I was obese…or at least according the the World Health Organization. At the turn of 2016 I was tipping the scales at just over 284 lbs. I am a large guy with a large frame. I am 6’2″ and was told I “carried the weight well….”. Just what everyone wants to hear. I thought I was a fairly active person and was capable of moving large objects with ease as my job often requires of me. I knew I was overweight but the act of addressing it just sounded exhausting. When my kids became old enough to chase around or play a game of soccer and I would get winded almost immediately, I knew it was time for a change. What really got me though was I couldn’t walk up our flight of stairs at home without breathing hard at the top. I had every intention on doing something about it but I couldn’t find the motivation or commitment to stick with any kind of healthy meal plan or exercise regiment. Then one evening while having pizza (I know, right?) at a friends house, we decided that we wanted to organize a backpacking hiking trip. As we discussed the logistics of it along with the location, I became overwhelmed with excitement. Then I looked around at the people sitting next to me and knew that there was no way I would be able to keep up physically. It was time for a CHANGE!

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So with this hike less than six months away, drastic measures would need to be taken. I really wanted to join this group of friends but I didn’t want to be five miles behind struggling. So I got to work. I researched until I was blue in the face looking for a method that would work and kept coming up empty handed. It was then that I realized I was still spending more time “talking about it” and not enough time “doing it”. One night on my drive home I was listening to the Joe Rogan Experience podcast and his guest was Dr. Rhonda Patrick. He was quizzing her about all things health and even though she was breaking things down to the molecular level, what she was saying was hitting home with me. She talked about the horrible effects that sugar has on your body and the wonderful effects of stressing your body out. That very night I went home and my wife and I cooked a steak for dinner and went on overload with the vegetables. It was good. The next morning I got up an hour earlier than normal and went for a “run” or at least I thought it was a run. I was able to jog for a few minutes then walk and catch my breath. As soon as it caught up I would run again. This went on and I must say, I found (and still find to this day) that a good run can be very therapeutic. It would clear my mind and I would just focus on the task at hand. As that went on I continued to eat better. I didn’t change much other than cut out the “junk.” I didn’t focus much on counting carbs or calories or other minor details. I did over time cut out over eighty percent of the original sugar I was taking in and I also stopped using dairy products as an experiment. I can’t say I have noticed much change without dairy products.

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As this went on, I started seeing a small amount of improvement. I had motivation now and stuck with my healthier lifestyle for more than just a few weeks. I think after around week six I actually saw a decent decrease on the scale. As time passed, I started to become obsessed with my life style change. I was happier and felt better than ever. My kids were eating good food and they even found it fun to join in and try their own version of exercising. I continued to refine my diet and experiment with new things and let my stomach be the judge of how it was working. I kept track of how certain foods made me feel. I even picked up some used weight equipment and put it into our empty nursery room. I started to rotate my routine with three days a week of weight lifting and core exercises and three days a week of running. Currently I am running four miles on farm roads at an eight minute per mile pace. Huge improvement from when I first started. On days I am in my small home gym, I always start with a cardio warm up of some sort. I usually only exercise for a total of about forty-five minutes per day as normal life stuff keeps me from going any longer. Just before we left for the hike in early April, I was down a total of FORTY pounds! My back pack that I was carrying weighed forty-four pounds. I lost almost as much as I was planning on carrying on my back. That was a game changer. I kept on pace with everyone and even had a few times where I was the one pushing them.

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I didn’t stop there though. When I got home it dawned on me how much my life improved by living healthier. So I continued on with my routine. I had a hunt coming up in September that same year and that became my new motivation. I worked even harder and before I left in mid-September, I was down almost another forty pounds. To date I have lost a total of seventy-eight pounds, down three pants sizes, and one shirt size. This is by far the best I have ever felt and well worth all the effort and hard work! You don’t have to overthink being a healthy person, it is much easier just to do. There is no “one size fit’s all” plan so start small with minor improvements and just keep slowly ramping it up. It will happen. No matter what, DON’T GIVE UP!

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~ Justin R. Van Horn

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