A couple of weeks ago, we caught up with the winner of our first Weight Loss Challenge, Matt45710, who had come to San Francisco to meet with the Nutrition for You team and Diakadi trainers who helped him change his body, and his life. This seemed like a great opportunity to check in with dr_jackl (Jack), the winner of our second Weight Loss Challenge earlier this year. And we were delighted to find that he's doing just great, and has a lot to tell us about what he learned in the Challenge, and in the months since. Read on to learn about his perspective on the challenge, his favorite exercises, and his favorite craving food!
How Sweet It Is
Jack hasn't really looked back since the challenge, staying within a couple pounds of his winning weight. And the changes in his body have definitely had an impact on his life. "I have always felt after the challenge I have more energy to do things," he tells us. "The stress of moving recently has made it hard to tell, but I'm sure it would be even harder if I weren't in as great shape as I am now. Because I just moved to the city, new people I meet are surprised when I tell them I was 20 pounds heavier earlier this year or 50 pounds heavier a year and a half ago. Friends or coworkers I haven't seen in a long time comment that I've changed in a good way, and that is always pleasant." Sounds pretty great!
For anyone who makes such a change in his body, there is usually a "milestone moment," where he realizes how different he's become. As Jack told us, "The milestone moment was when Dennis from Nutrition for You photoshopped my before picture and after pictures. I mean, when I took a picture of myself at the end, I knew I would look better than when I started the challenge, but staring at the photos side-by-side really made me do a long double take. I also do have moments here and there when I take a look at myself in the mirror and it's a great feeling." (You can see that famous photo on Jack's profile page.)
The New Nutrition
Of course, that great feeling requires a real change in eating habits—habits formed in working with the Nutrition for You counselors and website. "I learned a bunch of great nutritional practices from the challenge and continue getting great reinforcement about these," he says. "Honestly, there's really nothing easy about nutrition for (most) people like me who really love food. I've learned to adopt a lot of helpful nutritional habits such as bringing my own snacks and lunch to work, buying most of my food at grocery stores as opposed to eating out, always eating breakfast and eating small frequent meals, all of which I continue to do." Even so, those cravings are always there, for anyone, and Jack is no exception. "Old habits are hard to die," he says, "and everybody craves different things on a regular basis. For me, that's been cookies of late because I just moved right next to a cookie bakery." It takes a strong man to fight his cravings in a cookie neighborhood!
In part, Jack is approaching the daily weight struggle by keeping up his relationship with Nu4You, who have helped him to put his long-term goals into perspective. "My current weight is actually the same weight as my weight when the WLC ended," he says proudly. "I was successful in losing five more pounds, but realized with the help of ongoing Nu4You support my body just wasn't losing as easily anymore. I'm currently on a 'maintenance' phase and hope to be transitioning to a 'gaining' phase soon." But the techniques he's learning from Nu4You are actually changing his lifestyle and giving him greater independence. "A key aspect of the guided WLC is to record everything you eat," Jack explains. "I would say that it's a success that for a month now, I haven't done any record keeping and I've been able to maintain my weight. To have learned a nutritional lifestyle I can just follow by myself is really truly amazing." Thanks to Manuel and his team for giving our Challenge participants such a great education!
In addition to diet, exercise is a key to Jack's weight loss maintenance plan. And for that, he relies on the Weight Loss Challenge 12-week workout program that Diakadi's Billy Polson designed to accompany the Challenge. "It's just great how comprehensive the entire regimen is," Jack says, "because not only are there entire-body functional workouts, but there's also stretching and a section everyday devoted to the core." This is a great time to remind everyone that anyone can do the WLC Workout Program, which is available on the site with exercise descriptions and photos, and is designed as an intense starter workout for anyone interested in getting serious about fitness.
Jack has completely integrated the workouts into his exercise plan. "I'm currently repeating various later weeks," he says. "I've printed out the whole workout in a binder and every time I go to the gym, I take out a different week/day of my choosing. I just love how well rounded this set of workouts are. I always stretch, do core, and work out every part of my body each time." And part of the pleasure is in seeing progress. "My favorite exercise right now is the Hands on Stability Ball Push-ups. The progression for this exercise started out with regular push-ups to 'seesaw' push-ups on the stability ball and now I can do the most advanced Hands on Stability Ball Push-ups with Feet on Flat Bench. It's such a challenge to stay balanced, and you feel all your synergistic muscles around your pecs working so hard to keep you balanced as you do push-ups. A very rewarding feeling when you get done with your sets!" Ok. We're in the gym tomorrow to get started on that one.
Keep On Keeping On
The hardest part of a lifestyle change involving both diet and exercise is finding the motivation every day to stick with those changes. And Jack has faced those problems in the months since the Challenge. "Finding motivation after the program has definitely been one of the single hardest long term challenges in my life," he says. And that has gotten harder as the Challenge fades into the past. "The contest provided a framework to further motivate any original weight loss goals and a means to really spearhead wishes into actions," he says. "After the Challenge, the real challenge was figuring out how nutrition ought to be incorporated into a daily lifestyle without the extra push of wanting to win a contest." But in part he's found new sources of motivation within himself that have taken him beyond what he thought he originally wanted out of the experience. "My goals have always been vanity driven, as I've sheepishly admitted when I started the challenge," Jack remembers, "But it has also been great for constantly unearthing years of body image issues, which really is another battle, not with the body but with the mind." And, of course, he has some help keeping him on track. "Continuing to talk to the coaches at Nu4You helps me stay on track of these goals," Jack says, "as well as slowly chipping away at mental blocks I have with maintaining a healthy nutritional plan."
Finally, we want to mention Jack's expression of thanks to the RealJock community and other WLC participants for their support during the Challenge. "The best thing about the Challenge was the great support I had both from Nu4You and my fellow Challenge participants," Jack says. "Everyone was very supportive of each other even though it was a competition and the constant pulling of each other helped ingrain better healthy nutritional habits just that much more, making it easier to adopt them on my own now."
We're so glad to see our winners doing so well—and we'd love to hear from any of our WLC participants who want to get in touch and tell us how they're doing now! Just drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.