This Congressman Didn’t Want to Just Lose Weight, He Wanted to Inspire Others

10-10-success-story-congressman-blogAs a Congressman for Idaho’s 2nd District, Mike Simpson has had a lot to focus on besides his health. But at a certain point, he couldn’t ignore it any longer. “About a year and a half ago, I had my annual check-up with my doctor and he said I needed to lose some weight,” says Mike. He’d gotten up to 275 pounds—much more than the 200 pounds he weighed for most of his life. “Here in this job you’re sitting in meetings all the time and it seems like every function is centered around food—I’d have breakfast meetings, lunch meetings, dinner meetings,” he says. “And it wasn’t just the weight—I had high blood pressure, my cholesterol was going up, and I was at risk for becoming diabetic.”

Knowing his doctor was right, Mike got the Fitbit Flex and started walking a bit more than usual. “I wasn’t really consistent for the first six months, but then around Thanksgiving last year I decided to see how many days in a row I could get to 10,000 steps,” he says. “Then that started feeling like not enough, so I started upping my goal. All of a sudden I was averaging 17,000 or 18,000 steps a day!”

Mike began noticing opportunities for adding to his step count. “In the past, I’d go home after work, sit down, and watch the news or read,” he says. “But I started going home and getting on my treadmill—even if it was 10pm!” Mike wasn’t the only one with a Fitbit tracker. Everyone in his office got one as did his wife. “We started doing challenges to see who could walk the most in a day or during the workweek,” he says. “I have some joggers on my staff so I didn’t win all of them, but it was fun to challenge the whole office to be healthier.”

During all that step counting, Mike also took a good look at how he ate. “I’ve gone on diets before and all I could think about was how I couldn’t wait until the diet was over so I could eat good food again,” he says. “This time I needed to make a total change in behavior.” He turned his focus to what he should eat more of and began ordering fish when he was out at restaurants and stocking his office’s fridge with yogurt for healthy snacks.

And those changes have made a big difference. “I’m down 72 pounds!” he says. “I had to give away a dozen suits, 20 pants, and 20 shirts because they were too big to even alter. And it’s not just my weight: My blood pressure is down dramatically and my resting heart rate is better too.”

While the mini challenges within his office were fun, Mike’s team got a grander idea earlier this year. “The staff got together and said that we should set up a virtual hike from DC to Boise,” he says. “We would try to travel 2,963 miles, the distance between the two cities, over the course of a year.” They opened the challenge up to anybody who wanted to join and hundreds have taken it on. “I’ve been surprised at the number of people who have joined in to do the walk,” he says. “I get comments from people who say my challenge has inspired them to get out and get in steps too. It’s so rewarding to see other people into it—and it makes it more fun for me too!”

Mike’s Advice for Others:

Think of walking as a form of transportation. “I have to go back and forth between my office and the House floor to vote and I always used to take the train there,” he says. “Now I walk because I don’t want to miss out on the steps I can get in going each way.”

Fit exercise into your trips. “I do quite a bit of traveling as a Congressman,” he says. “That makes it tough to get in steps sometimes, but I’ve made a habit of not using that as an excuse. In Boise, I stay right along the river that has a gorgeous path. In the summer I go out there to walk and in the winter I head straight to the hotel’s gym.”

Ban the idea of banned foods. “If I say I can’t have soda anymore, all I’m going to want is a soda,” he says. “Instead I just cut back. I’ve gone from two to three sodas a day to three sodas a week.”

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