Ask Daniel Johns, 36, and he'll tell you that intermittent fasting coupled with intense cardio helped him lose 60 pounds — and keep off the weight — since he began a get-healthy regimen in January 2018.
Now that he's on the path to wellness, this father of a son with special needs says he finally feels like the person he's always wanted to be. Read on as this music teacher shares his story.
'I Made a Decision to Become the Best Version of Myself Possible'
Ever since I was a child, I had always been overweight. My health continued to deteriorate into my 30s because I was binge eating, smoking and drinking. I was completely inactive and I kept gaining weight each year.
In May 2016, my son was born with Fragile X syndrome, one of the leading causes of intellectual disabilities. I had a very difficult time meeting the demands of my teaching career and fatherhood, and I was always sluggish and lethargic.
In early 2018, I tipped the scales at 200 pounds. It was then that I made a decision to become the best version of myself possible, not only for my family, but for myself as well.
How I Lost the Weight
During the first year, I did nothing but intensive cardio. But I started slow. I started jogging two days a week and added more with time. Ultimately, I got up to about 6 to 8 miles four to five times a week.
Running started tearing up my knees, so in 2019, I started strength training four times a week. This was the turning point for me because while cardio made the scale drop, lifting weights completely changed the shape of my body. I can't stress enough how important lifting weight has been for me. Running was the jumping-off point, but lifting weights has become the cornerstone of my health and fitness.
As for my eating habits, I started practicing intermittent fasting, which for me is the 16:8 approach, which means I fast for 16 hours each day and eat my meals during the other eight hours. This means I skip breakfast, eat lunch at noon (I usually eat a grilled chicken breast, rice and broccoli), snack on fruit and a protein bar and make dinner the biggest meal of the day.
For dinner, I'll eat a wide variety of foods — anything from pork loin with sweet potatoes and green beans to pizza to steak and potatoes.
I am human, by the way, so every now and then I'll have some chocolate. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups are my Achilles heel, but my go-to dessert is peanut butter spread on a whole-wheat tortilla, lightly drizzled with honey and raisins. It's delicious!
I chose intermittent fasting because I'm an all-or-nothing person. Moderation is very difficult for me. This also fits my schedule because I rarely have time for breakfast. The first two weeks were very difficult but my body adjusted over that time.
I also practice mindful eating and I track what I eat. The MyPlate app played a huge role and I still use this app to help me track. I focus on overall calories and protein. I don't get too caught up in carbs and fat.
Fasted Workouts and Family Support Have Helped Me Succeed
Making time to work out has been the greatest challenge. I work two jobs — I'm a public school music teacher during the day and a private guitar teacher in the evening. I work a lot of 12-hour days and sometimes even weekends.
Now, I wake up at 3 a.m. to work out. All of my workouts are fasted, meaning I don't eat beforehand. No matter what, I don't have my first meal until noon. That's how I've made it work.
Discipline is crucial, but this diet and exercise regimen fits my home life perfectly. I only have to worry about two meals and a snack, and I do meal prep on Sunday nights. This is a seven-day-a-week regimen — I don't take breaks!
My family is the one thing that has really helped me overall. My wife, Emma, cooks delicious and healthy meals for dinner. She allows me to be obsessive about my health and fitness and never judges me.
'Fall in Love With the Process and Find a Workout You Really Love'
Be patient. Making these changes will not always be fun. I always say: Don't get too high on yourself and don't get too low, either. It's a marathon.
For me, lifting weights was the total game-changer. I've come to realize that running was only the spark that lit the fire. What I enjoy most about lifting weights is trying to be better than you were the workout before, focusing on progressive overload and adding weight to the bar. So my best advice is to fall in love with the process and find a workout you really love.
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