I thought everything was going great. I had an interesting job in banking, a wonderful family life, top-notch friends. The only change I noticed was that my suits were getting a bit tight in the waist, but nothing to worry about. After my yearly checkup last winter, my doctor told me that I could benefit from losing some weight. It didn’t sound that worrying since she’s been telling me that for multiple years. Then this last April, my family was taking an afternoon at the museum when I got a text from a coworker. Had I heard about my boss? He had a heart attack and passed away overnight. He was just a couple of years older than me, and he lived the typical Wall Street lifestyle, which consists of a steady diet of stress and Diet Coke. I was in shock that afternoon.
The next day, I thought I was fine, but two days later it hit me like a ton of bricks. Not only did I lose a mentor, and the world lost a great guy, it also became crystal clear that many of us laboring in desk jobs are slowly killing ourselves. I decided to lose 30 pounds (13 kilos), whatever it took. Knowing my middle age, it wasn’t going to be pretty.
I decided at that moment to make a change. I was no longer going to make excuses or convince myself that I just “didn’t have enough energy (I’ll do it tomorrow)”. I was lucky that the weather was turning warmer, so I made it a point to wake up early and go to the swimming pool. And every day it sucked (at the beginning). The more I went, the easier it became, but still, when that alarm went off, ugh, get up. I started by swimming 20 minutes a day, which was painful. But soon 20 became 30, 30 became 50, and 50 became an hour plus. When swimming got too repetitive, I started mixing it up and going to the gym for cardio and weights.
On top of exercising, I did two things that I didn’t realize how significant they would be in this journey. The first was that I decided to post my weekly weigh-ins on Facebook, for all to see. It was less about the crowd and more about making myself confident enough to share my progress. The second evolved out of the first: A few friends wanted to join me in the struggle, because they wanted to get healthy, too. We created a WhatsApp group where we shared our weights (weekly), our challenges (getting to the gym, pizza, Entenmann’s pound cake), recipes, inspiration (finally fitting into my wedding-day tux). I can’t tell you how these have been the biggest motivators.
Eighteen weeks of working my butt off, I’m down 25 pounds (11 kilos) and feeling the best I’ve felt in years. But more importantly, I’m on a track that many of my investment banking colleagues should also try to follow. What’s been surprising to me is how much more energy and focus I have to get my day job done. I swim in the morning and it’s incredible how much more I can get done in the two hours after the swim, than before when I spent my first four hours of the day on unfocused emails and ridiculous meetings.
It’s tough getting healthy with a desk job and a family. But what matters most is your health in order to enjoy the other parts of your life.