With fathers day approaching next week, I want to share a quick story with you about my dad. I hope that his story will be inspiring for folks who want to make positive lifestyle changes.
A couple of years ago, my dad began having some heart complications that pushed him into daily medications and eventually, a surgical procedure on his heart.
My dad is a humble, quiet, and strong man, the kind you aspire to be like, never complaining, always helping, working hard, and trying to do the right thing.
But as strong and tough as he is, the heart complications scared him. He has a beautiful and amazing wife (my mom) and a growing brood of grandkids (6 as of now). His family is sacred to him, and he didn’t want anything that was in his control to stand in the way of enjoying his family and watching it grow.
All of these things motivated him to make some changes to his lifestyle, which he controls, to maximize his longevity and enjoy a much-anticipated retirement with my mom. He knew that incorporating a longevity lifestyle would improve his health biomarkers and heart condition, as well as prevent cognitive decline (another thing that scares him).
He determined that an underlying cause of many of his health issues was being overweight. He had a BMI (Body Mass Index) of 27, which is on the high end of what is considered overweight (BMI of 30+ is deemed to be obese). The weight gain over the years was primarily nutrition related, overconsumption of refined carbs, and sugar.
He has now reached many of his lifestyle change goals and was gracious enough to share a few nuggets from his journey with the AWAKN tribe:
What lifestyle changes did you make?
Mostly changes to my nutrition. I stopped eating sugar and gradually decreased my refined carbohydrate intake, cutting out highly processed foods.
I focused on eating healthier fats for energy and satiety.
My protein intake didn’t change much; I focused on a moderate amount of high-quality protein, mainly from meats and eggs.
I reduced my carb intake to around 50 grams per day of high-quality non-grain carbs, mainly vegetables.
The 50 grams per day range is where most of my weight loss was realized. Now that I’ve achieved my weight loss goals, I stick with under 100 grams of high-quality carbs per day, and that range allows me to maintain my current weight.
What were the challenges with changing your nutritional lifestyle?
The biggest challenge for me at first was giving up some of my favorite comfort foods, like toast and bagels. But that was just short term; once I trained my body to stop craving carbs, many of those comfort food cravings went away.
The ongoing challenge I had were more social and environmental pressures; there are always temptations around, especially at work, people are always bringing in some kind of treat. I’ve also noticed people often make you feel bad when you don’t eat what they do, especially folks that are more trusting of the Standard American Diet (SAD). I think its somewhat of a generational thing where we were trained to believe the best diet is high carb low fat, which is not true.
What positive differences did you notice?
I became more metabolically flexible, meaning that my body could easily tap into fat stores for energy instead of relying on a constant intake of sugar/carbs for energy. With this metabolic flexibility, I noticed I lost that hangry feeling and daily energy crashes.
I now have more balanced energy throughout the day. I’m thinking clearer with less brain fog. I’ve also lost most of my belly fat, my facial features became more defined, and my body composition is now evenly distributed.
What are some of your go-to food items for eating for longevity?
Pretty simple, I generally eat two meals a day.
Breakfast is usually eggs and bacon and a glass of whole milk. And then for lunch, I’ll have some type of high-quality meat with veggies. I typically don’t eat after three, practicing the notion of intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t make a shameless plug for Jonathan & AWAKN. I drink AWAKN about every other day, and It’s very satiating with the healthy fats and collagen protein. I treat it as a healthy, energizing snack, and the MCT oil helps with any brain fog I might be experiencing.
What advice do you have for folks wanting to make similar changes?
Just get started. It was easy for me to go cold turkey on the sugar, but the refined grains/carbs took a little more time. I just took the mindset that I was making a lifestyle change for long term results, so I gradually decreased carbs while my body adjusted to burning fat for energy. By having a longterm mindset, I didn’t beat myself up or get discouraged over the tiny setbacks.
Also, do your research on nutrition, avoid listening to armchair critics, do what you know is right for your body, what feels good and be confident in that approach.
What were the results of your lifestyle change?
My BMI went from 27 (overweight) to 24 (ideal). I ultimately lost 25 pounds and went down a shirt size a couple of waist sizes. At 66 years old, I feel better than I have in years. In fact, I just had visits to my primary care physician, and cardiologist, and all my biomarkers were perfect. I was even able to come off statins.
Alright, so that’s a quick overview of my dad's journey, pretty impressive and hopefully inspiring to know that we can make lifestyle changes that improve our quality of life at any age.
I want to add a quick note on fitness. In general, 80% of weight loss comes from dietary lifestyle changes, 10% from fitness, and the other 10% from sleep and stress management (hormonal regulation). You can’t out-exercise a bad diet. So look to nutrition first when weight loss is a goal.
That said, fitness is essential for many other aspects of a longevity lifestyle. In my dad's case, his fitness is built into his day to day activities, meaning he gets it from walking at work, working in the yard and chores around the house (he’s very handy). For example, when I called him for this interview, he was unloading rocks from his truck into a wheelbarrow and dumping them into landscaped beds in the yard. No doubt, hard work and just as effective, if not more, than going to the gym for 60 minutes per day. If you don’t like the gym look for other ways to get your exercise, like working outside.