I showed my kids these pictures of their Uncle Kevin and asked them what they noticed.
Porter: “He’s chubby and then he’s skinnier. He looks better now and he doesn’t look better then. Are you sure that’s Uncle Kevin?”
Claire: “He has glasses and now he doesn’t. He had a chubbier neck. And his shirt is different. And now he has skinnier arms.”
Funny thing is that I never thought Kevin was “chubby” but now he looks better than he ever has. Ever.
So many of you reading this have come to know him as “Techie Kevin” because of his occasional guest blog post here when he shares his technology expertise and answers your questions. If you missed those and you’re interested, you can read his most recent couple here and here. Or just do a quick search (in the sidebar) for “Feedback Friday: Tech Edition”.
What you don’t know – is that Kevin (2 years older than me) has survived cancer – two times, actually. About 10 years apart. He is a father to 6 children, and recently threw the best surprise luau for his wife’s 40th birthday. He’s also very quick to serve however and wherever he’s needed. He is generous with his time spent helping others. He’s pretty remarkable.
And now – he’s kind of my hero for making huge strides in living a healthier life. Kevin has lost 50 pounds since January. No trendy diet. No expensive equipment. No gadgets or gizmos. I’m inspired, and I wanted to share a little of his experience with you to pass along the inspiration. Here’s a little Q&A I did with Kevin recently, which happened to be right around the time he hit that 50 lb. weight loss mark.
B: After all these years of going in and out of serious health issues – why now? What motivated you to make changes this year?
K: Kevin and diets don’t normally get along so well. I’ve done a pretty good job of convincing myself in the past that diets don’t work for me. Although I’ve tried a few times in the past, my efforts had always been half-hearted. I have an “instant gratification” personality, so if I don’t see results in the first week, I usually give up.
This time was a little different. The initial decision was the culmination of a few things: 1) according to most weight-related web sites, I was clinically obese. 2) in general, I felt lousy and had little energy. 3) as a two-time cancer survivor myself, my oldest brother’s recent cancer diagnosis was a sharp reminder that I need to start taking care of my aging body.
(Becky’s note: Our oldest brother, Jonathan, was diagnosed with stage 4 colorectal cancer in December and is currently undergoing treatment.)
During our family’s trip to visit the Higgins this past Christmas, we watched the documentary Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead. It inspired me to not only to set goals, but to stick to them. The facts were undeniable… garbage in, garbage out. A healthy lifestyle was needed, and needed badly. Unfortunately, that meant a certain level of discipline on my part. Yikes!
B: What was the hardest part of transitioning to a healthier lifestyle – at first?
K: A typical lunch for me in the past consisted of a bacon cheeseburger (or hotdog), tater tots and a Pepsi, usually followed by an afternoon chocolate chip cookie or candy bar. Then, on my drive home, I would stop by a convenience store for a chocolate milk and snack of some sort to tide me over until dinner (a whole 30 minutes later). Consuming an entire packet of salted nuts, a bag of potato chips or tub of ice cream was acceptable to me because it tasted so good and I had little concern for repercussions. When I started my diet, I was still surrounded by these types of food, but had to repel them. It took an immense amount of will power. The first month was really challenging, but I somehow broke through that barrier. It does get a lot easier to deny yourself the junk in favor of the healthy… eventually (for example, I have no desire to drink soda now).
B: Most people know they want and need to do better about eating habits and exercise, but perhaps aren’t sure how to go about it. Obviously everyone is different and has a unique life situation, but what are a few of your tips that would obviously apply to just about anyone?
K: You’re absolutely right. Everybody is different, and every person has different needs. There is no one perfect diet. Because of this, I hesitate even talking to people about MY new lifestyle. Yes, it works for me, but won’t necessarily work for you. Having said that, there are really two components to my change of lifestyle: healthy eating and exercise.
With healthy eating, I have essentially replaced processed foods with fruits and vegetables. Instead of the burger or hotdog, I have a salad with a little dressing and lots of vegetables. Instead of soda, I drink a lot of water. Instead of snacking on a doughnut or candy bar, I have an apple or banana. The interesting thing about that is it fills me up just as much as the junk, but I don’t suffer the sugar crash and I just feel healthier and happier.
On the exercise side, I really do two types of exercise: running and weights. In general, I run 3-5 miles, 4 days a week on a treadmill (I prefer a treadmill because I can control the environment and conditions). I also do a series of curls, push-ups and sit-ups 3-4 days a week. This allows me to focus on upper- and core-body strength, while running focuses on the lower-body and heart.
B: When one embarks on a journey like this, they usually commit to cutting out certain things from their diet or lifestyle. List some of those things for you.
K: From Day 1, I have completely avoided soda and french fries. These are killers for me. I also had a goal to completely avoid potato chips, but fell to temptation a few times (hey, I’m human!). I also try to stay away from processed dairy as much as possible as well as hamburgers/hotdogs (at last count, I’ve had 2 hamburgers and 1 hotdog since the second week of January). I also avoid fast food restaurants. No good comes from them. Wheat or whole grain bread (or a wrap) instead of white bread was never difficult for me. I love the darker, denser breads.
B: What have you ADDED into your routine?
K: The two big things for me would be plant-based foods (salads, vegetables, etc) and lots of water. Water is usually what I default to when I feel hungry (which doesn’t seem to be that often anymore). After a while, I got sick of just plain water, so I mix it up once in a while with water flavoring (like Mio).
B: If I asked “How are you feeling now?”, you’re going to say “Great!” – of course. You’re down 50 pounds. But really – are you really, truly feeling better? How so?
K: Actually, at first, I wouldn’t have said I was feeling better in general. I felt like my energy levels hadn’t changed at all since the beginning. I knew that I was looking better, so that still made it worth it to me. A few weeks ago, I was playing outside with my kids. As we were going back inside, one of my kids dared me to run a 1/4 mile on the treadmill, so I did (barefoot). When I finished, I stepped off the treadmill, then made a realization… I wasn’t out of breath! That may seem like no big deal, but coming from someone who was out of breath by running upstairs, this was huge. From that point on, I knew that I DID feel better in general, and this is something that I am mindful of each day.
B: Is there something specific that you turn to when you need motivation on a daily basis, or when it gets hard, or you’re strongly tempted to fall into old habits?
K: Some people have a picture of themselves when they were in a High School posted on their fridge or bathroom mirror. I don’t really have anything like that, and to be honest, that wouldn’t really motive me anyway. I am passionate about technology, and use it anywhere I can. In this case, I have kept track of my progress on a daily basis since Day 1.
Looking at that dynamic chart every single morning is motivation enough for me. I honestly do get giddy anytime I think of how far I’ve come. It’s still hard for me to believe that I am having success (I think I suffer from “Fat Man Syndrome”). I love that for the first time in a loooong time, I wear a size medium shirt instead of XL.
One other thing that helps to keep me motivated: About a month or so ago, I went through my closet and got rid of everything that didn’t fit anymore. I was left with nothing. As a result, I had to go buy a new closet full of clothes. For those who know me, you know I hate (despise) shopping for clothes. This is a huge motivator for me to stay trim and fit.
B: To what do you attribute your success with improved health?
K: My family, for sure. Cheesy as that may be, it’s great knowing that I can compete with my growing kids on a physical level. Lauren (my sweet wife) has played the biggest role in encouraging me. She started running several years ago, and I guess it took this long for that to wear off on me. Not that I consider myself a runner by any means, but her attitude towards good health in general is a huge motivator.
B: Final thoughts?
K: It’s really difficult for me to say to anyone, “Just do it!” People said that to me all the time, but I translated it to “Just don’t do it!” A better lifestyle won’t happen unless you want it to. It’s not easy, but it’s definitely worth it. There are two documentaries that I think are worth watching: Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead and Forks Over Knives. Even if you don’t buy into their principles completely, you can’t deny that the general message of healthier eating can only improve your overall health. That’s that attitude that I have taken. It’s not about going to extremes. It’s about being sensible.
Those are my thoughts, and I’m sticking to them.