When my job held a leadership development program, part of the presentation included a mock-sparring exercise with the other participants. At one point the presenter asked me why I was out of breath. He was trying to show me that I was moving too much, when I should have been focused. But it hit home that I shouldn’t have been winded. That was one of the moments that made me want to change.

I was pretty skinny until my mid-to-late 20s, but without regular exercise; I didn’t play sports growing up, and had no active hobbies as an adult. I started gaining weight after getting (happily) married, thanks in part to a desk job and a 90-minute commute each way. My eating habits weren’t great, either—I loved a cheesesteak and fries for lunch, then a stop at Sonic or Starbucks for a green tea frappuccino on my way home almost every day.

At my heaviest, I was 206 pounds. I’m 5’11” and I had virtually no developed muscle. I felt self-conscious about being overweight. Physically, I just felt tired. Going up the stairs took my breath away and I preferred to sleep in whenever possible.

Moments like being out of breath during a work event started to add up. When I realized that I needed to make a change, I made a list of all the major driving factors. My daughter was at the top of the list: I both wanted to set a great example for her, and also did not want to struggle to keep up with her. I wanted to be healthy for my family in general—to do my best to be around, able, and supportive as long as possible.

It was a slow process. Completely changing your lifestyle is hard. I focused on losing weight by cutting back on my food intake, and hitting the treadmill. I was intimidated by barbells and dumbbells. I would just do a few sets on machines for several different body areas after cardio each visit. I lost weight, but in hindsight, it wasn’t efficient.

Reddit was what really got me on the right track: r/fitness and r/progresspics. I was a sponge for whatever information I could get—starting basically from zero, I had a lot to learn. Seeing people’s progress gave me motivation, but also taught me tactics I could use, too.

As an incredibly picky eater (now I am just “very picky”), I found HelloFresh exposed me to a variety and easy and healthy, yet simple, recipes. That helped me build my staple diet. MyFitnessPal helped me track my calorie and macro goals. Eventually, I was meal prepping breakfast, snacks, and lunches along with weighing foods for portion sizes. My diet felt in-control, and so did my gym mindset. I had to go—it was a requirement, not an option.

It took me about 9 months to lose 60 pounds. Since then I’ve purposely gained weight through bulk/cut cycles to keep myself on track and put on muscle. I feel fantastic. I have more energy than ever, and I’ve run three Tough Mudder classic events.

Most importantly, I’m able to be a present and active father. I’m proud that I set a good example for my kids—my daughter is five, and my son is two. They me as someone who loves fitness and eating healthy, and they already emulate that. —as told to Jesse Hicks

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