Just over three years ago, my son Atlas was born. I love him dearly, and always will, but there’s no doubt about it: having a new baby contributes to sleep loss, and sleep loss contributes to weight gain. My weight ballooned from a not-too-bad 160lbs to a peak of 190lbs. I attribute my weight gain primarily to this initial high-stress, low-sleep period of having a new baby. But the problem was clearly much larger than that. I had no established healthy patterns for eating and exercising, and I had no healthy habits to help me combat the weight once my new son began sleeping through the night.

Losing the weight

I discovered the LIFE Extend app through my connections with LifeOmic as I considered the company for prospective employment. When I began using it to experiment with intermittent fasting, a few things became abundantly clear to me. First, I was snacking a lot. I would eat right up until I went to bed, and most of the time within minutes of waking. I started fasting in October 2019.  It took some adjusting, but I was strict with fasting for at least 16 hours, often shooting for 18 hours. This meant no snacking after dinner, and no breakfast. Second, it was clear that I was not eating enough healthy plants – sometimes getting just two or three servings per day. I was definitely not getting enough exercise – I would go days in a row without any logged physical activity.

What was most shocking to me about these revelations is how I already knew the health benefits of a plant-based diet and exercise. I was a vegetarian in college and had gone from 185lbs to 155lbs by graduation. I had kept fairly close to my college weight for years through cycling and rock climbing. Somehow through my major life change of having a new son, I had let those things go, and I needed a jump-start to reincorporate them into my daily life.

When I began tracking my 5 pillars of health in LIFE Extend (I admit, I still need work in mindfulness), I began to see pretty immediate and consistent results. The most important part was not my weight, or just some points in a tracking app. It was about having a healthy life that I could spend with my son, and being happy with my body and my abilities throughout it. With 16-hour fasts, I lost 15 pounds in just 2 months. For me, fasting acted as a stimulator of ketosis and autophagy, but more so just as a mechanism for caloric restriction.

The proof is in the pictures

Left: July 2019; Right: August 2020

Left: Christmas 2019; Right: Christmas 2020

As the weather improved in the spring of 2020, I added in exercise. As hard as it is to carve out time away from home when you have a baby (who was not quite one yet), I made myself get back to climbing and cycling. The weight just kept coming off and I felt great. My neighbors and grandparents were worried – “are you eating enough?” but I looked and felt great! I was down from a peak of 190lbs to 145lbs. Using an InBody scale, I tracked my body weight and body fat percentage. Unfortunately I didn’t start using the InBody at my peak weight, otherwise the results would have been much more satisfying to see graphed. Between January 2020 and June 2021 I had reduced my body fat by 10%.

Non-Scale Victories

The scale is great. Seeing those numbers come down made me feel accomplished. However, the non-scale victories have been even better. When I visited my in-laws last summer, their neighbors commented on how much better I looked.

When COVID restrictions in 2020 began lifting, I met up with one of my climbing partners at the gym. His first words were “wow, man, you look great!” I’m also climbing better than ever before. In the last two months, I’ve climbed a 5.11+ on lead and a 5.12 on top rope.

As I moved into late summer of 2020, I realized that I needed belts for every pair of shorts I owned, and my swim trunks wouldn’t even tie tight enough. I had to buy smaller clothes!

These types of non-scale victories really solidified that I was doing the right thing with regard to my health. It wasn’t just about the numbers on the scale. It was about looking better and most importantly: feeling better.

My Two Takeaways

A healthy relationship with food is critical. This means acknowledging everything you eat: good and bad. It also means prioritizing the foods that make you feel good at a deep physiological level. Having an unhealthy relationship with food can lead to eating disorders, but not thinking about food enough can be almost as unhealthy. I constantly think about new ways I can incorporate vegetables in my meals, new spices or cooking methods, or new and unique vegetables from specialty markets. I think about food to really question if I’m hungry, or simply bored or tired. For me, this relationship with food encompasses both pillars of healthy plants and fasting.

A healthy relationship with exercise is critical. Overexercising is real for some people. Stressing about exercising is real. Avoiding exercise is real. But if we find the activities that bring us joy, while adding aerobic and resistance training to our bodies, we can look forward to exercising while knowing that they’re contributing to achieving our life goals. If I want to be around for my son, I can’t just spend all my time with him now; I have to take time to exercise to stay healthy so I can spend time with him long into the future. I want to be able to ride bikes and climb not just with my son, but with my grandchildren, too.

Download LIFE Extend today and start tracking your healthy behaviors and improving your health span.