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The People's Voice: An even bigger loser than me

Published: Saturday, Jan. 18, 2014 1:15 a.m. CDT
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(Alex T. Paschal/apaschal@saukvalley.com)
Dixon Family YMCA Executive Director Andrew McFarlane has made great strides in the past year toward getting fit. He has lost about 50 pounds since February.

If you haven’t faltered on a New Year’s resolution, I’m guessing it’s because you’ve never made one.

I showed up at the Dixon Family YMCA on Wednesday, expecting to speak at length with CEO Andrew McFarlane about how his particular Y handles the January Joiner phenomenon. You know, the folks who lay out grandiose wellness plans, sign up for the Y membership, crush it for about 2 weeks, and then go MIA.

But as I sat across the desk from Andy, I immediately noticed he was about three-quarters of the man he used to be. He confirmed that, since last February, he had lost nearly 50 pounds, down from 208 to 161.

Your immediate reaction might be, “No fair! He’s got everything he needs right at work!” Sure, that doesn’t hurt. But I saw Andy working out occasionally while my wife and I lived in Dixon and used the Y, during the time he was building up to his high-water weight.

He solved the problem by fixing his diet. You can hear all about his method by listening to the podcast at saukvalley.com.

The long and short of it is that he didn’t set out to lose weight. He set out to change his lifestyle. That’s how you avoid becoming one of the January Joiners. Don’t set a deadline. Set a standard. For life.

His first reason for changing his lifestyle warmed my heart: He wanted to be more active with his children, Anne, 6, and Drew, 5, and to set a good example for them.

I was moved by that motivation because that was my own big takeaway from working on my sports nutrition series, The Naturals, last summer. I wanted to be fit for my twin girls, in the hopes that they might follow my lead.

I managed to lose roughly 20 pounds in about 6 weeks. Nothing compared to Andy’s feat.

I’ll abstain from offering excuses for why I have put 13 of those pounds back on since the girls’ arrival Aug. 10, but I’m back on the horse and in a heated weight-loss competition with fellow page designer Lucas Pauley. And that brings us to another impossible-to-overlook topic that Andy spoke about at length: accountability.

His girls, the Y members, his co-workers – they all will hold him accountable. I think that’s half the battle. Without my bride, Kayla, who also is shedding pounds like crazy, I’d likely be an amorphous blob. Thanks to her, I can have my cake and eat it, too. OK, no cake. The same way I’ve given up alcohol, she’s cut out her biggest vice: sweets. But I can eat mouth-watering meals, as long as they fit into MyFitnessPal’s calorie counter.

When you listen to the podcast, you’ll also hear Andy talk about the glaring statistics that should give any sensible parent the howling fantods. For instance, he mentions that there’s a 1-in-2 chance that a newborn will, at some point, be diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.

As I wrote about ad nauseam in The Naturals, there’s a glut of gut-wrenching statistics that show how easy it is to eat unhealthy and to be unhealthy, and how the gross percentage of the populace has followed that easy-to-tread path. Ours is a fast-food, TV-tray society. I dig what my man, Lucas, said a few minutes ago. He’s been eating his meals at the table, in order to make it an experience. Such simple little changes can change the game. It’s a case-by-case basis, and we all just need to find what works for us.

Ultimately, here’s where the hope lies for us: I keep running into folks who have taken aggressive measures to combat how extremely easy it is to not live well. To eat poorly. To not work out.

I feel like I’ve been talking about myself too much in this column, but Andy’s story spoke to me. At times, I felt like he was reading my concluding column from The Naturals, word for word. It felt incredible to have such a sense of camaraderie.

Perhaps more important, there’s the sense of competition. He’s got 14 pounds on me. It’s on, Andy.

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