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The glory days of youth

For most of my adult life, I’ve struggled with my weight. As a teen, however, I was an athlete, competitive gymnast and long-distance runner. My mirror told me such nice stories back then. I think ‘shredded’ is the modern term.

Roaring twenties - the early ‘dad bod’

But the passage into my twenties, my married life and fatherhood introduced me to some unwanted companions: the dreaded “dad bod”, a spare tyre in the middle and a general squidginess around the edges. I didn’t think too much about it back then. After all, every dad I had ever seen faced the same struggles and I had a better excuse than most, I had five kids.

At the time, I promised myself that once my kids were older I would once again return to my former glory.

Time for the roller coaster

In my thirties, I had a few diets which provided temporary relief. In my mind, my dad bod was an imposter body that I had cultivated through neglect. I believed that my impostor body intent on ignoring my pleas and only kept inflating my ever-growing waistline. My clothes continued to shrink despite my efforts to only use cold water in my washing. My weight scales disliked me, but I eventually caught onto their plan- they only had one direction in their programming-upwards!

The corporate condition

So the notion of never being free of a bloated dad bod during my corporate career lingered for the next couple of decades. I drifted in and out of acceptance with diminishing hope of reclaiming my lost youth. Diets came and went and so did my weight.

I was a leader in global companies but I was grossly unhappy with the roller coaster of emotions I was stuck on. My peers had accepted the dad bod as a physical manifestation to corporate success. In a way, I also began to accept it and I told myself that I had been raised in government housing, I should have been grateful for how far I had come and for what I had achieved.

What I hadn’t figured was the darker side of the dad bod. It wasn’t just a matter of how I looked, I struggled with persistent mental and physical health issues that subtly impacted all areas of my life. So gradual was the decline that by my early forties, I hadn’t even realised how much my quality of life and potential were being impacted by my weight.

The corporate condition

So the notion of never being free of a bloated dad bod during my corporate career lingered for the next couple of decades. I drifted in and out of acceptance with diminishing hope of reclaiming my lost youth. Diets came and went and so did my weight.

I was a leader in global companies but I was grossly unhappy with the roller coaster of emotions I was stuck on. My peers had accepted the dad bod as a physical manifestation to corporate success. In a way, I also began to accept it and I told myself that I had been raised in government housing, I should have been grateful for how far I had come and for what I had achieved.

What I hadn’t figured was the darker side of the dad bod. It wasn’t just a matter of how I looked, I struggled with persistent mental and physical health issues that subtly impacted all areas of my life. So gradual was the decline that by my early forties, I hadn’t even realised how much my quality of life and potential were being impacted by my weight.

“Without realising it, I had fallen victim to the modern cliche of a successful corporate family life-an unfulfilling career, declining vitality and increasing health ailments.”

In my early forties, I suffered from one of the most prolific silent killers in the modern world: clinical depression. This was well before it was acceptable to discuss such things in the workplace, especially as a leader. Letting people know about my condition was career suicide.

The Gift at Fifty - just accept it

When I turned 50, I received a lovely gift from the government, a vial for me to send in my stool sample. Nice. Who doesn’t want to celebrate the milestone that your body has officially transitioned from a vigorous contributor to society to a manageable statistic? While depressing to think about, and needed from a community health perspective, it was the wake up call that reminded me that I still had a choice to make: accept what my role, my body and my health had become, or do something about it. I chose acceptance, initially.

My health issues, collected over the decades, put me in the ever-growing category of the CVD (Cardiovascular or Heart Disease) candidate. I was bloated and had poor gut health, high cholesterol and joint and overall body pain. With my body ticking all the boxes in the checklist of typical health issues for people my age, even my quality of life was miserable.

Every morning, I started the day with brain fog, and for the rest of the day, I lacked energy and suffered from frequent mood swings. I couldn’t even bend over in airplane seats. I had to ask my kids to run upstairs to get things with me and with each year, I found myself walking with my arms out wider than the year before.

“Being overweight made me feel constantly drained. Everyday action took far more energy to get done..”

Every day was a battle for energy, for clarity of mind, for patience and to live without pain. For the modern middle class, life is a series of trade-offs made between lifestyle choices and health. People will often say, “I could never give up wine!” Or pasta, or bread or insert any favourite food or habit.

On reflection, it became apparent that these health problems affecting millions of people worldwide are so common and so ingrained in our lifestyles that people don’t notice them or forget how obvious the causes really are. Our modern medical system treats conditions once they manifest, but spends little time or money on prevention. Our education, our access to affordable foods and food equity infrastructure, and our focus on what must be a proactive societal approach to these health issues is still evolving.

I had enough - what I changed

I was on one of my regular international work trips. I couldn’t bend down to pick up my bag under the seat in front of me without scooching to the side. My bloated belly pushed the wind out of me, but this was nothing new, as I had learned to accommodate my new size in many small ways. I had a growing list of ailments for which I needed medication. This collection of conditions began the self-reflection and impetus to my eventual change.

First I changed my business life

Like most reading this, I grew up in the industrialised white-collar world. I had done well enough, or so I thought. I had corporate share plans and good salaries, but I had no true independence. Other people determine my worth, my creativity, my activities. One day, I met a colleague who had bought a share in the Australian arm of a technology company, who also owned a string of restaurants. He said to me, “You still think like a corporate guy, Dan. Owned. You’ll never be truly independent. Never be your own person. I may not be not cleverer than you, but I am free.”

That woke me up.

The path before became clear. I was going to build my own business. Age and circumstance could no longer matter. It had to be one consistent with the values and principles that I connected with and others would connect with. I wanted to build a business with heart, or intentionality, one that was about contribution, about being useful. With this new mindset I spent the next couple of years leaving my corporate life behind and then, I began my journey as an entrepreneur, as a 50-year-old, which is uncommon. I haven’t looked back since then. I now co-own and run Groworx, a global firm that has been growing and making a difference for businesses and communities.
Fixing my Fortunes. Done. More details on that journey in another post.

Then I changed my body

When I co-founded Groworx, I realised that I could not keep up with the pace of a full startup with my low energy level. In my first year, I travelled locally and globally for over 4 months in that year. I ended up in hospital twice in two months from preventable illnesses that stopped me in my tracks. I felt alone and vulnerable. I knew that I couldn’t grow my business with the body I had. I had to change my body if I wanted to keep my business and my life.

For years, I had been an avid follower of tech podcasts personalities like Tim Ferris. Self hacking was par for the course for this crowd. On one podcast with Tim, Dom D’Agostino talked about Keto and Intermittent Fasting. Tim had shared stories from guests about many different fitness and longevity approaches but this one stuck with me. It required discipline and focus. The results seemed broad as well as drastic but at the same time, it seemed risky and complex. Then my wife came across other stories of how Keto had transformed others.
I had tried other diets before but this one seemed like it was worth trying despite the risks. To change your fuel source from carbs to fat! But at this point, I had everything to lose. So I tried it, one year ago this week.

The result? I’ve lost over 20kgs and fixed my gut health. That means no more fatty liver, no more inflammation or joint pain, oodles of energy and no mood swings. For the first time in nearly a decade, I’ve been dreaming again.

So my health was now fixed. But could I fix my fitness?

In fact, now that I started Keto, I had so much energy so I decided to fulfil a lifelong dream of doing triathlons. I’d never done one before, but thought, “Why not?” I had dropped down from 85kgs to 64kgs. That was my Herculean accomplishment. A triathlon seemed easy in comparison.

In January 2020, I joined a Tri Club. Ten weeks later, at the end of February 2020, I completed my first two triathlons, just before the world shut down due to the COVID-19.

Fixing my Fitness. Done.

If this seems hard to believe. It is, even for me. At 50, I reclaimed my life by shifting to a career where I could be with my family and control my daily lifestyle. I then fixed my health and my fitness. I now train 1-2 hours every day, loving life with a body health vitals that put me in my twenties! My life outcomes have changed.

My wife joined me on my keto and fitness journey and we now both enjoy #FitnessTogether and #FitnessForever.

I share this story in an endeavour that my stories, like all stories, makes me helpful to my fellow homo sapiens who have reached that stage, whether in their 30’s or their 60’s, who think that life has passed them by.
Follow along Dan’s fitness journey on Instagram.

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