Our journey to better health

It's never too late to reinvent yourself.

One year ago, we weighted 230 lbs. more than we do today. We didn't drink or smoke, and our diet was pretty good. But a look in the mirror or a walk up the stairs told the story: we were overweight and out of shape. We weren't paying enough attention to what we ate, and items like cheese, ice cream and carbs late in the day were the norm. We worked too many late hours and skipped exercise. It all added up.

Something had to change. We are thankful that we did.

Change takes courage. It's easy to fall into a rut of shame, wondering how you can start. And when you start to diet and exercise, it hurts. A lot. You don't look good exercising and your stomach is screaming at you. But getting past that first terrible week, and sticking with it makes all the difference. 

We slashed our daily intake, limiting ourselves to less than 1,000 calories per day (Today, we've leveled off to approximately 1,800 calories.). We limited our carbs to the morning, and focused on protein from lunch onward. Staples like butter, cheese, bread, fatted milk or cream, ice cream were nuked. We eliminated rice, potatoes, pasta and bread. Chocolate and candy were summarily tossed in the garbage. In their place we added fresh steamed vegetables, grilled fish instead of red meat, soup and drink a lot of plain water.

Does that sound like punishment? Not really. You can make delicious food from lean, fresh ingredients in less time than it takes to fry a burger. This might sound ridiculous, but Brian, who grew up in a steak-loving, midwestern household, grew to overcome his fear of fish like salmon or rare ahi tuna. Today, he craves salmon instead of ribeye, steamed artichoke instead of french fries, fresh berries instead of Haagen Dazs. To Brian, the changes are anything but punishments.

For example, Brian often makes a shake of Slim-Fast with added protein powder, berries and Fage plain nonfat yogurt at breakfast. He would add Medaglia D'Oro instant espresso coffee to the mix instead of a latte. (Starbucks Grande Latte: 190 calories, 7 grams fat, 30 mg. cholesterol. Instant espresso: 2 calories, no fat, no cholesterol. Do the math.) 

We also log everything we eat, and count every calorie. That used to be a nightmarish chore. But thanks to iPhone and Android apps such as Lose-It! or My Net Diary (we use both), and the Calorie King database app, we can quickly log what we ate, scan package bar codes with our iPhone cameras, and the apps will tell us the calorie count as well as nutritional breakdown of every bite. These incredible apps have changed how we see food, helping us understand how it all adds up. We recommend these apps to anyone, whether you're trying to diet or maintain your figure.

There's no substitute for exercise. Sure it would be easier to roll over for another 30-60 minutes in the morning and avoid it. Instead, we've adopted a motto: Never skip a day. At first it hurt like hell, and sometimes it still does. But in the ensuing months, we could see the change, as we became stronger, more limber, as the inches evaporated from our waistlines, as muscle tone appeared. What we once dreaded, we now looked forward to doing. 

The funny thing is that a couple of months after starting, it became almost easy. We read that it takes about six weeks to change a habit. The trick is sticking to it. We learned that we can, even when we're on the road. 

We're thrilled at the results. And we're just getting started. This is not a fling, a diet or a physical spring cleaning. It's a complete revision to how we live, and it's a path that we will follow for the rest of our lives.

If you are where we were a year ago, know this: you can do it. Every day gets better. You'll like yourself more, people will be thrilled for you and encourage you. And the better you look, the better you feel, the more fun it becomes. And since we all want to have fun, why not start now?

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