For Adam, the slow-and-steady road to health wasn’t just about weight loss. It was also about personal growth...
About 10 months ago, Adam Etzel, a 28-year-old wealth advisor, decided to lose weight. At the time, he weighed 236 lbs., and he was hoping to reach 190. He recently hit that goal, and he’s thrilled that he did—but he’s also quick to point out that weight loss, for him, has been about a lot more than changing a number on a scale.
“At first, you’re like, I’m just going to lose the weight, I’m going to look good,” he says. “But there’s real internal growth you personally experience with this. I mean it’s inspiring to set a goal, and then reach the goal. If I do that once, I can do it again.” As he speaks, you can hear how genuinely excited he is; it feels contagious.
Reconnecting with nature sets off a hunger for health
It was last summer, after a family trip to Yellowstone and Glacier parks, when Adam first began to think seriously about weight loss. In describing the trip, he’s succinct: they ate healthy food, and only when hungry, and they walked and hiked all day, every day. “Coming back from that vacation,” he says, “you just felt a certain way.” Something about the trip stuck with him. He was invigorated, and started thinking about getting healthier. And he knew that getting healthier would require losing his excess weight.
Weight loss had crossed Adam’s mind before, but previously he’d been very resistant to the idea. “There’s this big debate about body image,” he explains, “and how we’re supposed to talk about how you should feel happy in your own skin.” Ideas about self-love and self-acceptance—about what it means to “feel happy in your own skin”—had fueled Adam’s initial disregard for weight loss, but over time, his thoughts evolved. Perhaps, he found himself thinking, a person could both pursue weight loss and be body positive. And there was the matter of his health. “When you go to the doctor’s office, and they tell you you’re overweight, and your cholesterol is through the roof, and your triglycerides are through the roof”— what is one to do? By the time he got to Yellowstone, Adam’s reluctance to consider weight loss had faded: “I think for me, it was recognizing that regardless—I’m beautiful, no matter what, right? But, I was unhealthy.”
Unhealthy, but also finally ready to lose weight. About committing to it, Adam had an honest conversation with himself regarding his health: “I was thinking, out of everything, there are so many uncontrollables in life. But this is one thing that I can actually change and do something about. So I decided to take ownership.”
Getting started: small changes start to add up
Adam says he started slowly. First, he changed how he ate, making healthy choices, bit by bit. He started with one healthy meal a week. Then it was two, then three, and so on, week by week, meal by meal. Soda, pizza, and Oreos got phased out slowly. For breakfasts, he ate a lot of protein shakes and overnight oats. For other meals, he relied heavily on his Instant Pot.
He started implementing changes in late summer; finally, by Thanksgiving, he started losing weight. He researched “best smart scales” and for Christmas, per his request, his mother gifted him a Withings Body+ scale. Adam credits it with expanding his weight-loss knowledge horizons: he’s become more interested in muscle vs fat mass, he says, than in traditional “weight.” And being able to see a visual representation of his progress? “Absolutely love.” He likes to graph data monthly, to help him break plateaus. If a recent month shows less progress, he’ll go back, see what he was doing differently in previous months. In addition, Adam has hired an online trainer, who he calls “nothing short of amazing,” from hooverfitness.com, and is now weight-lifting and doing cardio. Adam likes that his Withings data transfers to his Apple Health app, and then to his trainer’s app, so his trainer always has his body composition data.
At the finish line; feeling like a winner
Little by little, doing all of the above, is how Adam lost an impressive 46 lbs., reaching his goal weight of 190. His muscle mass has gone from 61% to 73%, and his body fat, originally at 31%, is down to 23%. He reports that compliments come from all over: friends, colleagues, family. “I mean I have an aunt who has macular degeneration,” he says. “She is actually legally blind and basically just sees outlines…. even she’s noticed how much weight I’ve lost.”
The most gratifying aspect of his weight loss?
He pauses. Then, with a sly smile: “this self-love thing I’ve got going on.”
Offering up wisdom for the road to better health
To others who might be in the same boat, Adam had advice to share about the challenge of sticking with a health plan when real life celebrations can easily derail your best intentions. He says it’s important to recognize that “you don’t have to be perfect 100% of the time.” He offers himself as an example. “A few weekends ago some friends and I went to a wedding in Napa. I drank a lot of wine. Ate brownies, just a whole lot.” After a weekend like that, he says, getting back on track can be rough-going. “You can wind up feeling like, what’s the point? You feel guilty and hopeless, then start eating whatever again, because you feel like you’ve just blown it.” The trick to getting back on track? “Don’t let guilt get to you,” he says, with an air of authority. “Just eat that brownie, drink that extra wine, and actually just enjoy it…you can’t be successful if you don’t let yourself enjoy the things you like.”
Many thanks to Adam for sharing his health journey. You can follow him on Instagram @adametzel.