Super happy to share the Success Story of my brother Nathan!! He promised me that he would give me a full report and I have been patiently waiting. I’m so proud of his success and can’t wait for you to read all about it!
First Name/Age: Nathan, 34
Tell us a little about yourself so we can get to know you better.
Well first off, I’m the oldest of Alexis’ three younger brothers. So with a pedigree like that, I’m sure you’d expect me to be the pinnacle of health and fitness. In reality, I’m a software engineer working a corporate job, so I spend a lot of time sitting behind a desk and not spending a lot of time thinking about my health. This December, my wife Candace and I will have been married for 10 years, and we have a 6 year old son and 3 year old daughter to take care of at home. I’m pretty involved at church, where I’m the Scoutmaster of our Boy Scout troop, so with all the irons I have in the fire I don’t seem to have very much time left over for myself. But I like to set personal goals for myself, and I like to continually try to challenge myself. For example, I recently started learning Spanish in my spare time just for the challenge. I’ve always felt that you can do pretty much whatever you want to do with your life if you just apply the time and energy into it.
Have you struggled with weight/body image issues throughout your life?
I’ve never really taken my own health very seriously. I mean, I enjoy playing sports, and I think I’m fairly decent at most things I play, but I never played in high school or any formal leagues growing up, so I never went through the phase of focusing on weight training and physical fitness the way a lot of people do. It’s funny because people are always telling me these days that they want to be like me and get back to what they looked like in high school or college, but honestly I played the violin in high school. This isn’t me getting “back into shape.” It’s more like uncharted territory.
Was there a significant event that triggered your changes?
Well like I said before I like to challenge myself. One day I kind of took stock of my life and realized that I was happy with my job, my family, and even the direction my life was headed spiritually, but I couldn’t really look myself in the mirror and say that I was proud of the way I looked. Moving toward the middle of my mid-thirties, I realized that I had firmly crossed over into that part of life where you can’t just eat french fries whenever you want and not expect to pay the consequences, so I decided to make a change.
Did you have someone that inspired you to make changes?
Well of course Alexis inspired me with her blog. She’s done such an amazing job taking control of her health, and obviously she’s been a huge influence in helping out a lot of other people as well. I had a couple of influences at work, too. One colleague in particular actually suffered a heart attack a couple of years ago. He’s not much older than I am, and it was pretty sobering for all of us. But starting in April he started doing a very low calorie, high protein, mostly shake based diet, and since then he’s already lost over 85 pounds! Another friend at work started up the same program, and around that time I decided to go ahead and do my own thing.
Did you incorporate a certain diet? Restrict calories? Or follow any certain plan?
This is where I’m a bit of a contrarian. I can’t help it. You’d think because of Lexy’s influence I’d be doing Weight Watchers or Visalus. Or maybe the low calorie shake diet my friends were doing. But something in my wiring made me want to try something different. I have tried a few different things before over the years, and I feel like I have a pretty good benchmark for what works and doesn’t work for me. For example, a few years ago my wife and I got to try out a personal trainer for free for 3 weeks as a promotional deal. I actually had great success in that program. I actually tried doing weight training with a friend for 3 solid months with no diet change just to see what happened. Nothing really changed. I also did my own thing for another 3 months where I did calorie counting and cardio every morning for 3 months. I actually lost about 25 pounds doing that, but to look at my before and after pictures, you could barely tell that anything had changed. I found that I was losing as much muscle as I was losing fat.
So this time, I decided that whatever I was going to do was going to be closer to the program I had done with the personal trainer. Funny thing, it was a combination of diet, cardio, and weight training! (who knew?) Also, since both of my brothers and brother in law are chiropractors with a lot of emphasis on nutrition, I talked to them about some ideas. For years, my brother Chase has been telling me to try out some of the diet plans he gives to patients, mostly for general health reasons. But as a carrot, he’s always mentioned that an added benefit of the diet is that you lose weight quickly because you’re eating all good, whole foods. So when I decided I wanted to lose weight, I called him up and said, “Give me your most hardcore diet… I just want to see what happens.”
As it turns out the most hardcore diet is more of a whitelist than a blacklist. Meaning, it tells you what foods you CAN eat rather than the ones you CAN’T. So you can imagine the list isn’t very long. There are exactly 8 kinds of fruit on the list. No dairy, no grains, no nuts. It’s pretty restrictive. But I had already committed myself, so I decided to give it a go. On the plus side, there’s no calorie counting on this diet. I technically don’t even have to restrict how much I eat, and that’s a big bonus for me.
My next step was to choose a workout regimen. I ended up just going to BodyBuilding.com, which has a ton of excellent resources for workout programs. You can find a plan for you based on your age and goals, and I ended up settling on something with 3 days of weight training a week, 2 days of cardio, and 2 days of rest. The other tricky part for me was trying to fit all this into my schedule. Most people, especially the sort that go to BodyBuilding.com, work out in the evenings. With a family and a lot of extracurricular obligations, that just wasn’t an option for me, so I had to figure out a way to modify the program to allow me to work out in the mornings. I’ve been playing basketball at our local rec center on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday in the mornings, so I decided to make that my cardio. Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday became my weight training days, and then I was set. The nice thing about adding the weight training in is that this time, I’ve definitely been able to maintain muscle mass, and you can definitely see the changes in my before and after pictures.
Do you exercise? If so, what type of exercise do you enjoy? Did you work out with family or friends?
I definitely don’t really exercise in the pure sense. Most of my physical activity comes from playing basketball, or occasionally ultimate frisbee. But especially with my job I live a pretty sedentary lifestyle, so I’ve had to really focus on making exercise a part of my life.
When did people first notice the changes?
The first people that really noticed were my family. I actually started over the summer when my wife was out of town. I had already been going for 2 weeks by the time she got back, and she definitely noticed! It’s also fun to have people at work and church that I don’t spend time with very much come up and comment. People who I would have never have expected to even know who I am have come up to me and ask me what I’m doing and how much I’ve lost. That’s always a cool feeling. It never really gets old.
Did it take a while for your mind to adjust to the new you?
I actually had a funny experience just a week or so ago when I was getting dressed. I had just gotten out of the shower and was reaching for something up high in the bathroom, and was shocked when I saw myself in the mirror. I was like… “huh! I’ve got muscles!”
How did you measure your success throughout the process? How much weight did you lose and how long have you kept it off?
My starting weight was 202 pounds. But believe it or not, weight has never been a factor for me. I got a scale a couple of years ago that measures body fat%, which I think is a better metric anyway. Now I don’t believe the absolute numbers coming out of my scale, because these things are notoriously inaccurate, but I can see the numbers going up and down, so I can see the trends over time. When I decided to start getting into shape, on my scale it said that I was at 27.6% body fat, which is crazy high. My long term goal has been to get that number down to under 15% on my scale. At that point, I think I want to actually go to a real place and get my body fat percentage measured more accurately just to see, but that’s the goal I’m shooting for. Originally, I was vaguely hoping to make it before my next birthday (June of 2013). At the rate I’m going, I may get there a lot sooner!
Now, having said all of that, the lowest weight I’ve weighed in at was 173.8 pounds. The lowest body fat % I’ve seen at my normal weigh in time is 17.0%. These numbers fluctuate from day to day and even hour to hour, so I’m always careful to be consistent about the times I weigh in. Recently, I’ve even seen my weight start to climb up a bit, but my body fat is continuing to stay down, so I don’t mind. Right now I’m usually sitting around 175 pounds and about 17.5% body fat. That’s 27 pounds and 10 body fat percentage points!
What obstacles did you face and how did you overcome them?
Well restricting my diet to a list of foods on a page was obviously a big change, but it actually wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. What got tricky is when things started to go out of season. For example, blueberries and raspberries were a big part of my diet when I started, but suddenly they either weren’t available anymore or they had become extremely expensive. About 7 weeks in, I actually bumped myself up to a slightly more permissive diet, and since then it’s been much easier, mainly because it’s been easier to get my hands on all of the food involved. The other tricky thing about the diet has been making it work with the weight training portion. I’ve been trying to train like a body builder, but nutritionally, that generally means incorporating lots of complex carbs into the mix. With a diet restricting all grains, that’s been a big challenge. My diet allows sweet potatoes, but I’ve never like them before. Well, now they’re pretty much part of my daily diet, and surprisingly I actually really like them. That’s actually one of the most interesting side effects for me – I’ve really gained an appreciation for so many whole food options that I either never really cared for before or never fully appreciated.
Which of your personal goals have you achieved?
In my previous false starts on eating healthy and dropping some fat, my goal was always to get down to 175 pounds. I actually easily crossed that barrier this time only 2 months in. It was actually kind of weird because when it happened I wasn’t even that excited about it, because by that time I realized I had bigger goals in mind.
Do you feel like your confidence has improved?
I definitely feel that I have much more control over my health at this point. On one hand, I’ve had to become educated on nutrition and physical fitness, and on the other hand I’ve had the opportunity to develop some real discipline with myself.
What has changed the most about you?
Well I’m definitely leaner. Also just the fact that I’m paying attention to my health is, in and of itself, a big change.
What did you find hardest about this process? How did you overcome it?
The thing I’ve craved the most food wise has been breakfast pastries. I saw a picture of cinnamon roll pancakes a few weeks ago, and I wanted a cinnamon roll so badly for a few days that it was driving me crazy. I think that’s actually when I expanded my menu a little bit. It’s amazing how adding a few more fruits to the mix made all of that just kind of disappear. On the workout side, the weight training has definitely been the hardest. I really don’t enjoy going to the gym, mainly because I find it boring, especially cause I go alone. But I’ve been using an app on my phone to record all of my workout progress, and that actually helps push me. It always tell me what I did last time, and it uses calculations to compute what I have to do to achieve a new theoretical 1 rep maximum on any particular exercise. That works as a motivator for me, because I always want to beat my phone. It’s a small, silly thing, but it works.
How did your family react? Were they supportive?
My wife was pretty excited I think to finally see me taking my health seriously. She’s always been much more serious about eating good foods than I have, so she knew exactly what I needed when I started to make changes in my diet. She’s actually done an amazing job of coming up with recipes and things that I would have never considered, so that’s been great.
What do you eat on an average day on program?/What are some of your favorite foods that keep you on track?
I eat 6 egg whites for breakfast every morning, usually with some onions and turkey bacon, and recently with some salsa mixed in. It’s very high protein, and pretty low calorie, but still filling and delicious. (and pretty cheap) As I’ve gotten more serious with weight training, I’ve been drinking gluten free protein shakes. The one I like best is vanilla flavored, rice/pea/hemp/chia seed protein. Most days I eat a sweet potatoes chopped up and baked into fries, usually glazed with coconut oil with salt and pepper added. I’ve also been eating a lot of fruit, especially bananas and apples. A lot more blueberries and raspberries when they were in season. There’s a lot of complicated timing with eating and workout times and stuff, but I won’t bore you with those details. But other than those things, Candace always makes something that works with my diet (or at least a modification just for me) every night for dinner, and I tend to eat left overs for lunch.
What are your biggest tips for people that are trying to maintain their weight loss?
There are a lot of effective ways to lose weight. I definitely don’t feel like there is a single magic bullet for everyone in the world. Just decide what matters most to you, and chances are there’s a program that will work for you. For me I didn’t want to be hungry all the time, so I picked a diet that wouldn’t restrict how much I ate. I knew I could challenge myself physically without any problem. I know for a lot of people, they don’t want be restricted in WHAT they eat as long as they can control HOW MUCH. That’s a different tactic, but just as effective. Everybody can find something that works for them.
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