But, would you live for them?
As an estate planning lawyer, I deal with death everyday. Everyday, people in my life die, and our office gets “the call.”
After you deal with it daily, death is not as depressing as you may think. Because once you understand death, you truly understand life. I sincerely believe that.
About a year back, I came across a meme that sums this up pretty well. It went something like this:
“I would die for my child.”
I believe you.
But, would you live for them?
Would you get yourself healthy?
Would you eliminate distractions?
Would you lead them more intentionally?
You’d only have to die once.
You have to live every day.
There is power in words. And when I saw this, I had to read it several times to let it sink in, because it was absolutely true. Living everyday requires work — hard work.
It’s said that if you want something you’ve never had, you must be willing to do something you’ve never done.
For me, becoming healthy meant setting out on the hardest thing I have ever done in my life: changing my lifestyle.
So for the past 18 months, I have lost 53 pounds, walked 5 miles every day (rain or shine), weight-trained 5 days a week, drank 3 liters of water each day, slept 50% more every night, and learned to function on a high-protein, low carb/low fat calorie deficit diet, cutting 23.5% of excess body fat. I now have a whopping 0.00% visceral fat around my organs — the stuff that leads to diabetes, heart disease, Alzheimers, you name it.
Of course, what the photographs do not show, and cannot measure in any way, are the mental and physical battles that occurred along the way, between the before and after.
Believe me when I say that I am rather petrified posting these photos and sharing some of these details in front of my clients, family, and friends. But in the hopes that I can hold the door open for the next one in line, I’ll share what I’ve come to learn. Maybe some of this will sound familiar to you, maybe you can relate to this, and maybe — just maybe — at least one person reading this will end up just a bit more healthier for their spouse, their son, their daughter, or grandchild. For that alone, I’d be willing to forego any amount of personal embarrassment.
Calling for a Tow
For the better part of the last two decades, I specialized in abusing my body, treating it worse than anyone or anything around me.
My car was getting better treatment than my body, and it wasn’t even close.
When it came to feeding my car its weekly dose of 91 vs 87, I’d pay the extra forty cents per gallon, because my car would perform better. But when it came to fueling my body daily, I was feeding it fast food burritos and late-night fries.
When my car needed an oil change, I didn’t ignore the warning lights. If I did, my car would break down. But when my body needed rest, I was giving it only 3 hours of sleep each night and asking it to perform for the next 21 straight.
When my mechanic told me it was time to rotate my tires, I didn’t try to do it on my own. I trusted his advice and got it done. But when my cholesterol was too high, I ignored my doctor’s warnings (and his prescription), because I promised myself I would make my own adjustments…as soon as I could find some time.
It’s a familiar cycle that makes no sense. Our bodies — and not our cars — are our most prized vehicles. They take us everywhere we go. They are literally the only place we have to live. Yet, at 44 years old, my body fat measured 35%. I couldn’t move my left shoulder. I hadn’t been inside of a gym in 10 years. I couldn’t do a single pull-up, and for 20 years, I suffered from a chronic inflammatory disorder called AERD.
I was traveling 100 mph in my life, and my overweight, overworked, overstressed body — my most valuable vehicle — was breaking down.
The good news for me is that mine was a slow leak and not a major blowout in the middle of the freeway. But the signs were mounting: a high cholesterol reading, coaching my daughters’ basketball team and not being able to keep up, panting after walking just two flights of stairs at the office. Above all, my kids having more energy than me bothered me tremendously.
But instead of pulling over and checking my tires, I just stepped on the gas even more. I blamed the noise on other things: my dinner from the night before, my turning over 40, my busy lifestyle as an attorney, business owner, and father, my chronic respiratory illness, or my lack of sleep the night before.
Then last year, a client of our firm, UP Fitness (spearheaded by CEO Nick Mitchell) invited us to try out their program. UP is an upper-echelon fitness gym, popularized by celebrity clients and world-class trainers. Simon, my business partner, gave it a try and in just a few short months, he came out looking like Zeus. When you see someone you know do what seems to be impossible, it’s inspirational. Over a half-baked thought one night in the desert of Palm Springs, I decided I would do something I hadn’t done in a very long time: get into a gym and get my vehicle checked out.
On the eve of April Fool’s, I took my vehicle to UP Fitness.
Meeting my Mechanic
Chris Weatherholtz was the mechanic assigned to repair my broken-down vehicle.
The major service checklist consisted of the following:
- 4-5 workout sessions a week centered around strength training;
- 10,000 steps a day, non-negotiable;
- 105 ounces of daily water intake (about 3 liters);
- 7-8 hours of sleep per night, this is still where I need work;
- A closely monitored high-protein, low-carb/low-fat calorie deficit diet. Think kale and fish or broccoli and chicken. This is your fuel initially to get your vehicle back in order. (Yes, vegetarians can do this too!)
But the main thing Chris wanted was just one thing: my 100% effort.
Chris: Is there any reason why you can’t give me a 10 out of 10 everyday?
Me: Well, I have a respiratory disease, a sore shoulder, and I haven’t been in a gym in 10 years.
Chris: Yeah, you told me that. My question is, is there any reason why you won’t give me a 10?
[Silence coupled with a realization that I’d been cowering this whole time behind excuses]
Me: No. I guess not.
Chris: You guess not?
Me: No. No reason. I can give you a 10.
Chris: Ok, good. Now I can work with that.
My first workout session with Chris was a disaster. Think Luke and Artoo crash-landing in the swamp on Dagobah, meeting the mighty Yoda for the first time who doesn’t reveal himself at first.
That’s Chris. Though much taller, he’s every bit as powerful as a Jedi Knight. He knows the power of the Force, he knows how to harness it, he can teach it to you too, but the student must first be ready. In my case, he made me walk the line, he knew how to lift me up, and when to let me fall. Looking back, he always had a plan.
Here are the pearls I brought back from my deep dive, in no particular order.
- PAIN OF REGRET VS. PAIN OF DISCIPLINE
I won’t sugar coat this part. Pain is inevitable. Either you grow old, your body deteriorates, and you will suffer both physical and mental pain of all kinds. Or, you voluntarily suffer now through the pain of discipline, which will lessen or zero-out the pain of old age. It’s your choice which pain you want to experience.
Here’s what the pain of discipline meant for me. To train at 8am in Santa Monica two days a week meant that I would need to wake up at 5am, sit in 2 hours of traffic, finish my workout at 9am, shower, change, and head back to our OC office by 1030am to catch my first meeting. This meant traveling 200 miles for just 2 hours of training every week, sitting in traffic nearly 4 hours each time. Very quickly, the chips were stacking against me. This was absolutely absurd, I kept saying to myself.
Then a voice at 5am entered my head: but would you live for them?
The pain of discipline also meant preparing. This meant getting my clothes ready and packed the night before (two sets of shoes and two sets of clothes).
I needed to lay out my supplements as well, my meals needed to be made, my three thermoses of water needed to be filled, my shakes and vitamins needed to be out. Because I needed 7 hours of sleep, I needed to get into bed at a decent hour. But this meant that I needed to get my full 10,000 steps in before then, which meant that somehow in the work day, I needed to walk 5 miles, weight-lift for an hour, and juggle my work meetings with my household duties all before 10pm. On days I could not, I recall making up for it by walking in the rain at midnight, even while on vacation, just to make sure I fulfilled my promise to Chris that I would give him (and me) a 10 everyday.
Initially, the new diet felt impossible. I was not to exceed 50 grams of total carbs a day. By way of example, a single apple contained about 25g of carbs. This meant that each and every one of my meals moving forward needed to be pre-planned. This meant, in turn, that eating out with friends and family at restaurants or parties or social gatherings became a distant memory.
But the hardest part came about four months into the program, when I suffered two painful disc herniations in my cervical spine.
My family and work colleagues remember this vividly. Due to the impingement, I couldn’t turn my head, or drive, or type, or sit, or stand. The physical pain and the mental torture of watching all my progress evaporate made these the rainiest and stormiest days in my journey.
Again, the voice: but would you live for them?
So, as we all do, I persevered through the pain. Because the math is simple:
a dead last finish > did not finish > did not start
In other words, you don’t have to be good at it, you just have to do it. It’s not that things get easier; rather you just get better. The only person you have to compete against is who you were yesterday and each day, your competition gets weaker and weaker and you go to battle everyday with the man in the mirror:
“I will beat him. I will train harder. I will eat cleaner. I know his strengths and I know all his tricks. I’ve lost to him before, but not this time. He is going down. I have the advantage because I know him well …
…He is the old me.”
Like the gym rat t-shirts read, “I’m not telling you it’s going to be easy. I’m telling you it’s going to be worth it.”
- TUNE OUT THE NOISE
The commentary you hear along the way is largely predictable. My advice? Ignore all of it.
At first, it’s all positive and sounds something like this: “Wow, you lost some weight. You look good!”
But then later, as the weight drops and drops, the commentary begins to take a cautionary tone. Many will ask if you are ok. “Sudden weight loss isn’t good for you,” they will admonish.
And my personal favorite was: “What you’re doing isn’t healthy.”
It’s funny. As Dr. James DiNicolantonio quipped: “When people are metabolically sick eating junk food & taking 10 meds, nobody says anything. But when they stop eating junk & eat real food, everybody has an opinion about how dangerous their diet is despite them feeling amazing, coming off meds & losing weight.”)
Then months further will come the interventionists: “That’s enough now! You need more fat! You’re looking too skinny. Eat more!”
Mind you, everyone is very well-intentioned. But the real problem is that very few asked the right questions: “What’s your blood results look like now?” “What’s your body fat percentage now?” Very few asked: “What’s your visceral fat score? How’s your inflammation? Are you stronger? What’s your LBM?”
Instead, most people gave advice based only on how things look from the outside. But when you know your destination clearly, and you know what’s coming up next, you just nod at the noise, and smile as you drive past it all. Remember it’s a science. As long as you keep following the directions you’re given, you’ll get to the promised land.
And when you finally exit, and get out of the car, much like I did a few weeks ago when I finally took off my shirt after about a year, the interventionists suddenly sounded something like this:
“Wow, you look ripped!”
“Woah, I’ve always wanted a six-pack! Have you always had one?”
“Wow, what’s the secret?”
So, yes, ignore the audience soundtrack. Ignore the bad, ignore the good, just set it all aside and focus on your drive.
Admittedly, there is a point where the hard work pays off, and certainly it feels nice, I won’t pretend otherwise. And one of the reasons it feels good is because you know you earned it. You can’t buy (at least not yet) a body you want simply by tapping, touching, swiping, or inserting your card. It’s not available on Prime and it’s not hands-free. Rather, it’s very hands-on and — unlike the rest of the first-world — requires time, patience, and a fair amount of physical and mental discomfort. This is why I tell everyone who’s listening: invite some level of daily discomfort. If you get too used to living comfortably all the time, you lose your ability to adapt. If you don’t adapt, you can’t grow, because growth always appears in the form of some pain. Pain and discomfort equate to some level of growth or learning, we need to learn to embrace more of it!
- SHARE AND SHARE ALIKE!
If you are going on a long journey like this, you need to share your location with others. What I mean to say is that the more you share and the more you communicate what you are doing, the better the results — both for the one sharing and for those around.
This was hard for me to learn at first. I am the kind of person that does not like to advertise what I do, because I don’t want to be confused for a person who talks more than he does. My tendency is to finish the job and then talk about it. But I couldn’t do that here for several reasons.
First off, your diet affects those you live with. If you suddenly can’t eat the same meals your family is eating for the better part of a year, you can bet that you’ll need their support to succeed. Furthermore, your family needs to support your journey, as it’s their time just as much as it is yours.
Secondly, by telling the universe your plans, the universe will hold you accountable as well. The strangest feeling was walking into my mom’s house and instead of her offering me one of her mouth-watering parathas, she instead had a cup of kale ready for me. The more you talk aloud to others about what you are doing, the harder it is for you to cheat on meals or skip a workout.
Third, by sharing your progress with those around you, they too can benefit from your goals. Be prepared because while many will tease your new lifestyle and poke fun at your poke bowl, some of those around you will slowly join you on your “health kick.” This, in turn, makes your path even easier when those around you aren’t obstructing your path but running it alongside you. Through them, you have a stronger support system of new-found partners you can talk to, learn from, share notes with, and bond over. For me, every Tuesday and Thursday morning at 6:30am, on my drive to the gym, I would be on the phone with a good friend of mine who joined the journey with me. He would be on his treadmill and I would be inching in traffic. We were both moving forward together on our paths, literally and figuratively.
- RESPECTING FOOD
The world might as well be divided into two kinds of people: those who live to eat, and those who eat to live.
I was the guy who never bothered to watch what I ate. I ate what I wanted, when I wanted, and how much I wanted. I didn’t count calories and I thought I knew what a carb was. The reality is I knew zilch.
Today, every morsel of food and every drop of liquid that goes through my mouth is entered into an app. This app tells me the kind of fuel I am injecting into my vehicle. This then tells me the kind of performance and output I can expect to have.
After a year, I can affirm something that we all know but absolutely ignore. What you feed your body, feeds you. I was shocked to see just how easy it all really was. The hard part of course is the beginning days and weeks. You will experience withdrawals and headaches. Your body will ache and be sore. But in no time, your body will feel lighter, stronger, better, more nimble. Your mind will be quicker, sharper, and more happy. And ironically, all the positives you feel come simply through subtraction. Less is certainly more. By taking in less, my output actually increased.
It is mind bending that nutrition is not a mandatory course that all students must take in grade school. Instead, as a culture, we are injecting all kinds of poisons into our vehicles and then we pressure everyone to step on the gas and floor it.
Dieting, also, is not just related to food. I learned to diet my mind from the over-information I was feeding it. By getting to bed early, and packing my day full of tasks (i.e., 10,000 steps, 3 liters of water, weight lifting, meals, and work/family time), there was little room to clog my mind of the usual suspects. Of course, no more late night TV meant no snacking and less social gatherings meant better meals. But more time sleeping meant less time scrolling.
After only about 3 months on the new lifestyle (I am reluctant to call it just a diet), I went to Scripps to get my annual testing done. (For those of you who don’t know, I have been anosmic for 20+ years). I scored higher than ever before on my tests. My Dr. attributed it to the medication I had been on, until I told him about my journey with UP. The new fuel I was feeding my body — in just 90 days — was making an objective difference compared to the last 20 years of my diagnostic history. Believe me when I tell you that it was one of the happiest days of my life.
- ONE INCH MORE
“One inch more” was my mantra during my training and always signified the power of the miniscule. Don’t try to hit a homerun. Instead, just go for one inch more.
That’s it. If everyday, you get one inch more, that’s all you need to grow. Growth does not come in feet and yards. It appears in inches and centimeters and millimeters at best. Each day you step on the scale, the growth is there. It may not appear in the number in front of your eyes, but it appears in the decisions you made the night before, or in the salad dressing you didn’t choose at lunch, or in the workout where you pushed yourself just a little longer. There’s a certain sense of justice built into all of it which I came to appreciate.
The most amazing thing is the spill-over effect that this mantra had on other parts of my life. “One inch more” meant a little bit more at work, a little bit more time with my kids, a little bit more push on my personal tasks. It meant growing not just my arms and back, but all aspects of my to-do list.
What was very surprising was just how much an inch can change an entire exercise. I recall Chris barely adjusting my angle of grip on a lat pulldown one day and, suddenly, he had me working on what felt like an entirely different muscle group.
Modesty sets in pretty fast on the gym floor.
During my injury, Chris had me on low weights but taught me to reduce my speed on the release in order to build tension. “Actually,” he said. “You build more muscle returning to form than on the push or pull.”
Philosophically, it made sense. It’s how we do the little things that really determine how we do the big things. How you do anything is how you do everything.
Muhammad Ali famously remarked that he didn’t count his sit-ups. He only started counting when it started hurting, because those were the only sit-ups that mattered.
Our bodies can stand almost anything. It’s our minds that we have to convince. Older people will say it’s harder the older you get. Maybe, but it’s not that we stop exercising because we grow old. We grow old because we stop exercising. As Robin Sharma said, “If you don’t make time for exercise, you’ll probably need to make time for illness.”
The key is to keep moving. Move beyond pain. Move beyond fear. Move beyond discomfort. Move beyond hardship. Move beyond excuse. Just keep moving though. Progress of any kind must, by definition, take place outside of our comfort zones. So if we change the way we look at things, then the things we look at begin to change.
The good news? Pretty soon, you’ll be firing on all cylinders, and once you exercise regularly, the hardest thing is to stop it.
On the morning of my photo shoot, I was physically and mentally drained. In the days leading up to it, Chris dropped my water intake and was drying me up for the shoot. “You’ll be running on fumes that morning,” he warned me in the weeks before. He wasn’t joking. It’s said that in training, you listen to your body. In competition, though, you tell your body to shut up. Wise words for sure.
This is me now at 10.5% body fat, down from 35%.
This is me now, doing multiple reps/sets of pull-ups with 45 pounds tied to my waist. A year ago, as you will see in the video below and much to Chris’ dismay, I couldn’t even lift my own body weight, not even once.
This is me now…
Even I can’t believe it. So the only thing you need to believe is you.
So whether it’s eating healthy, working out, starting that project, or finally getting your estate plan done, here’s the real question…is today going to be just one day, or is it going to be day one?
To your family’s success,