

Since 2007, I have gained some back, but I've stayed within a somewhat healthy range. I also kept the running habit and made it a hobby. I've run four Ragnar Relay races and one half-marathon!

Arizona Ragnar Relay 2011
Arizona Ragnar Relay 2012
(Carly and I are Bert and Ernie)
Charlotte Thunder Road Marathon 2012
When Carly and I got married in February of 2012, we decided that we wanted to have healthy eating and exercise habits. We tried several times to execute a healthy eating plan, but sometimes it only lasted for a few weeks. We even tried to stop eating dessert for a few weeks, but didn't see any results.

We discovered a key characteristic about ourselves through a principle taught by Clayton Christensen, a Harvard Business School Professor. He said that when committing to a goal, following it 100% of the time is easier than 98% of the time. If you follow 98%, it's always a battle.

Carly and I in Feb. 2013
For us, that meant following our healthy eating goals 100% of the time. We decided that we would not have desserts until we reached our respective goal weights. We even started it the week we visited New York City and denied ourselves of all the yummy treats unique to that area. We would say to ourselves, "I don't need that. I've had great treats before and I can have them again, just not right now." We made exception for Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day, but we went without desserts for six months. It was very difficult at first, but we gained so much confidence in ourselves and in our bodies. Carly talked about how much better she felt about her body, even though it didn't change in size or weight a whole lot.

Our new healthy eating habits included keeping our meals to 500 calories each, with 200 calories of snacks per day. We discovered after sticking to that plan and being patient with the results, it really helped us both get to a better weight. I lost more than 20 pounds in five months.

When we were at dinner with one of Carly's cousins (who also had dropped a significant amount of weight and kept it off), we noticed at the end of the meal we were super full, while he commented that he was "satisfied." That taught us that we did not have to eat until we were stuffed, like I would a lot of the time, but when we felt the amount was sufficient. We learned to listen to our bodies and recognize when we were eating to satisfy and when it was just for stimulation or out of boredom. Portion control is key!

I would also like to point out that I have not used the term diet. Diet to me is a temporary thing. I remember a 20/20 news segment that covered diets. I still remember the findings, "Eat right, exercise and do it forever!" Healthy eating habits are something you have to sustain for longer than a few weeks or months. It takes a lifetime.

Carly once told me about a man who was a professional dancer and professor at Weber State University, where she did her undergrad. When he was in his early 40s, he started slowing down and thought the dancing part of his career was over. One day, he decided that he was going to treat his body like an tool, an instrument for his life and career rather than just something that he obeyed. He was strict with his eating habits and religious about specific exercises. He was close to 60 and he was still performing professionally. We both loved that idea. Carly always laughs when I pass by some sugary treats and chant, "No! My body is an instrument!" Elder Richard G. Scott taught in conference a few years ago about receiving revelation. Part of what helps us to receive the Spirit is having healthy bodies.

While I certainly have not been perfect at weight control, I have definitely made some major changes in my life that helped me to feel more confident in my ability to not only master my weight, but also myself. Carly and I have gained a better understanding of how powerful encouragement from others, whether it's your spouse, a family member, or this group, can help you accomplish your goal. We've also gained a lot of confidence in our ability to control our habits rather than having them control us. That is something worth it's weight in gold!


  1. Thank you so much for this post Josh! I definitely thought you looked totally different in 2006 when I first saw pictures! This whole post is full of awesome advice and I love it! On my journey to losing the last of the baby weight and getting back to uber fit! :)

  2. Loved reading this!! I too am starting another 8 week program Friday that helps with healthy habits eating and exercising.I so far have lost 50lbs in 9 months, I wish it was 105 hahaha. I remember those days and loved your freshman 50 comment, the rechech Galley :) You have worked so hard and I could agree more with everything you have said!

  3. I remember seeing you at education week and not even recognizing you! Great work and great post - my husband and I are constantly struggling to find a healthy balance, this has given me some great ideas.