This Dad Had to Rethink His Definition of Exercise When Life Got Busy


Back when Stephen M. was a fit law student who worked out six days a week, he couldn’t imagine that he’d ever struggle with his weight. But then he started working long hours, and his exercise schedule went out the window. “I sat all day long—I joke around that I fly a desk for a living—and my weight just started going up and up,” the 39-year-old from Austin, TX, says. “I noticed it as it was happening, but I felt powerless to do anything about it. In law school I knew exactly when I could go to the gym, but I didn’t know how to be regularly active when I couldn’t stick to a rigid exercise plan.” Over the next seven years, Stephen gained 60 pounds and developed a hatred of mirrors.

Stephen realized how out of shape he’d become when he tried to teach his daughter to ride a bike with training wheels. “I discovered I couldn’t move fast enough to physically keep up with her on her bike,” he says. “That was terrifying to me!” Knowing he had to start moving more, Stephen headed to a sneaker store to buy some running shoes. “The salesperson told me she was concerned that if I started running at my current weight I’d blow out a knee,” he says. “She basically said I was too fat to run. It was jarring to have someone I’d never met before say this to me!”

Stephen bought the shoes but knew he needed a more gradual way to ramp up his activity level. “A client was having phenomenal success with Fitbit so I thought I’d get a tracker, too,” he says. “I liked that it measures everything and lets you adjust your habits to get the results you want.” When Stephen looked in his stocking on Christmas morning, 2012, he found exactly what he wanted: a Fitbit Zip.

“I strapped it on the day after Christmas, put in a goal to lose 60 pounds, and immediately started logging my food,” he says. “I knew I didn’t want to do a crazy fad diet or sacrifice my life getting where I wanted to go, so I tried to be as realistic as possible.” Stephen started sneaking in steps everywhere he could. “When my wife would take a shower, I’d take our toddler and go walk to the park a mile away,” he says. “I saw any downtime as a chance to be active.” Stephen also focused on reducing his food portions rather than cutting out anything completely. “I love pizza and used to eat half a pie, so I started having just a slice.”

As Stephen started losing weight, he realized how much better he felt, too. “I could tell a difference in myself the moment I started moving more,” he says. “I felt so much more energy in the morning and was more mentally focused all day long.”

A year and a half after clipping on his Fitbit Zip for the first time, Stephen reached his 60-pound weight loss goal. “I now weigh what I weighed as a freshman in college,” he says. “Guys I knew in college who I haven’t seen since then joke that I haven’t aged at all!” Little do they know the hard work Stephen put in to get where he is today.

Stephen’s Advice for Others:

Work exercise into work. “If I need to have a meeting at work, I’ll often do it on foot,” he says. “I find that people are more creative when you get them out of the office, and we spend too much time at our desks anyway. My colleagues love our walking meetings!”

Be a model for your kids. “On Sunday mornings, my whole family walks to the farmers’ market and spends time in the park,” he says. “We are teaching our daughters how to have an active lifestyle without having to evangelize it.”

When hungry, reach for plants. “I cover half my plate with fruits and vegetables during meals and make sure my snacking is dominated by fresh produce,” he says. “I eat half a dozen small apples a day and when I want to crunch on chips, I crunch on green beans or snap peas instead.”

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