How to Get Healthy Even When You Live in Vegas

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Note: What follows is a story written by a WLC player. We felt the obstacles he faced (being a young, single man in Vegas amid all the unhealthy temptations) might resonate with some of you, and inspire you on your own WLC journey.

When I started the Whole Life Challenge in January 2015, I was 5’11,” 205 pounds, had a 36.5″ waist. My weight has always been stable, but was creeping (I was gaining two to three pounds a year and in a few years I could see myself being “obese”). I completed 108 reps at the weigh-in, a workout comprising two circuits of four exercises.

At first I was unsure of what I got myself into, but I knew my brother had completed multiple Challenges in the past. And I knew he wanted what was best for me. I never considered myself “fat,” but I was never the “fittest” among my friends either.

My brother is five years older than I am, which came into play when we attended the FSU vs Oregon Rose Bowl at the beginning of the year. His friends thought I was the older brother. This was not the first time I had heard that comment, but this was the time it stuck with me. This was the beginning of my motivation to get prepped for the Challenge.

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In the past, I would go to the gym, but never kept a log and it was sporadic at best. I would also attempt to eat healthy meals (what I previously defined as healthy: no fast food, and nothing overly indulgent).

I read through all the documents, recipes, website videos, and cleaned out my closet. I bought more workout clothes so I’d be ready for working out more then one or two days a week. I bought a Bluetooth scale that recorded information—weight, body fat, body water, muscle mass and calories—on my iPhone. I got a five gallon water dispenser for my apartment with a water delivery service. The water dispenser would stare me in the eye everyday when I got home to remind me of the Challenge.

I set up a photo stream of all the foods I ate and shared them with my extremely supportive brother and sister-in-law. Sometimes the photo stream was meant to ask the question, “Can I eat this?” These few steps got me anxious to start and committed. For further motivation, I watched a number of documentaries on Netflix about the evil’s of refined sugar and the impact food plays on people’s health. I was ready.

During the first two weeks, which were incredibly hard, I didn’t socialize. I went to the gym every day, even if it only was for light exercise, a yoga class for example. I rewarded myself by sitting in the sauna at the end of every workout. I looked at white bread as if it were the straw that would break the camel’s back. As I started to get my feet under me, I began to socialize more.

The results were incredible. Within two weeks of starting, I lost 15 pounds and felt much better. It all stemmed from the synergy of the program. The different elements came together to get me fit and in shape as fast as possible.

Reflecting at night on how I could improve myself every day, what my goals were, and how far I was from my reaching them helped me make better choices every day. Logging into a website for team encouragement and reflections was a new, supportive social outlet in my life.

Now that I have completed the Challenge, I have a measurable definition for healthy: compliant, acceptable or indulgent. I tried new foods, some of which that I enjoyed—in fact preferred—over what I previously ate. My comfort foods changed because I started to find things that were WLC compliant when other things on the menu were not.

I cooked and prepped foods more during the Challenge than I had done in the past four years. I am always looking at ingredients now. I had some indulgent days, but they were defined as that now. And because of the daily scoring, I never had multiple consecutive indulgent days. Each day was a chance to have a great day.

During this Challenge, I hit two bad weeks. One week I had a terrible case of food poisoning. I didn’t eat or workout during this week, and when I felt the least bit better I indulged a little. What was different this time was that after that, I got right on track again.

To reflect back, I learned about balance. The Challenge taught me how to live a healthy balanced life—what makes up a measurable “good” day. But even now it’s not my goal to make everyday in my life a WLC compliant “good” day. Having played, though, does make me aware of my “good” days and helps me strive for them.

I am proud of completing my first Challenge, and I viewed it as simply the first of several more I want to complete.

So what were the results? I am still 5’11,” but now 179 pounds, with a 34″ waist. I am down 26 lbs and 2.5 inches from my waist. I completed 155 reps in the same circuit training, 47 more than when I started.

More importantly I feel better. I receive compliments from the randoms in my life, whose words really do have an impact. Carrie at the dry cleaners, said “… you look so much better that when you started coming here.” The all-time best comments come from the people that know me the best: co-workers, friends, and my parents who say I “look much better.” The truth is I owe so much of my success to to my brother and sister-in-law. Thank you for developing a challenge that worked and will continue to work for me.

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Michael Stanwyck
Michael Stanwyck is the co-founder of The Whole Life Challenge, an idea that developed during his seven years as a coach and gym manager at CrossFit Los Angeles.

He graduated from UCLA with a BA in philosophy as well as a degree from the Southern California School of Culinary Arts, and feels food is one of the most important parts of a life - it can nourish, heal, and bring people together.

Michael believes health and well-being are as much a state of mind as they are a state of the body, and when it comes to fitness, food, and life in general, he thinks slow is much better than fast (most of the time). Stopping regularly to examine things is the surest way to put down roots and grow.

He knows he will never be done with his own work, and believes the best thing you can do for your well-being starts with loving and working from what you’ve got right now.

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